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Kawartha Loon Exchange (KLE), Peterborough’s local currency, currently in its second year has about 140 members and around ten non-member business that accept the Kawartha Loons (KL)–but the membership is still not enough for self sustenance.

The main challenge fronting the currency right now is its lack of membership for the self sustainable use of KL.

“The short term strategy is to reach a membership of 250 by the end of this year, which we believe is the tipping point,” said the founder of the KL, Fred Irwin.

He explained that ‘tipping point’ in terms of membership is when the system starts to work on its own. After which it will begin to have the quality of being ubiquitous, and the members will then cross pollinate the system such that they will begin to sell themselves.

Besides, it could be higher than 250 but we will not know until they get there, he added. “ We need to get that targeted number so we have more places for the people to sell them or use the KL,” he said. The major complaint according to him is that people don’t want to be the member of the KLE because they don’t buy anything from the places where KL is accepted, “What I am saying is that at some point you have enough members; that they are self sustaining”, he explained.

The founder also mentioned that they are trying to bring in some large locally owned business as members to increase the credibility of the system, as well as the economic impact.

The first thing they did to up the membership was reduce the fee substantially. Further, the annual membership is now changed to permanent, requiring the members to pay only once.

They believe that in the long term, membership wont even be necessary. “Our long time plan calls for everybody to accept it, but we’re at least couple years off from that now because we don’t have any source of income to sustain if we don’t charge the $25 membership fee,” he said.

Irwin, is aware that Kawartha Loon is still a boutique currency, but strategically they know where they want to be. It is just a question of people saying that they don’t have enough places to use the KL.

He explained that it is a demonstration of what one can do by localizing the economy and changing lifestyle to local. Because, according to him it is the number one way to reduce carbon footprints and increase employment.

The essence of what they are trying to achieve through KL is to embrace the concept of moving away from consumerism to becoming a citizen and supporting the local community.

“Kawartha Loon acts as a catalyst even if you don’t always use it, but just by knowing that it is there,” he stated. Still, 95% of the people doesn’t know that it exists, and the remaining 5000 people who know and have known for years haven’t tried it. So only about 500 people use it, he informed.

“What I am looking forward to is to strategically reach a tipping point, and that Kawartha Loon will be looked at as the necessary part of the economic localization, a critical real driver of the new economy,” said Irwin.

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The East City Flower Shop is one of the KLE members. The owner, Janet McLeod, is of the view that with time, more people will use the KL.

“We don’t see a lot of customers using it, usually I get about two customers in a month and makes an average purchase of about 30 KL,” she said. This is without taking into consideration the records outside of her shift.

But she always uses the local currency, and to her KLE is a great opportunity to support and strengthen the local community.

Black Honey is another member business using the local currency.

The owner of Black Honey, Lisa Dixon, said she sees customers use KL about four to five times in a week. The average amount of KL that goes in to her deposit ranges between 20 KL to 40 KL in a week.

I don’t think the use of the local currency is a matter of convenience, but it is more a philosophy or culture–knowing that they are putting the money back in to the system, back into the community.

She agrees with the need for more members because it is hard to sell, not to mention the fact that most people don’t even understand the way it works, which promotes sustainability and supporting local business.

A staff at the Black Honey, Malory, said that it is a great concept but she doesn’t use it herself. “I don’t know much about it, where it comes from or why use it,” she said. She feels that there should be more advertisements, such as posters and pamphlets educating people about it, to bring more people to use KL.

Meanwhile, the float of the local currency is at around 45 thousand KL and can now be bought from remote banking stations, namely Stuff Store in Lakefield, Crawford Copy in Millbrook, and Green Street in Peterborough, in addition to their Central banking agent–Peterborough Community Credit Union.