The economy has seen better days. We talk about these changes all the time as we look for new ways to build resiliency into our local economy.
Since 2008, when the economy really fell apart, there has been a noticeable movement back to local economics. Even in our technology-driven world, people have begun to realize (or remember?) the benefits of promoting local products.
Bartering via sites like craigslist has exploded. Whether it’s because people simply do not have the disposable income they once did or for some other reason, the migration back to a localized economy that shuns “big retail” whenever possible is very apparent.
Libraries Aren’t Just About Books
For those readers who have been with us for a while, you may recall an article (well two articles actually) we did a little over a year ago about community tool libraries. If you are not familiar with this concept, let’s do a quick recap.
Around the country, some communities have started Tool Libraries. Set up in exactly the same manner as a conventional library, these tool libraries take advantage of the fact that most people do not use tools every day.
Members are able to borrow just about any tool imaginable without the expense of purchasing the tool at the store. Similar to a book library, these projects are typically funded by donations, grants, and volunteers. A community of any size can benefit from implementing a program like this; even if it is a smaller program than some of the ones we have outlined here.
Sharing tools with other community members is a powerful resiliency solution that reduces local dependence on hardware stores while allowing these people to spend their hard-earned money on other useful items.
Of course, this is not meant to be a dig against the neighborhood hardware store. Tool libraries like the ones that have been set up in South Philadelphia and Portland demonstrate that community initiatives promoting the local economy can be successful without having a negative impact on other local businesses.
More information about community tool libraries can be found by reading our previous posts at http://www.resilientcommunities.com/a-community-tool-library/ and http://www.resilientcommunities.com/contagious-thrift-an-inside-look-at-the-west-philly-tool-library/.
What other community libraries can we think of together?
Making the Local Economy Profitable
Another trend that is emphasizing the power of the local economy can be found by visiting sites such as Airbnb, RelayRides, and SnapGoods to name a few.
This is technology meets localized economy at its best.
Basically, individuals can join the site and offer possessions for rent to others. Cars, spare rooms, boats, and pretty much anything else you can think of can be rented. The difference is you are renting from an individual; not a large corporation.
This represents an excellent way for your local community to benefit from a global economy. By renting things you do not use every day for a profit, you are bringing business to the community in the form of goods, money, or services.
Obviously, this new economic model isn’t perfect yet. If you are renting your car, for instance, how do you know if the person renting the vehicle is a safe driver? Currently, “background checks” are provided by some of these services but the majority of the responsibility falls on the individual to research potential clients before committing to a contract.
As this business model becomes more popular, these issues will likely be addressed in a uniform and clearly defined manner. For now – due diligence is required if you plan on renting out any of your stuff.
The Resilient Implications
Whether your community decides to start a tool program or rely on sites such as Airbnb to attract business, the migration back to a localized economy is not only a good idea; it is essential to living a resilient lifestyle.
We cannot depend on big business to meet our needs in the future. As members of the Resiliency Movement, we already know this. Interestingly enough, even people not well-versed in a self-sufficient lifestyle are subconsciously realizing the benefits of a localized economy.
This is clear from the influx of people looking for alternative buying options. Whether it is a CSA like we discussed earlier this week or a tool program that benefits everyone in the community, sustainable communities are necessary if we want to maintain our current quality of life (and ideally improve it).
Let’s all take a moment this week to reflect on various ways we can focus on the local economy. What can we do differently to improve our communities and begin living more resiliently?