It looks like the grommets had it right all along – although LOCALS ONLY can seem like a pretty non-forgiving, unrealistic and actually, pretty rude attitude to life and all it’s components – it is, in reality, the only way to create a sustainable micro-economy. The patterns of spending come in determinate waves – there are periods of gross expenditure followed by patient saving, and global markets dictated by the habits of big-spenders. If you live a life dependent on what strangers can provide for you, then, maybe, accidentally, you have locked yourself into a situation where you may be unable to recognise the relationships between what you are consuming and it’s origin. Residents in East Gippsland, a small community tucked into the most south-eastern corner of Australia, are trying to combat this. But how?

Well, by creating an alternative to the mainstream economy – and they are reaping the benefits! An artist-run community group named (f)route is behind this movement – and their idea to change the world by developing their patch. (f)route began as a conversation connecting visitors to East Gippsland with the bounties that were already in place – wild flora, fauna and fruit, breathtaking landscapes, friendly locals and really great art. Seven years later, (f)route has grown from strength to strength, hosting 5 large annual community festivals (frouteville!), providing great learning opportunities for locals with a small business-incubator, popping up in Melbourne to spread the word, and producing a network of localism-loving people, spanning decades, who are dedicated to nature, environment, produce, sharing, sustainability and funnily enough, art.

Art seems to be the really common and binding thread between all – and a love for the involvement, connection and methodology all these practises provide. Soon there was the realisation that by supporting those around us who were already ‘doing’, we could provide for ourselves and our community. And, by adopting the values of social enterprise, we could encourage each other to make a living while living our preferred lives. By supporting those we are connected to, we ourselves will reap the benefits of understanding the process, dedication and distribution of the things we need, or choose, to consume. With conscious thought shaping our shopping, we can benefit the environment by prioritising a local, green economy.

Almost three years ago now, a shop called Foundry reared it’s head in Bairnsdale, East Gippsland, Victoria, Australia – a collective retail store operated by local creatives that truly operate a radical breed of business. Coordinated by three creative women, Foundry is dedicated to not only conscious shopping, but to supporting clever locals who are working hard to support themselves. Foundry only stocks the wares of artists and makers living in East Gippsland – and 85% of the shop’s total profits go straight into the pockets of artists, paying them what they choose for their fine work. The remaining 15% is dedicated to running costs such as rent, rates, bills and such, and all work undertaken at Foundry in the shop is currently on a volunteer basis. The whole team is thriving and the passion for their work is truly evident when you enter their authentic little shop. Foundry is able to provide an alternative to (and less dependence on) large, mass-production, and the damaging industries that we are reliant on. And, although living rurally in Australia automatically renders you without access to local public transport and communities are heavily car-dependent, by shopping locally you can remove the industrial transport step required by most international and national corporations. Sustainability is a huge factor in determining what wares to stock, and preference is always given to those items which are clever in their production method, repurpose or recycle existing materials, and encourage a re-useable, purposeful lifestyle.

It’s funny – there are a tonne of people out there who pride themselves on being the progressive type. Adapting their lifestyles and viewpoints to suit positive changes within society. This may be where you find those who embrace technology, ensure they are wise to politics and world affairs, think about consumption and educate themselves on sustainable practise. Make clever decisions, actively improve their global impact. And in these evolutions, you can find a desire to become more wholesome, and in for providing almost wholly for oneself.

This is the turning point! In which we are beginning to realise that maybe, ironically, living a conservative lifestyle is more beneficial than a life of pure excess. If we concentrate on supporting those around us as we thrive to improve the quality of our own lives, then the positive effect continues to ripple out – the little splashes you make in your corner of the pond will ripple out and intermingle with the splashes of your neighbours. All of a sudden, the small changes become big changes and the effect is spread much further than your own personal reach. And that is how, by supporting the ones we know and the ones we love in our own environment – we can change the world.

By Jes John

Please note that opinions expressed are the author’s own. They do not necessarily reflect the views and values of The Blank Page.