by Jon Persson
A new bookcase at the New London Library, a gift of the Thames Valley Sustainable Connection, carries messages. On its shelves are books—also gifts from the TVSC—about sustainable communities, local food supplies, energy conservation, carbon-footprint reduction, and more.
The objective is to educate people about the advantages inherent in a movement to buy local, farm local, and conserve energy—and thereby build sustainable and prosperous communities. New London has within its business sector an emerging and increasingly successful component working hard to help transform this small city into a healthy place for people and businesses.
Art Costa, president of the Thames Valley Sustainable Connection and also of the New London Local First organization says the TVSC’s goal is to build a “local economy that is resilient” and not at the mercy of “up and down cycles” of the global economy.
“New London is not part of the global economy” Art explained, because the city is “dependent on imports” and does not export to the outside world. When people buy imported products, “much of their money simply leaves New London and goes to large corporations and even other countries.” For example, if one spends a dollar at a locally owned business, .68 cents will remain within the local economy, while a dollar spent at a chain store sees .57 cents leave the local economy entirely.
But by purchasing locally made (and grown) items, he emphasizes, a series of positive effects are set in motion which help create prosperity and resilience. “More of your money stays in the area” Art continues, “creating more local jobs,” which will stay in the area year after year. And, “buying local and regional” products, most notably foods, “lessens the energy use and carbon footprint” of purchasing food and other products.
To achieve this end, New London now has two farmers’ markets, Fields of Greens on the Parade Plaza (Fridays, on State Street) and Field of Greens at Lawrence and Memorial Hospital (Wednesdays). These provide a convenient and carbon-efficient connection between local shoppers and regional farmers.
Art is aware that New London is not capable of being completely independent economically, which has expanded his attention to include both regional and local sources. Keeping people’s purchasing choices generally in the area helps everyone by maintaining the economic resilience Art repeatedly stresses.
Community Supported Agriculture, where people buy a share of future harvests from a local farmer, is yet another way that consumers may focus their purchasing power. “Farmers use this money to buy seeds and pay other expenses,” while investors receive fresh produce as it is harvested in return, Art said. New London Field of Greens has been acting as a drop-off place for these small-scale programs, something he hopes to see expand in the future.
There is power in the “small” as well as the “big,” he stresses. Art and his organizations are also working to bring local investors and small businesses together. He points out that attracting big corporations for the sake of bringing jobs to the area “costs hundreds of thousands of dollars per job” while small businesses create jobs for a fraction of that cost. And, small businesses tend to stay in the area, again adding resilience to the local economy. Big corporations “think globally and not locally” and tend to “pull up and go anywhere cheaper,” leaving economic devastation behind.
New London Local First, which presently has over a hundred local business members, offers as an added incentive—a “$hare” card, available for $10. Holders of the $hare card are eligible for discounts on products and services from participating businesses, and cards remain valid throughout the calendar year….another real-life example of how the organizations headed by Art are working to build a strong local economy.
Information about the organizations of which Art Costa is president and co-chair may be found at: www.newlondonlocalfirst.org; www.newlondonfieldofgreens.org; and, www.greaternewlondonfarmtocity.org. Details about member businesses, the $hare Card, and more may be accessed at these sites.