Bellingham, WA- Live Love Local
Our time in Bellingham was truly a magical experience. I can honestly say that we all immediately felt like local Bellingham “hamsters.” As someone who has traveled and experienced various cultures, people and places, I want it to be known that Bellingham has created a collaborative community that is one of a kind. You get this incredible vibe as if you have come home even though you are a complete stranger. Localization of culture, economy, and decision-making is the glue and foundation of sustainability in Bellingham. Everyone in the community works together for mutual benefit.
Because of our incredible host, Nick Hartrich, and his group of friends, the JoA team experienced so much in so little time and it is important to point out some of the highlights: amazing adult carnival, Mallard’s may be the best ice cream parlor in the world, the freshness of the community food co-op, Hub bicycle shop, riding tandem with my sister for our webisode introduction, staring out across the bay from a crab boat, a pumpkin-carving in the most incredible barn and carvers, learning about solar panels, and spending the weekend at a farmers’ market that would rival any. I think it is safe to say that we will be back for another visit.
JoA’s focus in B’ham was highlighting the non-profit Sustainable Connections, who has nearly 700 independent businesses as members, representing every sector of their economy, including farmers, manufacturers, builders, nonprofit organizations, service providers, and retailers. Bellingham is the nation’s leader in community green power, was named the number one small city in the nation in urban progress toward sustainability, and is home to businesses, consumers, and government programs that make creating a “local living economy” a priority. That sounds great in theory but let’s really look into what a local living economy means to the community and why JoA believes many of the solutions to our economic problems can be eradicated if we look at more sustainable models like the one Sustainable Connections has developed.
First, a local living economy is one where local business owners make up the majority of the local economy, where today’s innovations in sustainable agriculture, in green building, in renewable energy and energy efficiency, in community capital, in green jobs, in local manufacturing are all tied together within the context of a place, so that you have an economy that is community-based, green, and fair. Secondly, they have found that having peer businesses sharing ideas with you and mentoring you and cheering for you when times are hard or when you’re trying to be innovative.
Sustainable Connections provides great “Think Local, Buy Local, Be Local” tools to their business members. All the independent businesses post stickers on their storefronts that let the consumers know which Sustainable Connection campaigns they participate in- like “Buy Local,” “Smart Trips,” “Zero Waste,” and more. Let’s be honest-to compete with rest of the advertising world is no easy task. The stickers make it easy for consumers to recognize and make the “local” choice.
The main idea behind a local living economy is to not to buy more or consume more, but for when you do make that decision to purchase, to choose local first and watch your dollar be invested into the community where it belongs. A dollar spent locally generates twice as much income for the local economy. When businesses are not owned locally, money leaves the community at every transaction. I am amazed that we do not place more emphasis on “voting with our dollars.” It allows us so many options and ways to positively impact our environment, community, children and society as a whole. Before purchasing an item, think about where the item was produced, whose hands touched it, the manner in which it was manufactured, shipped, distributed, and what will happen to it after you are finsihed using it. Because we subsidize unhealthy parts of our economy, prices today don’t tell the truth, and the result is insanity like that. We need more import substitution, more owners, less consolidation, less monopolization, less moving everything farther and farther away, and instead more people doing it within their own communities. Instead of a global village, let’s work on having a global system of interconnected local living economies.