Grassroots Money
by Miyoko Sakshita

There are currently more than 850 BREAD Hours in circulation -- that’s more than $10,000 worth of community money. Using BREAD, Berkeley residents have paid for house repair, haircuts, childcare, food, cooking, tutoring, carpentry, and much more. With each exchange we build links between people and local resources. And this local economic system has broad implications. By printing our own money and focusing on a local economy, we not only benefit local residents but are also part of a growing local-currency movement.

It has been just over a year since we issued our first BREAD Hours, and in that time we have provided information and inspiration to many groups wishing to print their own money in Santa Cruz, Sonoma, Mendocino, Mill Valley, San Jose, Clear Lake, and Sacramento. There are more than 50 local-currency systems similar to BREAD in the U.S. and almost every month a new one emerges. Each of these local-currency systems contributes toward more socially and ecologically just societies.

Local currency is good for our community. By community, I refer not to people who live in our region, but also the myriad other species and our ecosystem as a whole.

In the name of “progress,” much of the world is turning away from local economies and community self-reliance. What ensues is a process of environmental destruction, labor exploitation, and cultural extinction around the world. The engine driving such devastation is known as economic globalization.

There are pockets of resistance to globalization springing up everywhere. All over the world, people are building a diverse movement with a message that corporate rule and economic globalization must cease. These forces of grassroots resistance have come in many different forms, from labor strikes in Europe to the Zapatista uprising in Mexico to the burning of Kentucky Fried Chicken in India. The movement toward local economies is also a critical step toward dismantling globalization.

By printing local money, we are able to keep wealth, resources, and accountability within our local region. By trading local money we are laying the foundation for a sustainable survival system.

While dollars drain power from our community and hand it to large transnational corporations, BREAD nourishes local economic power. This means that we can issue money as needed for real goods and services in the community rather than as the stock market sees fit.

Goods and services traded for BREAD derive from local resources, allowing us to see out how our purchases affect labor and the natural environment. Local money also means a reduction in transportation. In contrast, most of the goods we buy with dollars come to us by means of commercial trucks, cars, and cargo planes whose dependence on petroleum contributes to pollution, climate change, mining, and war. But the most tangible examples of the ecological benefits of local money are evident in food and agriculture. Most of the food you buy with BREAD comes from local sources, and we strive to build our local economy with food producers using sustainable techniques.

The underlying reason that local currency can help us create a more ecologically sound society is because BREAD is backed by cooperation and trust -- values that coincide with those of our broader community of nature. A local economy celebrates interconnection within the community; not only do people get to meet their neighbors, but they also begin to care for each other and their local environment.

Finally, the global economy is highly unstable. We have already experienced near collapse in Mexico and more recently in Asia. These events may only foreshadow what globalization will bring. Edward Goldsmith, editor of The Ecologist magazine, has written, “Since today, a vast proportion of people depend for their sustenance on the functioning of the global economy, [a collapse] would have the direst possible consequences, but they would be incomparably less dire for those who have organized their own community-based economies.” We believe that BREAD is a tangible solution to many of the complex problems we face. But the best part about BREAD is that, with one step, you can improve our community. Call someone and arrange an exchange in BREAD!

Miyoko is the founder of BREAD local currency. For more information contact BREAD at (510) 704-5247 or PO Box 3973, Berkeley, CA 94703.

For more information on local exchange systems, contact:

E.F. Schumacher Society, 140 Jug End Road,
Great Barrington, MA 01230
Tel: 413-528-1737 Fax: 413-528-4472 <> or <>

Time Dollar Institute, P.O. Box 42160, Washington, D.C. 20015
Tel: 202-686-5200

Or see the following publications:

New Money for Healthy Communities. Written and published by Tom Greco Jr., Tucson, AZ, 1994. Tel: 520-577-2187. This publication discusses the problems with the current money system and explores various community currency initiatives.

Rethinking our Centralized Money System: The Case for a System of Local Currencies. Lewis D. Solomon. Praeger Publishers. An overview of the centralized money system’s evolution and discussion of how local currencies can resolve existing economic and social difficulties. This book is available in bookstores.

Short Circuit: Strengthening Local Economies for Security in an Unstable World. By Richard Douthwaite. Green Books. This book demonstrates how the global economy cannot provide necessities for life and proposes that communities build independent local economies. Available in bookstores.