Before the advent of global shipping and distribution networks, almost every product we purchased was made locally. Slowly however our shopping habits began to change.
The initial impetus? Lower costs. As consumers, we are constantly looking for a good bargain so we can buy something within our budget. If you can get the same product for 20%, 30%, or even 50% cheaper because it was made halfway across the world, why not buy it?
Along the way, we didn’t stop to think about why these products are available so much cheaper than anything made in North America. We didn’t consider what would happen when consumers stopped buying from local businesses and manufacturers. And the results became clearly visible in the years between 2003 and 2008.
The effects of outsourcing
The most immediate consequence of outsourcing was the shift in consumer mindsets. Products that we used to buy for their high-quality and long-term use became disposable. When you can get 2 products for the price of one, we started prioritizing quantity over quality. If a couch is half the price it used to be, we think about replacing it quicker since it was so cheap to buy anyway.
Over time, the long-term consequences became visible. Manufacturing jobs started disappearing all across North America. Local businesses suffered and closed down. This in turn affected communities as people lost their livelihood with no hope of getting their jobs back. When businesses shut down, it affects government tax revenues, reduces funding for local charities, cultural institutions, and affects community development.
Fortunately, in recent years, we’ve seen a grassroots movement emerge that focuses on buying locally made products. People are reconsidering their purchasing habits and evaluating their impact on the environment. In turn, businesses are making a commitment to local manufacturing and emphasizing quality again.
Why we should buy North American
There are so many reasons it makes sense to buy products manufactured in North America. Whether you’re concerned for the environment, the economy, or fair labor practices, buying locally is the better option over the long term.
Health & Safety
Shipping networks made it possible to buy products made elsewhere quite cheaply but industry standards are still restricted to national borders. Health and safety standards vary quite widely in different parts of the world. It means you don’t really know if a product is safe for you to use when it was made outside North America.
In general, the manufacturing industry in North America is highly regulated. Products have to adhere to strict health and safety standards set by regulators. When you buy local products, you know it is safe for your family to use. It makes local products more expensive but isn’t it worth the peace of mind you get about your health?
Buying products manufactured in North America is better for the environment as well. These products don’t have to be shipped across the world. It means a reduction in emissions and minimizes our carbon footprint. A product made and sold in North America will need less energy for transportation than one that’s made in Asia.
You can also choose to buy products from local businesses that focus on sustainable practices such as using renewable energy and minimizing the use of harmful chemicals. Many North American companies also contribute to green initiatives like planting trees or preserving local forests.
When we buy local products, we are contributing to the enrichment of our communities. We become a part of something bigger than ourselves and sustain resilient communities for future generations. Instead of buying something made by a large corporation, we can make a real difference for a struggling family business or a local artist with our purchase.
North American manufacturers have to follow labor standards when it comes to working conditions and minimum wages. Sadly, these standards are not the same elsewhere in the world. The only way we can show our support for fair labor practices is to buy products made by companies that respect their workers. Buying products made in North America is the better ethical option.
Every dollar we spend on locally made products has a ripple effect. We help sustain local businesses that can provide jobs. Successful businesses pay more tax revenues which go towards developing our communities. They are able to contribute towards charitable organizations and support cultural institutions such as community theatre. A thriving local business is a boon and buying local products means we are contributing to our community development.
So don’t automatically reach for the cheapest product that has serious long-term costs for our communities. Sure, it’s not possible to only buy North American products all the time. But the idea is to consider local products first and buy them as often as possible.