What It Is

The definition of “local” differs depending on the product in question.  Some see “local” as being a very small area (e.g., the size of a city and its surroundings).  Some consider local to mean the ecoregion or bioregion size, while still others use the term to indicate the borders of their nation or state.

“Buying local” can mean buying products produced locally or buying products from companies and stores that are locally owned.

Why It Matters

Two recent studies, one in Texas and the other in Maine, compared the impact that locally-owned businesses have on local economies to that of nationally-owned stores.  Both studies reached similar conclusions:

    • $100.00 spent at a national retailer yielded a return of about $15.00 to the local economy
    • When that same $100.00 was spent with a local retailer, it returned about $45.00– or 3 times as much income– to the local economy.

This is called the local multiplier effect. In most cases, the large national chain store doesn’t buy local services or goods. On the other hand, the local store does use local services such as accountants, bookkeepers, advertising, legal services, office supplies, and many other small, incidental expenses.  

Also, when you buy local, goods do not have to travel as far, which reduces

    • Packaging and shipping costs
    • Fossil fuel consumption
    • Green house gas emissions

Getting Started


  • Before you place an order from out-of-state vendors, try to find local suppliers for the same goods. You may be able to save a considerable amount on shipping costs and greatly reduce the time it takes to get your order.



  • To narrow your Internet search down to local vendors, include the name of your city, county, or state with the name of the product you’re looking for.



  • Yes Magazine provides a fun visual for understanding the local multiplier effect.



Case Study

BALLE provides a number of case studies regarding local purchasing that you can use to garner ideas.

Back to the top of this page


Fair Trade

What It Is

The Charter of Fair Trade Principles says the following about fair trade:

“[It] is a trading partnership, based on dialogue, transparency, and respect, that seeks greater equity in international trade. It contributes to sustainable development by offering better trading conditions to, and securing the rights of, marginalized producers and workers…

Fair Trade products are produced and traded in accordance with these principles – wherever possible verified by credible, independent [organizations].”

For example, the Fair Trade CertifiedTM label verifies that an agricultural product meets strict economic, social, and environmental criteria.  Fair Trade Certification is currently available in the U.S. for

    • Coffee
    • Tea and herbs
    • Cocoa and chocolate
    • Fresh fruit
    • Flowers
    • Sugar
    • Rice
    • Vanilla

Why It Matters

Fair Trade certification guarantees that farmers use eco-friendly practices. The result is responsibly grown products that are healthier for you.

Fair Trade also guarantees that farmers and workers received fair prices for their products. Fair payment helps farmers feed their families and send their children to school.  The more businesses support fair trade, the more opportunities people in poorer countries will have to lead higher quality lives.



  • TransFair USA, a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization, is the only third-party certifier of Fair Trade products in the United States.  It provides a resource that can help you find Fair Trade products in your area.


  • The Fair Trade Federation strengthens and promotes North American organizations that are fully committed to Fair Trade.  On its website, you can find answers to your questions about Fair Trade, as well as resources for introducing Fair Trade products into your business.


  • The Fair Trade Resource Network seeks to build a more just and sustainable world by gathering, developing, and distributing educational resources about Fair Trade.


Back to the top of this page


Glossary of Related Terms

Local Purchasing Strategy: Making purchasing products from local vendors a priority in your business. 

Fatal error: Uncaught Exception: 12: REST API is deprecated for versions v2.1 and higher (12) thrown in /homepages/2/d283115547/htdocs/wp-content/plugins/seo-facebook-comments/facebook/base_facebook.php on line 1273