By Brad Reynolds

Montanans love Montana.

Obviously, right? You could say that about any state. Texans love Texas. New Yorkers love New York. North Dakotans love—well, the point is most everyone loves their home state. But for having one of the smallest populations, Montana’s home pride seems particularly noteworthy. We slap our state shape on everything. We regard “Made in Montana” stickers like badges of honor. And seriously, name a state that has a higher number of area code tattoos per capita. I’ll wait.

So when I say Montanans love Montana, it may sound like a dimwitted insight, but I truly believe we have something special here. We all enjoy something about our state, and if we want to maintain that enjoyment, we need to support the local businesses and organizations that keep Montana running.

One of the simplest ways: shop local.

Local businesses create a stronger local economy by providing consumers with affordable, quality products that keep their money recirculating in the community. Whereas about ten cents of every dollar spent at a megastore stays in the community (and that’s being generous), roughly half of every dollar is retained by a locally owned business. This may be money that gets spent at another Montana business, or donated to a local cause, or invested in a community event.

Of course, you don’t have to spend your hard-earned dollars just to better the local economy; you can do it to better yourself too! According to a study published in the Cambridge Journal of Regions, Economy, and Society, counties with a higher volume of local businesses have a lower rate of mortality, obesity, and diabetes. Why? Fresh, local foods are better for your body, with higher nutrient densities and a much lower risk of contamination. Less plastics and fossil fuel are used in the packaging and transportation of local goods, and local merchants also (generally) use land more productively than corporations. When you shop local, it’s good for you, good for your community, and good for the environment. That’s good for Montana.

And if I know one thing, it’s that Montanans love Montana.