Local buying is a preference to purchase local products and services instead of those manufactured elsewhere. It’s also popularly abbreviated as “local buy”, “organic buy” or “think locally”. It has become a way of life for many in the UK, and indeed around the world. But what is it all about?
Many argue that local food systems are superior to those outside the UK because they promote community and environmental health whilst improving food quality. This is because production within a community supports social and communal interaction and helps create a sense of social responsibility through participation in agricultural and environmental decisions. It also promotes human values such as community involvement, equity and environmental stewardship. These values may also improve individual and family health and wellbeing because rural areas tend to be less polluted than urban areas. In addition, people living in rural and isolated areas are more likely to consume healthy and organic foods, and to live in environments that promote good health.
Critics of local food production claim that its practices promote environmental pollution that threatens the environment and biodiversity. The major impact is on agricultural production because farming uses most of the Earth’s natural resources. The reduction in agricultural land causes an increase in atmospheric pressure, leading to climate change, accelerating desertification and increased water scarcity. Critics of globalization claim that the practice of producing food in local markets and local farms destroys the local food supply and supports localized agriculture at the cost of globalized food production systems.
Critics of globalisation also point out that the practice of trading makes global markets weak at the national level, affecting local economies and their societies. They argue that a more appropriate route for economic development should be towards promoting local economic activity and nationally controlled markets to reduce agricultural and environmental impacts. They point out that there is no clear connection between local growth and environmental impact. Buyers can choose to buy local when they are offered a choice between a large-scale, integrated economic system that provides good food, good jobs and a strong economy that can absorb the rest of the world’s waste. The other choice, to trade globally, gives them the freedom to choose products that cause minimal environmental damage and the opportunity to participate in a global economy that has no meaningful concerns about the quality of local goods.
Those who support globalisation argue that those who are against it do not understand the local advantages of food sovereignty. For them, it’s not about economics or geography, it’s about defending local communities from the impact of free trade and global trade. The local advantage of food sovereignty is more about preserving food production systems that help create food resources for future generations. When producers in one community want to sell their produce on the local market, they can do so, whereas producers in other communities can’t. In this way, the producers exercising their right to self-management preserve food production systems by controlling their market share.
There are also ecological and social impacts of food systems that buyers should be aware of. Buyers should understand that food transported via trucks, trains or automobiles contributes to air pollution. They should also understand that agricultural emissions account for nearly 40% of global greenhouse gas emissions. They should consider how to reduce their direct impact on the environment as much as possible through buying local.