A local currency, called UC Smiles, will be introduced to the
Urbana-Champaign area on November !st of this year. Locally owned and
operated stores will be accepting the currency and most of the member
stores are offering discounts to those who come carrying Smiles.
Why local currency? Shopping locally helps take care of the social,
economic and environmental needs of the community. Shopping at non-local
chains and big box stores has many effects on a community that are not
obvious right away. When these stores move in, the local stores that
provide similar goods are often put out of business. It often seems that
new jobs are being created, but in actuality, many jobs are lost. When one
Super Walmart moves into a community 150-180 jobs are lost within the
surrounding county. Local downtowns become ghost towns, taking with
them the local flavor as they die. (Who would go to another community and
buy something at Target as a souvenir?) In local stores, you can meet the
owner, get personal service and voice your opinions about how they can
provide what you need. Good store owners listen to their customers and try
to accommodate because they know it is good for themselves as well. In
addition, community connections are made and concern for others in the
community is increased.
Besides the loss of jobs from the community, corporate chains also require
money for those at the top of their organization–LOTS OF MONEY!
Approximately 25% more of your dollars spent at non-local stores goes out
of the community–much of it to the headquarters of the big
business, whereas the money gained by local owners is spent in the
community adding more to the economy and jobs. Additionally, local
businesses purchase more locally made products and locally grown foods to
resell–again stimulating the local economy.
Looking at this from an environmental point of view, big box stores buy
more goods from outside the community. Products travelling long distances
require a great deal more fuel and packaging materials. A carrot typically
travels over 1800 miles before ending up on your plate! Product is often
damaged due to travel and is unusable or of lower quality. Foods produced
to travel distances are designed for travel, and often taste and quality
OK, we understand why we need to shop locally, but why the currency? Local
currencies offer an opportunity for local stores to offer incentives while
reminding customers that they are a locally owned and operated store.
Having these unusual bills in hand remind people to be conscious of where
they are spending their money and why. Once dollars are converted into
Smiles, they can only be spent at local stores, but remember–using them
helps stimulate the local economy, and often a discount applies!
In addition to the currency, UC Smiles is dedicated to bringing new
customers to the downtown areas through a downtown tour program during
which new people to the community can be introduced to the local
businesses, meet the owners of some of these stores and learn some of the
history and culture of our community.
Two “Exchange Stores” have been established: International Galleries in
Lincoln Square and Strawberry Fields on Main Street in Urbana. These stores
will convert your dollars into UC Smiles starting November 1st. If you
would like to get your Smiles ahead of time you can purchase them by
sending a message to UCSmilesforyou@gmail.com You can also get more
information and see the businesses enrolled as members by going to
A party for distribution of Smiles will be held at the IMC
on October 27th from 4-6pm. Come meet the others involved and join the fun!