A story called Eco-nomical: Buying Local on Weekend Edition Sunday suggests buying local is the ecological win. The story mentions the benefits that buying from a local store has a greater impact on the local economy than does buying from a big-box national chain. Unfortunately it has some suggestions that just don't add up.
The story suggests that buying from local shops instead of big boxes will mean driving less. Certainly reducing driving is a good thing but does it work this way? With big box stores concentrated in one area it's likely to be that people drive less when they visit the big box stores. A certain number of local stores will be scattered around the big boxes but reaching the number of them necessary to pick up things that one can get in a department store takes quite a bit more driving. Internet shopping is mentioned as a last resort in the story.
Consider, however, just how many local stores one would have to visit to get the products carried in the Amazon Green of the online retailer. There would be a lot of driving.
Looking at the driving argument a little closer it falls apart completely. One of the great economies and things that can be done to benefit the environment is to consolidate trips. How better to consolidate trips than to have a package delivered to the house by the same big brown truck that is out on the route anyway? In plenty of neighborhoods the very same truck will be delivering the product to the local store.
But there is another benefit that I cannot get locally.
Using its considerable buying power Amazon has launched Frustration Free Packaging. The name, however, belies the other benefits. Working with manufacturers Amazon has been able to get the "brown cardboard" version of packaging and made it available to consumers. No more frustrating plastic bubbles to figure out how to open, just simple, highly-recyclable cardboard.
So am I against buying local? Absolutely not there are many benefits to buying local. Especially when there are locally produced items available from local resellers. Even better are those that are within biking and walking distance so one can completely eliminate the automobile trips to pick them up. Further there are lots of great local craftspersons who have beautiful goods that will bring smiles to people.
However being forthright and logical about making arguments is key. Let's make sure that when we're doing things in the name of the environment we really are doing things that benefit the environment.