But why should you buy local? Is there any reason why it's better to buy your child a t-shirt from a local crafts-person, instead of just stopping in to Target?
I'll start with the biggest reasons; buying local is one of the few ways you, as a consumer, can make an impact on those big ethical issues we often feel powerless to change. Buying locally handmade goods ensures you aren't supporting slave labour overseas, or contributing to child labour issues in developing countries. The knowledge that the clothing your kids are wearing wasn't made by other kids is a very powerful gift you can give, both to your children and to the world.
Decreasing your environmental impact is another big ethical reason to buy local handmade goods. Most handcrafted businesses are very environmentally conscious, low impact and use locally sourced base products. You're decreasing your carbon footprint and encouraging the growth of local, environmentally sustainable industries, and decreasing your reliance on large corporations with shady ethics.
As well as these big two, you also get increased choice with handmade products. If you find an item that's almost the same as what you're after, the artisan will usually be very happy to custom make exactly what you're after. This is fantastic for people with vegan or vegetarian lifestyles, allergies and dietary intolerance's, and planning big events like weddings and graduations. The quality is usually better as well, with attention to detail and pride in craftsmanship that the big manufacturers cannot offer.
Originality is another characteristic of local handcrafted products, something else that the big manufacturers cannot offer. Everyone knows the disappointment of finding the perfect outfit for a special event, only to find another person, or even worse, several people wearing the same outfit. Suddenly it doesn't feel so special any more, does it? If you buy an item locally crafted, you know you're getting something that really is special. It's a find, an uncommon jewel in this world of mass production. And if you do happen to be wearing the same item as someone else, it then becomes an opportunity for a great conversation, not an embarrassment. You've got no. 1 of 5, she has no. 3...where did she get hers? Isn't the artisan amazing? You've found a new friend through the shared appreciation of beautiful handmade items, your connection to the person who made them and your commitment to supporting local industry.
Buying locally supports local creative's who are pursuing their dream, you can't get much for feel-good than that! Many handmade businesses start out as hobbies, or mums at home with a little one. Supporting the self-determination of others is an extremely powerful thing. Seeing other people reach their goals and being a part of their success also encourages and empowers you to follow yours, so buying locally has a flow-on effect in your own life that is very special!
So get out there and visit some markets, or pop in to your local co-operative handmade store. Find someone a truly unique gift made with love, support a local artisan and contribute to making your community, and the world overall, into a much more positive place.