When we look around our home - or at least when I do - I feel a sense of hopelessness. The furnishings are all made overseas, the dishes in my cabinets are all made far away, all of our small 'essentials' are plastic and therefore made in China or Taiwan, our clothing is made from fabric that comes from overseas. I see the problems with attempting to create sustainable communities - in fact I live them.
The difference between want and need plays havoc with the fair (read high) wages in North America and the much lower wages/cost of living for factory workers in other parts of the world. For instance to buy locally made dishes is indeed possible - but the cost of materials (usually imported from somewhere else) and the cost of labor would make a relatively small set fairly expensive. Alternatively I can walk into a big box store and come out with a large set of dishes for very little cost. And therein lies the dilemma. The cost to me was less - but the cost to our sustainable community is much higher.
Lets say hypothetically that everyone goes to a local potter and buys their household dishes from them. There would suddenly be a big boom in the pottery business - in fact a few potters would not be able to keep up with demand which would result in more people wanting to learn the necessary skills and opening up shop. More people opening up shop would increase supply and most likely the potters would have to lower their prices to remain competitive. The added bonus would be that local money would stay within its own community. The cost to individuals would be higher but the benefits to a community would be priceless.
The same principal applies to every other household item. If we can buy it locally then we probably should. The tragedy is that the majority of what we need to have is no longer available in our local communities. A couple of generations of neglect and the skills are all but lost. Mass production in industrial factories dropped the prices for what were previously handmade items so drastically that the local artisans could no longer stay in business. Their skills and techniques vanished. The materials they used were no longer needed so even the resources that were used no longer exist.
That said - the information required to start over is available buried in the folds and convoluted web of the internet. There are isolated little pockets of knowledge out there ... the trick is to find the subject that you are interested in and search out every little tiny aspect of it ... and then just try it out for yourself.