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Featured Article filed under The Public Good | Written by David Morris | No Comments | Updated on Aug 24, 2015

Buy America? Of Course. But You Can Do Even Better

The content that follows was originally published on the Institute for Local Self-Reliance website at

“Every person ought to have the awareness that purchasing is always a moral – and not simply an economic – act,” Pope Francis announced early this year. How can we spend our money as if our values matter?

In some sectors and for some values this is fairly easy. Food is an obvious example. Those who want to protect the environment and human and animal health will find abundant labels guiding them to the appropriate product: USDA Organic, free range, hormone free, grass fed. For those who want to strengthen community, shrink the distance between producer and consumer and support family farmers a growing number of grocery stores label locally grown or raised.

For those who want to support farmworkers as well as farmers, however, little guidance is available. The recently launched Equitable Food Initiative and Food Justice Certified labels hope to fill this gap. The former identifies food that has been harvested by workers paid a fair wage and laboring under safe and fair conditions. The latter offers three tiers of certification covering farm, processor and vendor/retailer. Only farms have been certified.

As for grocery stores, we can easily identify those cooperatively or locally owned. Going one step further along the supply chain we can use the Restaurant Opportunities Center United (ROC)’s Diners Guide to Ethical Eating downloadable app to identify restaurants that treat their workers well. Extra credit is given to non-chain businesses. To earn a favorable rating the restaurant must pay its non-tipped workers at least $10 an hour and tipped staff at least $7 an hour, grant all employees paid sick days and enable internal promotion.

The ethical consumer who wants to patronize a locally owned retail store in general can visit Independent We Stand and download its mobile app. Or go to AMIBA and BALLE to find a list of independent business alliances in over 100 cities many of which have hundreds and even thousands of individual member businesses.

There are few guides to locally and rooted manufacturers. But 3-year-old San Francisco Made offers an excellent model, interconnecting and nurturing its 325 member manufacturers located in that city.

The vast majority of products we purchase will come from regional and national firms. One can easily check to see if the company is American and sometimes that will be necessary even when we think we know from the product’s name what nationality the company is. As Roger Simmermaker, author of How Americans Can Buy American and My Country ‘Tis of Thee points out, “Swiss Miss is American (based in Menomonie, Wisconsin) and Carnation is owned by the Swiss.” Continue reading

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Featured Article filed under Composting, Waste to Wealth | Written by Linda Bilsens | No Comments | Updated on Aug 31, 2015

Neighborhood Soil Rebuilders in Action

The content that follows was originally published on the Institute for Local Self-Reliance website at

A widespread overdependence on centralized, far-away and large-scale composting facilities persists, making it harder to return finished compost and the many benefits it provides back to the community for use. Fortunately for us, composting is something that we can start doing immediately at home, schools, institutions, community gardens and farms to start rebuilding our soils —as long as we do so thoughtfully. Continue reading

Photo: Cleveland City Hall.
Featured Article filed under Independent Business | Written by Olivia LaVecchia | No Comments | Updated on Aug 27, 2015

Procurement Can Be a Powerful Tool for Local Economies, but Takes More Than a Policy Change to Work

The content that follows was originally published on the Institute for Local Self-Reliance website at

The decision of which firm will get the food service contract at the City Hall cafeteria doesn’t always make it into the news, but local governments spend a lot of money. In towns, counties, and states everywhere, there are roads to be paved, lawyers to be hired, and office supplies to be purchased, and the rules set up to govern those contracts—procurement policies—hold significant potential for governments to grow their local economies. Continue reading

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Featured Article, Resource filed under Energy, Energy Self-Reliant States | Written by John Farrell | No Comments | Updated on Aug 28, 2015

100% Renewable Energy: Fact or Fantasy?

The content that follows was originally published on the Institute for Local Self-Reliance website at

What would it take to power the entire U.S. economy on renewable resources alone? Three big things: Only build wind, solar, or hydro power plants after 2020 Reduce energy use compared to business as usual by 40% Electrify everything It’s the last that may be the most complicated, since it means a complete overhaul of… Continue reading

Featured Article filed under Broadband | Written by ILSR | No Comments | Updated on Aug 31, 2015

New Municipal Broadband Feasibility Study Underway in Firestone, CO

The content that follows was originally published on the Institute for Local Self-Reliance website at

The Board of Trustees for the city of Firestone, CO is evaluating the feasibility of a new municipal broadband service for this growing town of about 10,000 people that sits just 30 miles north of Denver. This according to a recent report in the Times-Call newspaper in Longmont, Colorado.  The feasibility study will compare Firestone’s… Continue reading