How to Find and Support Local Businesses as a Climate-Conscious Consumer

Frequenting a local business is Sustainability 101. Domestically sourced goods travel fewer miles to reach your doorstep, emitting less greenhouse gas emissions than overseas products throughout their journey. However, every dedicated climate-conscious consumer knows being local doesn’t always translate to eco-friendliness.

Use these seven tips to find corporate allies near you in the fight against global warming and learn how to help their businesses grow.

1.   Define Sustainability

The first step toward becoming a green consumer is knowing how to tell genuinely and superficially sustainable businesses apart. Strictly speaking, sustainability has environmental, social and economic components because nature, people and the economy are interconnected. Concentrating on only one or two segments is unsustainable.

Organizations must do more than curb climate change gasses, reduce waste and minimize pollution to be more sustainable than their competition — they must also support social causes. Companies simultaneously investing in renewable energy generation and committing unethical labor practices aren’t exactly a force for good.

Moreover, sustainable enterprises must do more to help economically. Do they sell goods promoting health and wellness? How many jobs have they created? How much in taxes do they pay?

No organization is immaculate. You’ll find flaws even in universally liked companies when you nitpick the details of their operations. Sustainable businesses are imperfect but net positive economic contributors.

For example, solar photovoltaics is leading the way to renewable energy adoption — a pivotal step to ending the world’s dependence on detrimental fossil fuels. The solar manufacturing industry employs about 31,500 people in the United States, accounting for 15% of the entire solar sector workforce.

The problem is the solar boom’s increasing demand for virgin raw materials. Photovoltaic panel manufacturers also receive federal tax credits, so American taxpayers continue subsidizing their operations.

Are domestic photovoltaic panel companies sustainable? The circular-thinking local manufacturers are. They can procure reclaimed and recycled materials, reducing the need to mine virgin resources to scale their production.

Also, government subsidies will eventually dry up when renewable technologies become fully integrated into the market. When they do, solar enterprises will begin operating without requiring funds from taxpayers.

2.   Shop at Local Markets

Grocery shopping at farmers’ markets is a surefire way to buy from domestic agricultural producers. Wandering through food marketplaces allows you to meet various local farmers and ranchers, offering an opportunity to learn about their eco-friendly business practices. For example, you might ask them about the fertilizers they use, how they treat their animals and what they do with waste.

When you find local farmers you trust, buy their in-season crops. Seasonal fruits and vegetables play a vital role in sustainable food consumption. Likewise, eating recently harvested foods means local growers don’t have to consume resources to store yields, use chemical preservatives to prevent waste, travel to distant markets and transport produce.

Environmentally mindful restaurateurs and caterers know about food seasonality’s minimal carbon footprint —  a reason they build menus around in-season ingredients and buy from nearby suppliers and local markets.

If you’re on a budget, attend the farmers market near closing time to get the best prices on locally-grown produce. Many sellers willingly discount the cost of goods or offload them to avoid bringing excess back to the farm to rot.

3.   Use the Right Search Platforms

Some search engines include features for finding eco-friendly organizations. For instance, any climate-conscious consumer would appreciate Yelp’s searchable sustainable business attributes — such as “vegan,” “bring your own container allowed,” “EV charging station available,” and “plastic-free packaging.”

These attributes allow environmentally friendly companies to leverage search engine optimization to attract green shoppers. For instance, mentioning sustainable policies and goods in listings increases their chances of appearing in search results for similar queries.

As an eco-warrior, platforms like Yelp help you save time scouring the market for sustainable local companies. You’re bound to find businesses supporting the environmental causes you’re passionate about.

4.   Read the Headlines

See what the media says about your local businesses. Enterprises regularly issue press releases announcing their environmental initiatives, providing insight into their latest green endeavors.

However, every discerning climate-conscious consumer understands sustainability’s social currency is prone to abuse. Typically, bold environmental claims without scientific support may constitute greenwashing. Research businesses to determine whether their past scandals suggest they’re less sustainable than marketed.

5.   Check Reviews

Know what like-minded consumers have to say about local businesses. Those who write online testimonials are usually very happy or incredibly disappointed. Review the praises and complaints companies receive and check their overall ratings.

Of course, you should take reviews with a grain of salt. Some are solicited, while many are fabricated. Testimonials must come from verified neutral parties. Those published in a short period with similar language should arouse suspicion. Genuine ones tend to be unexaggerated and have a mix of positive and negative comments.

6.   Reduce Their Expenses

Aside from buying from eco-friendly local businesses, you can also show your support by donating free resources to cut operational costs.

For instance, zero-waste food establishments may grow their ingredients and make compost in-house. By supplying organic waste from home, you can augment their sustainable endeavors. Store the compostable waste in your freezer to eliminate odors before the drop-off or pick-up date.

Likewise, do you have usable construction debris lying around your property? Giving scrap wood and metal to local furniture manufacturers can bolster their material recovery and retrieval efforts.

7.   Use Word-of-Mouth Marketing

Word of mouth is the most effective form of marketing, as recommendations from trusted individuals tend to carry more weight than strangers’ testimonials. Helping expand the customer base of the local businesses you want to support can be more valuable than your repeated business.

Furthermore, social media amplifies your message and broadens your reach. Sharing your experience with local businesses you want to support on social media platforms is putting in a good word for them.

Shop Wisely as a Climate-Conscious Consumer

Trying to make every purchase decision environmentally friendly is exhausting but worthwhile. These seven tips will help you build a network of sustainable local businesses to satisfy your needs and enjoy life guilt-free.

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