What is a 'Calgary Dollar'

The Calgary dollar is a local currency developed and used only in Calgary, Alberta, Canada. Calgary dollars are part of an initiative to inspire local consumers to shop close to home, to personalize economic relations, to nurture a sense of community and to increase both local self-sufficiency and bioregionalism.

BREAKING DOWN 'Calgary Dollar'

The Calgary dollar, abbreviated as C$, is a local currency that is not backed by Canada’s government, nor is it intended to replace the Canadian dollar (CAD). Instead, the Calgary dollar is designed to function alongside the Canadian dollar as a complementary currency. You cannot earn interest by saving Calgary dollars; they are intended only to be spent. The Calgary dollar program was established in 1996 by a local nonprofit enterprise called the Arusha Centre, which has managed and operated the program ever since. When it was first launched, the currency was called Bow Chinook Hours, because Calgary is distinguished by the Bow River and the warm chinook winds that give the region a respite from the cold of winter. The Calgary dollars moniker was formally adopted in 2002.

In order to participate in the Calgary dollar program, consumers and merchants must sign up for it. One Calgary dollar has the same value as one Canadian dollar, and they can be used to purchase locally all basic necessities, such as food, clothing and transportation as well as discretionary good arts and leisure items. Calgary dollars are essentially a barter system. The system is legal and businesses pay taxes on any Calgary dollars they earn.

Participating local merchants can choose to accept Calgary dollars for 25 percent to 100 percent of the price of their goods and services. A customer might pay for a $20 purchase with $5 in Calgary dollars and $15 in Canadian dollars at a business that accepts 25 percent Calgary dollars. Calgary dollars come in denominations of $1, $5, $10, $25 and $50 dollars. Unlike most forms of paper-based money systems, the Calgary dollar is made from plastic.

Calgary Dollars and Bioregionalism

One of the primary drivers behind the launch of the Calgary dollar system was to help broaden the concept and adoption of bioregionalism. Bioregionalism encourages citizens to become more intimately familiar with and dependent on local food, materials and resources as a way to become more self-sufficient. As an example, the movement encourages people to start a local farm or garden at home, rather than buying vegetables at a big grocery store, because store-bought produce is dependent on petroleum, natural gas and chemicals used in pesticides, fertilizers, large-scale food production and shipping. Calgary dollars help stimulate bioregionalism because local currency emphasizes local products over those that were grown or created thousands of miles away.

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