As Amazon and other large corporations take over, shopping locally becomes less and less common. According to The Zebra, small business creation has dropped 50 percent in the past 30 years. But Bloomington is a town full of amazing local shops, markets and grocery stores. They help make our town unique. There are many benefits to shopping locally, like helping your town's economy and reducing your impact on the environment. But my favorite reason to shop locally is getting to know the community and the people in it.
From the time I was a baby, my mom and I would regularly go to the Bloomington Farmers’ Market. I would splash in the fountain, and she would drink coffee and catch up with friends. Though our lives got busier, we continued this tradition – with less splashing – by frequenting the Woolery Farmers’ Market south of town. Though we visit the market to buy local food, the connections we made with vendors are what keeps us coming back each week.
For example, every two weeks a great vendor at the Woolery Market sells some of the best seafood you can find in Indiana. In addition to buying and eating this delicious fish, I’ve enjoyed talking with him to learn more about his life and the things we have in common, like how much we both enjoy the niche TV show “Twin Peaks.” Being a local regular allowed me to create a personal connection and get to know someone in my community.
If that's not enough to convince you to switch the way you shop, let’s explore some other benefits. According to Fundera, shopping locally earns more money for the community at an average of $68 for every $100 spent. National chains only generate $43 out of every $100 for the local economy. These local dollars pay for employees’ salaries, are invested into the community and build a local tax base.
[Related: A guide to shopping local in Bloomington]
Small businesses also contribute to charities and fundraisers at a much higher rate than big companies. Bloomingfoods Co-op Market is a good example of this practice. Every month they have a new charity you can support by rounding up your purchase. Per SCORE, small businesses donate 250 percent more than large companies to local charities and nonprofits.
Another advantage to shopping locally is its positive effect on the climate. When you choose to shop closer to home you are supporting businesses that frequently source their products from nearby. This reduces the amount of time it takes the food to get to your store. Smaller shops and markets are also more transparent about how their food is sourced. A great example of this in Bloomington is the Farm Stop Collective, which sells products from local and regional farmers and artisans.
Shopping locally can be more expensive, and sometimes towns don’t have access to quality grocery stores or shops. But, in Bloomington we’re lucky to have a plethora of great local food businesses. So, if you have the means to pay a little bit extra, visit a local shop or market to help your community, better the world and gain human connections that could last a lifetime.
Jack Davis (he/him) is a freshman studying journalism.