Shopping locally is a big part of the growing “conscious consumerism” equation. It’s about sustainability and making purchasing decisions that are good for you, for the Earth, and for your community.

This year has driven home the importance of having stores, restaurants, professional services, and tradespeople available in our East Mountain and Estancia Valley communities. More than ever, people are working from their kitchen tables and home offices instead of commuting to that big city over the mountains. More than ever, people are aware of the need for businesses and services close to home. ‘Shop local’ and ‘support local’ have become rallying cries to encourage sustainability in our local economy—not for profits, but for people.

That may sound odd: Isn’t business about profits?

Yes, but getting to profitability means that good things have already happened for people and the community. Employees got paychecks, suppliers got orders, landlords got rent, utilities were paid, and the community received tax revenues. If things go well, the business owner makes money too (every entrepreneur can tell you of lean times when money didn’t stretch far enough for a personal paycheck, but, that’s another story).

According to American Independent Business Alliance, for every $100 spent in a local business, $68 recirculates in that community, versus just $43 out of each $100 spent at chain store retailers. That’s significant and a huge benefit to the economic health of a community. So, how does shopping locally impact each of us and our communities?

Let’s start with you. Convenience and savings are the primary answers, here, but so is a sense of community. When you shop close to home you save time (no commute to the other side of the mountain), you save gas (fewer fills of the tank means money in your pocket), and you’ll typically get more personal service (local businesses know their customers more than big box stores). You also build human connections through neighbor-to-neighbor relationships with businesses and gain satisfaction by contributing positively to the community’s economic health.

How does shopping locally benefit your community? When local businesses are selling products or services they are employing people, usually local people (your neighbors). Those employees tend to spend their paychecks locally to fulfill their family’s needs (food, clothing, housing, services, and recreation). Local businesses are also far more likely to purchase supplies, products, and services from other local businesses, so the cycle repeats and continues with each connected local business.

Every business is required to collect and pay taxes to the state. A portion of those funds go to the county and city where that business is located. In turn, the city and county typically use those tax dollars to provide community services (roads, public safety, community maintenance and planning, and services such as libraries and recreation).

What about the environment? Shopping locally has a positive impact there, too. Shorter and more efficient car trips means less gas consumption and fewer emissions in our air. Supporting local farmers and ranchers either directly or through farmers markets or local small businesses means fresher, organic, hormone-free products for consumers and more jobs for locals. Cambridge Journal of Regions, Economy, and Society reports that U.S. counties with a higher volume of local businesses were found to have lower rates of mortality, obesity, and diabetes, too.

This time of year, as you shop for holiday gifts, think local. As we move into the new year, consider continuing the personal value of being more connected to your community and your role in its economic health. Our local small businesses really need everyone’s support. Many are navigating unprecedented disruptions to their ‘normal’ business approach. Most are trying their best to keep people employed, to address new delivery methods like online or phone orders with curbside pick up or delivery options. In true entrepreneurial style, they are doing it, pivoting to adjust with every new regulation. As consumers, we can support them with patience, purchase loyalty, and kind words of appreciation.

Find local businesses at the chamber’s online business directory (GreaterEastMtnChamber.com). You will also find gift-giving ideas that can be purchased locally from small businesses. The chamber wishes everyone good health, good cheer, and good times ahead as we look toward the holidays and new year with hope-filled optimism.