If you’re a little confused by the idea of having a new local currency circulating through Nelson, you’re not alone.
We too wondered why anyone would want to trade their Canadian money for the new Columbia Community Dollars. Like many Nelsonites, we’re big supporters of anything that encourages people to shop local — but why not just spend the money we already have at local business?
One reason to use the new currency, at least initially, is that every community dollar begins its life in the hands of a local non-profit group. In the coming months, people can support groups like the Kootenay Co-op Radio or West Kootenay EcoSociety by buying community dollars from them.
Usually when you donate to a non-profit all you get is that warm fuzzy feeling of doing something good, but by buying the community dollars you actually get all of your money back, albeit in a different currency.
The community dollars you buy can be spent on food, books, clothing or anything else available from a participating local business. Already dozens of local shops have agreed to accept the local currency.
But after the new money has been bought and spent once, it’s up to individual businesses to keep it in circulation. This will be the real test to see if the currency is viable.
What will a business do with money it can’t use to pay the lease on its building nor to buy products from its suppliers? The answer remains to be seen.
Part of the reason we spend our dollars at local businesses is because we want to see them thrive. Sometimes it’s inconvenient or more expensive to shop local, but we do it for the good of the community.
We hope that once we’ve gone through the effort of buying community dollars and spending them at our favourite shops that we’re helping the businesses and not leaving them with money they can’t spend.