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ndoubtedly, you’ve heard a lot about the concept of local in recent years. Perhaps, you’ve read that it’s best to patronize shops and companies based in your community or eat food grown as close to you as possible—even food you’ve grown yourself.
The Power of Local
The power of local comes from two ideas. The first is simply that things grown or created near you don’t have to travel as much to get to you. This proximity saves energy and emissions since products, food, and services aren’t being transported from longer distances. Second, when you support local companies and shops, you’re keeping the money in your community (mostly), rather than sending it to other communities (namely, the one where the headquarters for that organization resides). Both of these ideas are smart choices, and the ideas behind them are correct. However, they can have some unintended consequences that aren’t always intuitive (we’ll address these shortly).
Nonetheless, to whatever extent the products and services you develop can reduce the transportation necessary to distribute, service, and dispose of them, the fewer emissions and other impacts will be generated. Transportation, especially by airplane, is a big contributor to a product or service’s environmental impact. Although there are many other ways to measure transportation’s impact, one way to measure it is by figuring out what the CO2 emissions of different forms of travel are, as shown in Table 7.1.
… to whatever extent the products and services you develop can reduce the transportation necessary to distribute, service, and dispose of them, the fewer emissions and other impacts will be generated.
Philip White, May 2007
Obviously, CO2 isn’t the only issue, but every mile that can be reduced will lessen emissions (no matter what form they are). But distance is only one of many issues that contribute to the impact of products and services. As we saw in the discussion of Life Cycle Analysis, we need
to look at the all of the life cycle impacts in order to make informed decisions. This is where the idea of local can get confusing.