One example is Ithaca, New York, which claims it has the oldest and largest local currency system in the U.S. It’s called Ithaca Hours, and it’s not merely a paper money system, but entails an exchange of labor for goods and services to build community pride and connections
Their official web site says the name Hour is meant to show that, in addition to being a medium of exchange for commodities, the currency represents someone’s labor–the time taken to provide a skill or perform a service. The time of those who participate is worth something to someone else. They say when you give someone an HOUR, you are telling them: “I did this much somewhere else. Please give me the equivalent here.”
If a person works for a business that accepts Ithaca Hours, he may choose to accept part of his wages in Hours. He can exchange U.S. dollars for Hours at a designated place for doing this. It’s possible to accept Hours at a yard sale, for household chores, or in some other temporary or informal arrangements. It’s essentially barter on a city wide scale.
Ithaca Hours can be used for basics, such as food, shelter, health care, and legal services. They can also be used at art galleries, restaurants, and instruction in just about everything. That’s just part of the picture. The online directory is essentially the yellow pages of the 900 participants offering a wide variety of goods and services available locally.
According to the web site, “Ithaca Hours is a local currency system that promotes local economic strength and community self-reliance in ways which will support economic and social justice, ecology, community participation and human aspirations in and around Ithaca, New York.” Ithaca Hours keeps money local. Unlike dollars, Ithaca Hours stay in and circulate throughout the local community to build the local economy.
Businesses who wonder what they’ll do with the Ithaca Hours currency they receive have the opportunity to decide what rate of Hours they’ll accept for purchases or services. Some accept up to 100 hours. The key is to figure out the rate of Hours proportional to the ability of the business to put them back into the local economy. The directory offers ideas on how the Hours can be used. Ithaca Hours even offers business loans to members at no interest.
A great deal of planning and organization has gone into Ithaca Hours. Numerous articles and books have been written about Ithaca Hours. Discover more by clicking here. The system seems to be an open secret kept from the rest of the country. Yet they’re not the only ones blazing a survival trail for local communities.
Small is Possible: Life in a Local Economy, by Lyle Estill, is a 240 page paperback that tells the story of other communities surviving as local people and businesses find their niches. Part of a book description summarizes as follows:
True stories, springing from the soils of Chatham County, North Carolina, offer a positive counterbalance to the bleakness of our age. This is the story of how one small southern US town found actual solutions to actual problems. Unwilling to rely on the government and wary of large corporations, these residents discovered it is possible for a community to feed itself, fuel itself, heal itself, and govern itself. This book is filled with newspaper columns, blog entries, letters, and essays that have appeared on the margins of small-town economies. Tough subjects are handled with humor and finesse. Compelling stories of successful small businesses, from the grocery co-op to the biodiesel co-op, describe a town and its people on a genuine quest for sustainability. Everyone interested in sustainability, local economy, small business, and whole foods will be inspired by the success stories in this book.
You can get your copy of Small is Possible by clicking on its title where you see it linked in this post. That takes you to the page where you can order the book. If you’re interested in boosting the local economy of your town or county, get this book. If you’re involved in a community of survivalists, Small is Possible will give you food for thought as well.