Shopping locally is eco-friendly, boosts the economy, and helps to preserve the unique character of your neighbourhood. In this article, we take a look at the benefits of shopping locally and why it should be your next step to reducing your carbon footprint.
What does shopping locally mean?
Shopping locally means shopping at locally-owned, independent businesses. In other words, it means shopping at the small businesses in your area, either in-person or on the internet, instead of ordering from large corporations like Amazon. These small businesses make up the backbone of the UK economy, with over 95% of all businesses employing less than 9 people.
How does shopping locally affect the environment?
Shopping locally has a smaller impact on the environment than shopping at large businesses. One of the main reasons for this is because locally made and bought products don’t have to travel far to reach their final destination. This means that they don’t have to be transported by plane, ship or lorry and so emit far less carbon dioxide. In a Dutch study, it was found that deliveries from local shops generate less than half the carbon emissions that deliveries from large online retailers do.
|Shopping type||Carbon emissions per item||Equivalent in miles driven|
|Deliveries from local shops||0.07kg||0.2 miles|
|Deliveries from large online retailers||0.18kg||0.5 miles|
|In-person shopping||0.1kg||0.3 miles|
Small, local businesses also tend to be more mindful of their use of plastic packaging than large companies. In 2019, Amazon produced over 200 million kg of plastic packaging waste, which amounted to over 1.2 billion kg of carbon emissions. This is equivalent to driving over 3.6 billion miles, or in other words, around the Earth roughly 147,000 times! This is hugely damaging to our planet as 91% of used plastic is either incinerated or persists in landfills or in the natural environment, with only 9% being recycled. When shopping locally, you can always ask for plastic-free packaging options or bring your own reusable bags to further reduce your plastic waste.
How does shopping locally help the economy?
Small, local businesses are vital to the national economy. In 2018, over 50% of all private sector sales in the UK were made by small and medium-sized businesses. They are also the largest national employer, so by shopping locally, you will help to create jobs for your community.
By shopping at just one small local business, you will also be supporting many more. This is because small business owners and employees are likely to spend their money in their local area. This increases the local circulation speed of money, meaning that it will pass through more hands in your community more quickly, and so, will benefit more people. Roughly 63p of every £1 spent at small or medium-sized businesses stays in the local economy, compared with just 40p at large businesses.
Shopping at large chains instead of at local businesses keeps your money flowing out of your area. This is not only detrimental to your local community, but also to the national economy, as large corporations often find ways to significantly reduce their tax bills. For example, in 2019, Amazon paid just 3% more tax than in 2018, even though their profits had increased by 35%. The economic benefits of shopping at chains like these are greatly limited when compared with shopping locally.
Small businesses may charge more for their products than large corporations, but when you consider the benefits that shopping locally has for your community in increasing local employment and economic growth, this higher price is justified. If you want to prevent your high street from being taken over by chains and to preserve its unique character, it’s crucial to keep your money within your community by shopping locally.
How does online shopping affect local businesses?
Today, more and more people are exclusively doing their shopping online as convenience and safety is valued over the experience of in-person shopping. In 2020, almost 30% of total retail sales were made up by internet sales, compared with 19% in 2019. This changing environment has made it possible to support your local high street from the comfort of your own home, as many more local businesses are starting to offer at-home delivery services.
How can you shop locally?
Shopping locally doesn’t require much effort. Follow these steps and you’ll be on your way to reducing your carbon footprint and boosting your local economy.
Do your research
It’s likely that there are many great independent businesses near you that you don’t know about yet. Doing your research might mean looking through a local business guide or taking a walk along your local high street; if you still have no luck, go to Etsy, type in the product that you’re looking for and filter the results by shop location to find local sellers.
As more small businesses open online shops, it’s becoming easier to shop locally. Before you place your order from a large retailer, see if you can find an alternative from a small business with an online shop in your area.
Budget for shopping locally
Large companies benefit from economies of scale, meaning that they can offer their products at reduced prices. Small companies often don’t have this luxury, so you might find that shopping locally is more expensive. If this is the case, then set aside a small budget for shopping locally instead of at large businesses each month.
Shopping locally is often easier said than done as it can be hard to beat the rapid shipping and low prices offered by multinational corporations. If you have no choice but to order from large online retailers, try to opt for slower shipping and buy in bulk to reduce the carbon emissions incurred by each item. In future, find out whether your needs can be met by small, local businesses instead of by large companies. Setting aside even just a small budget for shopping locally to start with is a step in the right direction.
You can list your business for free in our local business directory here.