December 4, 2022
Ithaca, NY | 32°F


Commentary: Shopping locally strengthens community connection

As college students try to juggle academics, cocurricular activities, jobs and social lives, finding the time to make a purchase — whether it’s a week’s worth of groceries or a new pair of winter boots — isn’t always easy. Although online retailers like Amazon and eBay Inc. provide customers with expansive product selections and the convenience of a one-stop shopping experience, making the conscious decision to shop locally has far-reaching benefits that popular online and chain stores just don’t offer. 

It’s been found that shopping at smaller businesses benefits the local economy at a higher rate than multinational corporations. According to Civics Economics, for every $100 spent at a local store, $68 stay in the community, while only $43 filter back into the local economy from chain stores. The revenue that smaller independent businesses generate recirculates back into the community through taxes, which are then used to improve local infrastructure, whether it’s repairing streets, adding school or community programs or beautifying Ithaca.

Oftentimes, buying local is associated with being more expensive, especially when it comes to food, but this isn’t always the case and is highly dependent on where a person shops. Small businesses help create local, higher-paying jobs more than chain stores do, and they ensure the merchants are getting a fair price for their goods. For instance, buying produce from the farmers market — as opposed to a larger corporation — allows for farmers doing the actual work to turn over more of a profit because the corporate middleman is removed. However, supporting the local economy can be done in other ways beyond grocery shopping. For example, students can purchase textbooks at independent bookstores, which typically sell books for less than their campus bookstore.

Shopping locally has several environmental benefits as well. When buying local, individuals produce a smaller carbon footprint because the items are less likely to have traveled thousands of miles to make it into the hands of the customer. This means less air pollution and fuel consumption are involved in the process. Cutting out packaging facilities lessens the amount of plastic used. Additionally, eating local food products is often associated with being better for your health, as local food production is frequently connected with involving fewer pesticides, according to Food Revolution Network. Food imported from far away is less fresh and nutrient-packed because there’s more time between harvesting and reaching the individual’s plate. 

Ithaca prides itself on its support for local art, dining and entertainment through its “buy local” initiatives. Supporting smaller businesses also reinforces social ties by bridging the gap between nearby colleges and the greater Ithaca area. This can be seen in Ithaca College’s decision to recruit local businesses to support its new locally sourced, in-house dining program.

When students get off campus to purchase something from a shop on The Commons, they’re interacting with people from the community who they might not meet anywhere else. There’s a face behind the products they’re buying and a story behind how they’re made, which delivers a more memorable, meaningful experience. Shopping locally fosters interpersonal communication and reinforces a stronger sense of community because the transaction is more relationship-based, and the service is more personalized. 

This can better connect students to the places they’re living in during the academic year, allowing them to gain a better understanding of what’s transpiring off campus. The Ithaca community and charm are strengthened through the support of local businesses. So, on your next shopping trip, consider buying local to build, connect and engage with your community.

Brianna Ruback can be reached at or via Twitter: @brianna_ruback