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Stop it with the Localwashing already!

I’m beginning to feel guilty for ever having moved from my hometown of Los Angeles to at least five other locales—even a foreign country for some time (don’t tell anyone). Why the guilt? With all this talk about local, I feel like I just should have stayed home. That’s the next step, right—the ultimate in political correctness, you don’t move from your hometown but remain a local?

OK, I am possibly taking it a bit far here, but lately, it’s hard to discern what’s too far in the local movement. Consider that the 500 store-chain Winn Dixie recently launched a new ad campaign with the tagline “Local flavor since 1956;" ubiquitous Starbucks is renaming some of its Seattle stores—one to 15th Avenue Coffee and Tea; and Foster Farms is labeling its packages of chicken “locally grown”, according to Utne Reader.

Oh wait, I forgot one, shopping malls across the country are launching “buy local” campaigns to attract consumers to their local malls. Really.

I am all for local, when it’s the real deal. Here in Boulder, I appreciate it when I go to a local restaurant and the bulk of its produce comes from a nearby farm (the same one where my daughter attended Organic Farm Camp last summer, meat from Colorado ranches and cheese from local goats. But when I see corporations pirate the term, it saddens me. I know I can look at it as increasing awareness of the concept, but I can’t help but worry that consumers will simply feel manipulated and the term rendered useless.

Once again I look to natural products retailers to set the integrity bar. If all natural products retailers can do their best to remain true to the local concept, then maybe their stores will be one of the few places consumers can buy local with confidence.

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