Today’s Solutions: December 04, 2023

You might imagine the post-pandemic world as being one where humanity is left picking up the shattered pieces just to glue them back to the state they were before, but that won’t necessarily be the case. While the crisis has turned many aspects of our society upside down, it has also greased some wheels that may make things run better once the pandemic blows over.

Among the bright spots is the newfound appreciation of healthcare workers, schoolteachers, waste handlers, police, EMTs, and other essential employees — not to mention the brave shopkeepers and restaurant workers whose establishments remain open to enable us to buy food, medicine, liquor, and other vital goods.

There are also glimmers of hope about the world we’ll be stepping into in the not-too-distant future. In particular, there’s the rebirth of “local.”

Local what, exactly? Local food, manufacturing, and retail, amongst other things.

Local food systems, especially, are becoming increasingly appreciated and valued, from community-supported agriculture to grow-your-own gardens, farmers’ markets, and direct-to-consumer sales by local farmers. These growing trends coincide with a growing interest in becoming more self-reliant as well as an increasing trend of cooking at home and the search for healthy options during a homebound few months.

Similarly, local retail also stands to gain once folks are released form their sheltering at home. According to a recent study by EY, “Consumers show a greater preference for shops, restaurants, and brands that feel local.” EY’s research found that more than four in 10 consumers expect their shopping habits to change drastically in a post-COVID world. About a third said they would be willing to pay more for local brands.

The return of manufacturing is another part of the new localism. The pandemic provided a wake-up call about the importance of having a local manufacturing base. The ability of factories to quickly pivot to make masks, PPE, testing kits, hand sanitizer, and other vital goods during a critical moment has demonstrated the need to bring back significant manufacturing and production capabilities to US shores.

And then there’s the circular economy — specifically, the part where people are reusing, repairing, and sharing more than ever. Secondhand, for example, is experiencing a revival. A recent survey has indicated that the coronavirus has dramatically shifted resale shopping behavior in the baby and kids category, 39 percent of parents reported buying secondhand to and their local communities.

Granted, it’s early days, and a lot of this will be slow in coming. But as we claw our way back to health, we shall do so with a renewed focus on local and resilient communities, as we collectively work to ensure that we can better survive whatever calamity is next to come.

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