For my third post in the Rural Living vs City Living Series I am going to look at the topic of shopping. By shopping, I do not mean shopping as a leisure activity, but the act of obtaining material goods that are needed for use around the home.
I think that, when it comes to shopping, living in the city has less of an impact on the environment than living in a rural setting. Sure, there is the impact of destroying ecosystems to construct shopping malls and parking structures, but I consider those to be infrastructure and not shopping related.
The biggest reason I feel that city living has the advantage is that, in most situations, all of one's shopping can be done relatively close to home. In a rural setting, however, while some of the shopping can be done close to home, there are always situations that require travelling farther to get speciality items. Unfortunately, for us, these speciality items include organic foods, meaning that we make regular trips to London to shop as well we trips to Lexington every few months. Likewise, the transport of items to the store in rural areas requires the use of much more energy, than transporting the same items to an urban area, due to the rural areas and stores being so spread out.
We overcome some of the travel issues with shopping by doing a lot of shopping online. I have seen evidence that indicates that having products delivered, rather than buying from a brick and mortar store has less environmental impact, especially in situations such as ours. We regularly buy entertainment, household items, and even tools from online stores. The bulk of our food, however, still requires travelling to the establishment.
When it comes to shopping, I feel that natural living, sustainability, and self sufficiency are all very closely related. I believe that rural living has an edge over city living in each of these categories. One big reason for this is that stores in rural areas are more accustomed to providing the types of products required for a natural, sustainable, and self-sufficient lifestyle. Gardening and farming supplies are typically readily available in such areas. There also seem to be more opportunities to purchase direct from small, local businesses, which can be more flexible. This includes things such as saw mills, which can custom cut lumber, even using logs provided by the customer, if desired.
I believe that reusing items, by buying used, is a very important part of sustainability. I do sometimes think that it would be nice to live in or near an urban area to have increased access to used items for sale. Browsing the Lexington Craigslist page versus the Eastern Kentucky page really makes it obvious that the more people in an area, the more used items that will be available. However, one thing I've noticed is that, often, the type of items needed for living the lifestyle I'm trying to live are more readily available in rural areas. People in cities do not have the same need for certain items as people out in the country, meaning they are also less likely to have those items for sale. On the other hand, though, household items, clothing, etc can be found at thrift stores, which are abundant in cities.
Ultimately, I think that city living has the advantage when it comes to the topic of shopping. Having access to a wide variety of items in close proximity to ones home can be very beneficial. I do not, however, want to overlook the benefits of shopping with local merchants. While both rural and urban areas have a mix of locally and corporate owned stores, it seems that rural areas tend to have a higher percentage of locally owned businesses. This is more of an economic advantage, than a shopping advantage, but I felt that it deserved to be mentioned.