Fairfax creates its own local currency

July 29, 2011 6:03:39 PM PDT
Communities are coming up with innovative ways to keep money local and raise some extra funds for local projects. Fairfax, in Marin County, is the latest town to offer an alternative currency.

The small town of Fairfax has minted its own $3 coin.

"We created the FairBucks because we know we have a strong sense of local here," said Pam Hartwell Herrero, executive director for Sustainable Fairfax. "We also have a really strong local business community and we want to keep it that way."

There are strict guidelines to creating your own currency.

"It doesn't compete with U.S. dollars in that it's sort of in a small? a finite area is the only place that you can use FairBucks," explained Herrero.

"More and more folks are opting for their change to be returned to them in FairBucks," said Augie Venezia, president of Fairfax Lumber & Hardware.

Although not everyone has heard of the new currency, a lot of people are trying it.

"We gave him a $10 and we said, 'Can we have our change in FairBucks?' And he said, "Yeah, cool, Here it is," said Fairfax resident Renee Goddard.

Other towns and even districts, like Bernal Heights in San Francisco, have come up with their own currency. But one of the things that makes the Fairbuck unique is its collaboration between the Chamber of Commerce, the town council and a local environmental non-profit.

The main risk to consumers and businesses is that businesses could stop accepting them. There's a safeguard for the first year -- anyone can cash in their coins at the Fairfax branch of First Fidelity.

"Right now we have $13,000 in a reserve account that we're holding for the businesses to make sure that this works," said Herrero.

If it works, the steering committee plans to spend the profit between the dollar it cost to make the coins and the three dollars they're worth, on projects in Fairfax.

"It probably will start with more beautification," said Herrero.

But not everyone is make the leap to FairBucks just yet. Mike Martin who owns the local barber shop is waiting it out and sticking with what he knows works.

"Just regular good old American cash and checks," said Martin.

Besides Fairfax and Bernal Heights, the coastal town of Point Reyes has also recently started using a local currency.


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