Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Made in the USA

I've been wanting to write a post about buying products that are made in the USA for quite some time, but I've had a hard time finding the media sources I was looking for.

Some of the TV networks have been talking about the benefits of buying domestically produced products.  But the big shift I've noticed recently is that some of my friends, who traditionally only care about price, have started taking up the idea of buying US produced goods.

So finally today, I came across this article via Twitter.  I just love Twitter.  :-)

I'm not fanatical about buying products that are made in the USA, but I am very interested in buying local.  So if you live in Canada (Hi Jaimie!) or anywhere else outside of the USA, please know that I am not opposed to your domestic products.  I am a HUGE fan of coffee, mangos and Belgian chocolate.  I am also currently implementing a Canadian product for a client.

So with my disclaimer stated, let's move on to why I like the idea of buying local.

Buying local reduces demand for petro-chemicals.

People who participate in a pursuit of locally grown food cite reduction in petro-chemicals as a primary reason.  If the food is grown locally, you may only need a truck to get it to the point of sale rather than many trucks, airplanes, trains and boats.

The same is true for durable goods.  If our clothing, plates, furniture and baseballs are manufactured domestically, the cost and pollution of moving them to the point of sale is reduced.

Buying local gives you and your neighbors good jobs.

As an Engineer by trade, this is a huge one for me.  If we don't manufacture and produce in our local communities, eventually we won't get to design those goods.  The people who are doing the building know much more about the products than those who only design them.  The builders know how to build better and therefore know how to improve design for manufacturability and maintainability.

Manufacturing and Design jobs are good paying, interesting jobs.

Buying local improves the economy of your neighborhood.

Community members who have good paying jobs will generally have more money to spend in those communities.

Buying local strengthens your community.

If you are living, working and playing in your own community, then your community grows stronger.  You get to know your neighbors.  You get to know the producers of the food you eat and the products you use.  You take pride in your own town and work to ensure it's safe for and accessible for you and your neighbors.

It's true, sometimes I am an idealist.  However, I do think my reasons are sound.  These things are all true in places that have strong Farmer's Markets or CSAs (Community Supported Agriculture).  So why wouldn't they be true for manufactured goods as well?

As an alpaca farmer and thus, fiber producer, I am thrilled by the response described in the LA Times article.

So I ask you to consider the source of the goods you buy.  Were they produced locally?  If not, is there a suitable option that is produced locally?  If not, go for it and be proud of yourself for thinking about where and how the products you use are produced.

By the way, please do check out Jaimie's blog.  I adore her and the local, sustainable life she is creating with her chicks.


Jaimie said...

Kathryn, you are too sweet! I felt so special to be mentioned in the Canada reference, and then you linked to me :).

I grew up in Michigan, and there was always a lot of emphasis on buying American-made. Most of the ex-pats I know here do try to buy either American or Canadian made when possible. That sort of thing is always a struggle when you don't have a ton of money to spare. Of course, one way to handle it is just to buy less--if people buy fewer things, which pretty much all of us in the Western world should do, they may have a little more to spend on locally-made products.

Thanks again for the mention!

Kathryn Ray said...

You're welcome. :-)

I do agree that most of us in the Western World would do well by buying less.

Vivian said...

I have such mixed feelings about this movement. I'm always one for saving our resources, appreciate our environment, eat fresh, etc. But the association of "Made in the USA" vs. what? "Made in China"? Being the factory of the world in the past 20 years has significantly changed many people's lives to the better. Chinese people did not ask Americans to buy cheap and storm Walmart on Black Friday.

Thank you for the disclaimer. Guess I'm just uncomfortable with how most people would associate the issues. Take it with a grain of salt ;-)

Kathryn Ray said...

Hi Vivian - you are right, Made in China is getting a bad wrap these days in the US. I don't think that's a good thing.

China is seeing some of what I've described... they've been the world's manufacturer for so long, that now they are becoming the designers as well.

By being both the designer and manufacturer their products will only become better, not just cheaper as has been the case for such a long time.

Voie de Vie said...

I agree with all the reasons you mention to buy local. I'd like to add that buying local and buying "elsewhere" need not be mutually exclusive. Whenever I travel, I'm always looking for local color and, thus, locally made. It's a great way to support local artisans/small business/DIYers across the country and across the globe. Conscious consumption is just fine (and doing it consciously will almost inevitably lead to less of it).

And, @ Vivian: While I hear your general frustration, I'm not certain I understand your point (or maybe I just have a different viewpoint). I truly wonder if buying "Made in China" has really changed lives for the better. I'm not big on labor exploitation. Of course, that's one of the rubs eh? We want "cheap" and so most are willing to look the other way.

Kathryn Ray said...

Oh yes, absolutely. I agree with buying local where ever you happen to be. It's the best way to learn about where you happen to be. :-)