Gone Local

montage by alyssa

"In a viable neighborhood, neighbors ask themselves what they can do or provide for one another, and they find answers that they and their place can afford. This, and nothing else, is the practice of neighborhood." -Wendell Berry, "The Idea of a Local Economy," Orion magazine, 2002.

In recent years, Baltimoreans have enjoyed a steady growth of earth-friendly businesses. Among the many pleasures and benefits of buying locally: merchants and restaurateurs become your friends and your money stays in the community. A study in Maine by the Institute for Local Self-Reliance found that local businesses have a much greater positive impact on their economy than the big box chains. For every $100 spent in a big box store, only $14 stays in the local economy. By contrast, $100 spent in a local business results in $45 staying locally.

The case for buying local goes beyond simple economics. The Chesapeake Sustainable Business Alliance (CSBA) promotes a long-term economic empowerment and prosperity through local business ownership, economic justice, cultural diversity, and environmental stewardship. Their "Buy Local Baltimore " directory profiles over 400 businesses, and includes a Show & Save card that offers customers $100’s in discounts for locally owned businesses including retailers, service providers, restaurants, farms and more.

Local economies allow for self-determination, a closer connection to people and the sources of raw materials, and a gentler touch on the environment. Author David Korten writes, "In contrast to the publicly-traded, limited-liability corporation, which is best described as a pool of money dedicated to its self-replication, living enterprises function as communities of people engaged in the business of creating just, sustainable, and fulfilling livelihoods for themselves while contributing to the economic health and prosperity of the community." They are "place-based, human-scale, stakeholder-owned, democratically accountable, and life-serving."

Dogwood Restaurant is an inspiring example of these principles in action. Chef Galen Sampson and his wife Bridget founded the Dogwood Gourmet Institute as a cutting edge, scholarship-only, culinary and hospitality institute for those recovering from addiction, homelessness, and incarceration. The restaurant provides real-world training for the school’s apprentices as they work to change their lives. And their food is wonderful, much of it locally-sourced and organic.

GoforChange is a place to connect with these businesses, and for them to connect with each other. There is a groundswell of interest in eco-minded products and services, as well as an impressive number of green policy initiatives in our city, counties, and state. We hope our site will act as a natural anti-depressant in these turbulent times.

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