Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Sustainability has many facets

The concept of recycling to lower our carbon footprint and achieve a sustainable environment has effectively reached nearly everyone. Increasingly we read and learn more about using renewable building products for sustainable development. Energy Star appliances, hybrid autos, alternative heating fuels all vie for attention, and rightly so.

The concept of achieving a sustainable local economy is not so widely understood. What makes a local economy sustainable? As always, technology and innovation lead by promoting "green jobs" as a solution to both economic woes and sustainability needs. Zero-waste manufacturing has gained enough notoriety to become a marketing asset. Technology and new concepts cannot by themselves create a sustainable economy, however. Many of the building blocks hearken back to simpler times and are quite familiar to us all--farmers markets offering locally grown foods, local media free of corporate control, indedendent retailers who offer personalized customer service.

The Dutchess County Regional Chamber of Commerce served us well by introducing our own "Shop Local First" campaign several years ago. As John Tozzi reported in the February 2009 issue of, areas with shop local campaigns in place fare better in an economic downturn than areas without such networks. Is shopping closer to home actually cheaper for the consumer. Many say no. The local business cannot always match the superstore pricing. But what of the savings in time and gas? Furthermore, those who are committed to shopping local point to values beyond the monetary--the satisfaction that comes from supporting your neighbor, a friendly merchant who knows your name, attractive stores with a strong sense of place that is difficult to achieve on a big box scale.

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