Why Buy Local?

With current market conditions, it has become increasingly cheaper to buy distantly produced goods, despite the increased costs of packaging, transport, inspection, and associated expenses. However, along with lower prices comes the added cost of repercussions on the environment and impacts on the economic well being of your community. Here are some shocking stats & quick facts about buying local goods.

Import & Shipping Statistics

  • The U.S. imports $2.2 trillion worth of products yearly from over 150 countries.
  • Aircraft transport has greater fuel consumption and greenhouse-gas emissions per mile than any other mode of transport.
  • Transportation by shipping produces emissions of 1 billion metric tons of CO2 and uses 11 billion gallons of fuel per year internationally.
  • The amount of sulfur oxide pollution that comes from the 15 largest ships equals the combined amount coming from all the cars in the world. (2007)

Waste & Packaging Statistics

  • Food processing uses a lot of packaging, which is necessary for large farms to keep food from spoiling as it is transported and stored. But this packaging is often difficult or impossible to reuse or recycle.
  • The EPA has estimated that the U.S. produced 11.9 million tons of plastic packaging, and over 90% of this went to a landfill after being used just once. (2003)
  • Most food in the U.S. is picked a week in advance of reaching a store. Typically, a carrot will travel 1,838 miles to become part of a meal.
  • A 10% shift of the produce to local use from one state’s farms would save 310,000 gallons of fuel on an annual basis, and would also reduce CO2 by 7.3 million lbs. (Iowa 2010)

Transportation Statistics

  • Trucks and locomotives are responsible for 25% of smog-causing pollution and the majority of the cancer threat posed by air pollution in some urban areas.
  • The EPA reports that trucks spend 3,221 of their 6,816 hours on the road each year at an idle. 1.2 billion gallons of fuel and about 200,000 tons of nitrous oxides are expended each year by transport trucks idling at rest stops.

Big Box Chains vs. Local Businesses Statistics

  • Throughout the United States, only about 33.6% of the revenue from national chains is reinvested into the community, which is very low compared to the 64.8% return from local businesses. (2009)
  • A study in Austin, Texas found that $100 spent at a local bookstore produced $45 worth of local economic activity, and $100 at the chain store Borders brought back only $13.
  • National chains often bring loss of employment. The opening of a Wal-Mart reduces retail employment by an average of 150 jobs in the county of its location.
  • Local businesses are usually established in city centers, instead of on the margins of communities like large chains, so they contribute less to pollution, congestion, habitat loss and urban sprawl.
  • If the people of an average American city were to shift 10% of their spending from chains to local businesses, it would bring an additional $235 million per year to the community’s economy.

This information is the text version of eLocal’s Why Buy Local Infographic. For a full list of sources, visit the infographic directly.