Local jobs support not only the employees, but the local economy as well. Everyone benefits. A number of human rights organizations have demonstrated that, where sweat shops, 'Big Box', National chains, and multinational corps are concerned, increased profits to the business do not translate into better wages, benefits, or working conditions for the workers.

Conversely, theres a wealth of evidence to show that when local farms and business get community support, wages, jobs and community prosperity improve. The film "The Future of Food" documented how, with increased community support, local farms and CSAs are able to provide jobs for employees who have previously worked for large, momoculture farms. Jobs are not lost in the equation, but working conditions and wages improve. Similarly, when business profits stay in the community, rather than going to corporate headquarters, schools and other tax-base dependent community services benefit. Which means we all benefit. When profits --and even jobs-- are exported, we all loose.

I have heard it argued that there is a highly efficient system transporting food and other “consumer products” around the country and around the world. Fossil fuel, like any fuel, can be measured in calories, and on average, 10 calories are burned for every calorie of food shipped. That is not efficient. Shipping goods and products also requires excess packaging, something that can be minimized or eliminated by buying local.

As I explore these issues, and discus them with friends, new issues and questions come up (which is half the fun, after all) Just recently I have encountered several people who reject the use of computers and related technology, on the basis that a)there creation and subsequent disposal has a huge environmental impact, and b)their purchase supports multinational corporations. This gives me a wonderful opportunity to sing the praises of one of my very favorite local, worker-owned organizations!

We have three computers in the house (yes, the computers actually out number the people here) and not one of them was purchased from a multinational corporation. Each one came from Free Geek , meaning it was salvaged from the waste stream while supporting the local economy, living wages, and community empowerment. Some of you will remember that Free Geek was the group who sponsored the fair where I had the Bike Smoothy Booth.

Free Geek is a community based technology center that recycles computers and provides them at low or no-cost to individuals, and not-for-profit and social change organizations in the community and throughout the world (they recently supplied a bunch of working computers, as well as technical assistance, to an NGO in Uganda!).

Free Geek recycles over 1,500 computers each month, keeping some 15 tons of electronic (s)crap out of the waste stream. Volunteers disassemble the donated equipment and test the components, which are either recycled as electronic scrap or recycled into refurbished systems. These refurbished computers are then loaded with GNU/Linux, Open Office, and other Free Software and made available to individuals and organizations in the community. The volunteers are rewarded with computers of their own, as well as valuable training in building and fixing computers. Free tech support is provided for the fist year folks have their computer.

They also offer a computer room that is open to the community: anyone can come in and use a computer, access email and the Internet, do research for school projects or job hunts, print out resumes, create blogs, etc. So you don't even have to own a computer to have access to one.

Free Geek is part of a growing number of democratically-run organization who's policy decisions are made by a collective of staff and volunteers, rather than bosses. Proof that local, ethically operated business are sustainable and replicable, as well as benifical to the community.

Perhaps the best news of all: Free Geek is going “intergalactic”, with new centers popping up everywhere. Currently, there are Free Geek collectives in Oregon, Pennsylvania, and effort afoot for one in Indiana. Each one locally, democratically opperated. Soon, everyone may have access to this amazing community resource! Check thier website for more information and resources


zilla said...

I am LOVING Free Geek. I checked the site's links and found out that there is a Free Geek outfit in South Bend.

I hope one comes to northern Michigan soon. Between the business and having a large family, we've been hanging onto so much computer equipment (Macs and PCs) we don't need but can't throw away! I am so glad you posted about this. It's bound to be a growing movement.

griffin said...

I'll put in a good word for Michigan ;)
It definitely is a growing -and much needed- movement, though they generally start locally, and then Portland sends folks out to help trouble shoot. Hey --Your a mover-and-shaker, I bet you could light a fire under the idea :)

curt said...

I had no idea that's what Free Geek does. I will certainly have to go by there and see if there's anything I can do to help. I have an old flatbed scanner they need much more than I do. And Kudos to you for highlighting their efforts.

griffin said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
griffin said...

Thanks. The folks at Free Geek are some of my personal heros, they do more good that one would think imaginable --and they are one of the few places I knwow of where the bike parking tends to be more congested than the car parking! The rock!

zilla said...

WooHOO! I had to tell someone, I harvested my first tomato today! The next one should be ripe sometime next week! This is our last surviving tomato plant, rescued from Myrtle's attempt to install a raised bed garden this spring (she had her hands full with the baby and became overwhelmed -- we'll do better next year).

AND, drumroll please, I have just found three organic growers that should cover almost all of our nutritional needs! The furthest one is 57 miles away, and there's an organic dairy on the way to that one, and the third one is 18 miles away. So, yippee! I'm now researching energy star deep freezers. Nine people -- I needed one a long time ago anyway!

As for Free Geek, which I really do hope comes our way, my ex husband used to own a mom & pop custom computer biz that failed. If only I could interest HIM, getting the ball rolling would be a snap!

griffin said...

zilla, thats fantastic!! Congratulations! I had done some hunting a found some resources in Norther Michigan (on a great website that I will be posting about soon, but once again your brilliance and resourcefulness shines!!

Ironically, I just harvested the LASTof my 'matoes (sigh), but the apples are coming ripe, along with the grapes, and soon it will be time for some of my favorite dark leafies

As for you ex, maybe it's worth a shot: folks at the FG here in Portland make a decent wage wile being an enormous resource to the community. The one here has a storefront that sells functional parts and gizmos, right next to the recycling operation. There are certainly worse things a person could do for a living!

Jeff said...

I was reading about spending your dollars locally, and was surprised at how much money stays in the community when patronizing local/small businesses. I did a quick search and found the following statistics:

* 6 cents of every dollar spent with a big box retailer is retained/recirculated in a community. Source: Rocky Mountain Institute

* 20 cents of every dollar spent with a chain store is retained/recirculated in a community. Source: Small Business Administration

* 60 cents of every dollar spent with a sole proprietorship is retained/recirculated in a community. Source: Small Business Administration

griffin said...

Great stats, Jeff, Thanks so much! They really serve to illustrate how much of a difference our daily choices make.

Rain said...

Yeah! This is a great post, I am so happy to hear the type of good things that you write about. Sorry I lost contact with you. If I don't link someone right away, I don't find my way back very soon.
So I linked you :)

griffin said...

Welcome back rain!! Thanks sincerelyfor the high praise, I enjoy your blog as well -and I know what you mean about forgetting to link. I am so glad you found your way back to us :)