The most incredible thing I saw at the excellent Detroit Bioneers Conference was the tour of community and urban gardens that are part of the Garden Resource Program Collaborative and Greening of Detroit initiatives. But the best talk I heard at the conference this September was Judy Wicks on how she started the White Dog Cafe in Philadelphia and BALLE (Business Alliance for Local Living Economy), a national initiative.
Judy runs her business on seven "main building blocks of a local living economy: sustainable agriculture, renewable energy, green building, zero-waste manufacturing, independent media, downtown retail, and community capital." And these building blocks inform BALLE principles for the 51 local networks and 15,000 BALLE businesses. BALLE defines living economy businesses as ones who strive to:
- Source products from businesses with similar values, with a preference for local procurement
- Provide employees a healthy workplace with meaningful living-wage jobs
- Offer customers personal service and useful safe, quality products
- Work with suppliers to establish a fair exchange
- Cooperate with other businesses in ways that balance their self-interest with their obligation to the community and future generations
- Use their business practices to support an inclusive and healthy community, and to protect our natural environment
- Yield a "living return" to owners and investors
So, it's no coincidence that Zingerman's happens to be a member of our local chapter of BALLE, which is called Think Local First. The TLF mission is: "to support and cultivate locally-owned, independent businesses that are committed to making our community a healthier and more vibrant place to live."
With Michigan's economy in a bit of a tight spot, it seems like an extra-good year to think about buying things close to home over the holidays this year. Both Ypsilanti and Ann Arbor, with Think Local First, are promoting a "Buy Local Week" December 1-8 this year. Participating businesses offer discounts and special events, including the Ypsilanti Shadow Art Fair on Saturday December 1st, and Ann Arbor's Midnight Madness on Friday, December 7th. You can take a Buy Local Challenge and be eligible to win some local prizes.
And don't forget that just before Midnight Madness on December 7th, Slow Food Huron Valley is hosting a Holiday Gathering featuring a finger-food potluck and Michigan wine tasting to give you some good ideas for holiday entertaining and gifting.