There are thousands of initiatives around the country -- from bike sharing to farmers markets to local business networks -- aimed at creating sustainable, local economies. All share common goals of creating jobs and improving the quality of community life. Below are some ideas that are taking hold, along with resources to get involved and learn more.
Do you have an initiative or idea that we need to know? Use our feedback forum below to share your thoughts.
A worker cooperative is an alternative for-profit structure based on democratic principles like voting, open access to information, free speech, and equal distribution of resources and income. A co-op is owned by all of the employees of the company in equal portions.
Is your community fixing the future? Map what's working and what needs fixing where you live.
Get Involved: The US Federation of Worker Cooperatives has a map where you can find information on cooperative initiatives in your region. They also offer resources and advice on starting a worker cooperative.
Banking and Investing
There is a national movement toward putting money into local community banks and investing in locally owned businesses. Some of these local banks, such as Bremer Bank, donate a major portion of their dividends to causes in the communities they serve.
Get Involved: Move Your Money, a national movement to bank with local, community banks, has a tool to help you find financially sound institutions where you live.
The New Rules Project, a group encouraging policies for increasing citizens' political and economic power, has compiled resources for starting a local banking campaign in your community.
Sustainable Connections in Local Economies
Sustainable economies are systems where local business owners make up the majority of the local economy. Innovations in green building, community capital, sustainable agriculture and energy efficiency projects are all tied together within each community, making the economy local, green-based, and equal. The Business Alliance for Local Living Economies (BALLE) is an alliance of 80 independently operated local business networks dedicated to building what they describe as local living economies.
Get Involved: There are BALLE community networks in 30 US states and Canada. Use BALLE's map to find a community network near you.
BALLE also provides information and guidance on how to start a community network.
Bicycle sharing programs make a number of bicycles available for shared use, typically in urban environments. One example is Nice Ride Minnesota, a non-profit bike-sharing system with 65 stations and over 600 bicycles on the streets of Minneapolis. Bike sharing programs remove three difficulties of daily cycling use: home parking, theft and maintenance of your private bicycle.
Get Involved: Use the map provided here to find a bike share program.
Car sharing programs are an increasingly popular alternative to personal car ownership, especially in urban areas. They provide an innovative way to eliminate traffic, reduce dependence on fossil fuels, and save people across the country the time and money involved in car maintenance.
Get Involved: There are dozens of car sharing programs in U.S. Cities and there numbers are growing. View this list of current and pilot car sharing programs maintained and updated by the non-profit, CarSharing.net.
City CarShare, a Bay area non-profit, offers information and advice on how to bring car sharing to your community.
Local Farmers Markets
Farmers markets seem to be springing up everywhere in the last few years. Buying from local farmers helps community farms to stay in business and boosts local economies. A huge upside: Food from farmers' markets is fresher than produce in the supermarket, which often means better taste and nutrition.
Get Involved: Insert your zip code in the widget provided by Local Harvest to find farmers markets where you live.Enter Zip Code or City then press "Return" or "Enter" key to search:
Time banks offer members the ability to get credit for services they provide to other members -- covering everything from cooking to car rides. For each hour of work, one time dollar is deposited into a member's account, which they can use for services offered by other members. For Fixing the Future, David Brancaccio visited Hour Exchange Portland where he deposited an hour in a time bank by helping to insulate someone's home and withdrew an hour of sailing lessons.
Get Involved: Time Banks USA, an advocacy group, maintains a list of community time banks throughout the US. They also offer a DIY start-up kit for those who want to start a time bank where they live.
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