Turning a Mason Jar into a Hyperlocal French Press
The average French press on store shelves in the United States ships from an overseas factory thousands of miles away. Two Oregon designers decided to take a different approach. Although the Portland Press, their creation, might sound like the basis for an episode of Portlandia, it's really an interesting exercise in local production. Local woodworkers make the lid from U.S.-grown maple. Local sheep provide wool for the locally-sewn jar cozies. A local, family-owned metal shop makes some of the parts inside, and a local factory assembles everything. The main container is a simple Mason jar, which in theory someone could provide from their own cupboard (though it does come with the kit).
It's a very cool product, but makes me wonder, what's local? If someone in Philadelphia needs some new coffee-making equipment, is it better to buy something made in Oregon or China? From a quality standpoint alone, someone might choose something like the Portland Press—it's beautifully-made, and the sturdy Mason jar is designed to last longer than the typical, easily-shattered French press container. For the environment, though, it's not necessarily a giant advantage; shipping by sea is pretty efficient and is actually less polluting than sending something a shorter distance by truck or plane.
Economically, making a local product like this can have huge benefits for a region (check out the math behind a somewhat similar product locally-made in Boston). But what does that mean for someone in Philadelphia, or Paris? Saying that Americans should support American manufacturing has us-versus-them undertones. What's wrong with supporting workers in China? One answer is that this product is responsibly made in a way that many mass-manufactured products are not. Another answer is that we need more local choices—more options for truly local products no matter where someone lives. For now, coffee-loving Portlanders can buy the Portland Press because it's local, and everyone else can buy it because it's a pretty awesome French press with a great story.
Help the designers fund their project here.