Solutions for Self-Reliance

What Are the Boundaries of Your Local Economy? Find out.


My trusty Honda lawn mower fell apart this year.  Repair was impossible.

Being thrifty, we immediately went to the online classifieds on Craigslist to find a replacement.   So, a couple of hours and $50 later, we became the new owners of a used Honda mower in good condition.

It was just another successful transaction in the informal, local economy.

As the global industrial economy continues to wind down, this local economy is going to become increasingly important, so it’s worth learning how it works if you haven’t already.

The Local Online Economy

In the modern version of the local economy, online classifieds are the most vibrant marketplace.  Within online classifieds,  Craigslist rules.

How big is Craigslist?  It’s already huge.  It generates 30 billion page views a month and it’s used by 50 million people in the US alone.

You can find nearly anything there.  Used goods to buy or barter for.  Short term employment.  Services you can trade for or purchase.  Rental properties.

Another interesting thing we can learn from Craigslist is the natural boundaries of the local economy.  How?

Craigslist sites are focused on specific geographical areas.

New sites are created based on the viability of the market and not artificial political boundaries.

Factors like travel distance, population density, transaction volume, and customer feedback play a part in determining whether a new site is needed or not.

If we looked at the US from the perspective of Craigslist sites and the zip codes they serve, the US would look like the graphic below (via IDV User Experience).  Effectively, each site is a viable local economy in today’s environment.

If you are interested in seeing which site your zip code is in, here’s a text version of the table that built this graphic (and here’s another version of the data in a graphic).


More Community Pictures on Growing Vertically

Community member “Plug Nickel Outfit” shares these photos of a vertical garden in the desert.

These wire frames a taller than I have used before, but I can see the benefit of doing so.

Note:  the 20 gallon blue Tomato buckets on the right are on wheels to move as necessary.


A temporary greenhouse and hot water heater built using hay bales and compost

Here’s an excellent idea from Kailash Ecovillage in Portland Oregon (it’s a 32 apartment complex), a co-housing community.  I pointed to it before, but I thought it deserved more visibility.

This temporary greenhouse is composed of (dive in for more detail):

  • Hay bales for the walls.  Held in place by rebar.
  • A floor that is a combination of 28 yards of compost + piping to circulate heat.  It needed some replenishing over time.
  • A cover made with UV resistant plastic, stretched over a rebar frame (stuck into the hay bales).
The result?

Our household of 2 adults and three children obtained all our household hot water from a composting greenhouse we constructed in Portland, Oregon in 1994. It provided hot water at a temperature of 90-130 degrees (Fahrenheit) continuously until it was dismantled 18 months later. We used the space to grow several species of mushrooms and to house plants from our garden during winter.



Stay positive.  We’re going in the right direction.




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