Slogans, Easy Fixes and Silver Bullets – Can’t Be Found at the Bottom of a Coffee Cup
There are lots of wonderful, quirky shops along Pearl St. in the heart of Boulder. Bead shops, trendy clothing, home decor stores, and medical marijuana store fronts spill their wares, discounts and specials along the sidewalk to entice you further into their stores. In many ways, the storefronts don’t operate any differently than they did 10 years ago even a hundred, except for maybe the dispensary. But what has changed is that many, if not most, of the items in these shops are not made locally or are fabricated overseas. Products and good manufactured abroad or across the country are not new but the scale and unintended consequences of this model may be.
What Happens Local Stays Local, Right?
One compelling suggestion to support local economies is to buy local and support local businesses. But it’s never as simple as that, is it? What happens if your local purchases have a far greater impact in another part of the country or part of the world? For example, I read a very interesting article in the Guardian about the amount of water it takes to make a latte and got it me thinking about consumption and perspective. From the article was this quote:
“It doesn’t take a mathematician to realise that it takes more than 200 litres of water to make the average grande latte and that the vast majority of that water is used to produce the commodities, like coffee beans and milk…..Consumer choice does not, in fact, play a key role in how much water is embedded in a grande latte.”
What was surprising was how little influence consumer choice had on managing water usage. So, I may frequent my favorite local coffee places (in a hundred yard dash down Pearl St. in Boulder you can expect to jog by at least 4) and although my money may be going to support a local employer the greater impact of what they sell may actually be abroad.
Do I have to Feel Guilty About Drinking an Americano
The point of the post is not to discourage anyone from buying locally or dropping by their favorite coffee shop; I may drop by mine as soon as I hit publish on this blog post. But it’s a reminder to me to think more critically about easy fixes and slogans and that sometimes the most attractive answers to shifting an economy to a more sustainable one actually exposes me to more questions of trade-offs and compromises.