What Qualifies as Local
Local refers to any product that is manufactured or grown close by, relative to a particular city or geographic area. This term is extremely significant in our modern global economy, when products and foods of all kinds are routinely created in and shipped from locations around the world.
How Buying Local Goods Impacts the Environment
Products that are manufactured or grown close to where they are sold do not have to be transported great distances. As a result, emissions related to transportation can be greatly reduced.
In the case of farm goods, consumers purchasing locally grown products sometimes have the opportunity to develop personal relationships with the growers at farmers markets. By engaging in a dialogue about farming techniques and supporting environmentally friendly practices, consumers can directly influence the impact that agriculture has upon their area’s economy and ecosystem.
Why Local Goods May Potentially Cost More
In many cases, local manufacturers and farmers operate on a far smaller scale than large national or international corporations. These small businesses are not able to benefit from the lower costs inherent to mass production. The higher cost of business is passed on to consumers, who might have to pay a premium for locally produced goods.
Local as a Marketing Hook
Many manufacturers and business will tout a product as locally-grown or produced, but it’s important to note what the business constitutes as its region. For example, as of 2008, Wal-Mart’s “local” designation for produce indicates that a product was grown in the same state, and for Whole Foods, “local” means anything grown within 200 miles. The term “local” itself is not regulated in the same way that “organic” is, so it could be defined differently by different people and businesses. Consumers should ask vendors where products are from to be sure.
Many consumers associate local farms with small farms, though “local” has nothing to do with the size of the source farm or factory, nor the farming or manufacturing practices used. Local only refers to distance from point of sale.
How to Tell If a Product Is Locally Made
Product labeling often indicates where goods were manufactured. Many grocers now also advertise locally-made products as a selling point. It’s possible that a product has travelled farther and longer than a direct route from its original location, for example if it was stored at an intermediate facility. If no information is posted, consumers can ask vendors directly where a product was produced.