Five Tips for Living Local


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By Debbie Van Der Hyde

Live Local, Live Green

“Eat local” has become a popular slogan. Some ways people eat locally are by buying organic produce and other goods from farmers’ markets or community-supported agriculture (CSA) programs, by growing their own gardens, or by raising chickens.

But can you take steps to “live local,” too? In 2012, challenge yourself to shop, eat, dine, and recreate in ways that take advantage of the businesses and resources near your home.

Why? For starters, living local strengthens the economy around you. According to a Civic Economics and Local First study in 2008,  for every $100 spent at a local business, up to $68 stays in the local economy. In contrast, $100 spent at a national big-box chain yields as little as $43 (or less) for the local economy. Living local also reduces the environmental impact of traveling long distances for the products and services you need.

Fortunately, it’s easier than you may think to live local. According to the Business Alliance for Local Living Economies (BALLE), there are more than 80 community networks in 30 US states and Canadian provinces that are practicing living locally. In these communities, there are thousands of socially-responsible, locally-owned businesses from which to choose.

To start living local, think about your community or neighborhood. What businesses are in a walkable one- to five-mile radius? Which ones are in a drivable 10- to 15-mile radius?

Here are five ways to help you make living local decisions:

  • Look for a doctor, dentist, hairdresser, chiropractor or other service provider based on their proximity to your home. Find one you trust, and then commit to walking to a few appointments per year. Research your options using the Internet and use a mapping application to determine which providers are in the vicinity. For help finding green home improvement providers near you, consult the Sierra Club Green Home Green Directory.
  • When possible, shop at locally-owned businesses. It can be advantageous to actually know the merchant who fixes your car or stocks your hardware supplies. Subscribe to Amazon Local to receive coupons to nearby merchants, or search online by typing ‘live local (your city)’ into your browser to find other ways to save locally. The concept of shopping local works at your neighborhood grocer, too. At least once per month, try to buy 10 items from your shopping list at the corner grocery.
  • Take your bike to the gym or a nearby exercise facility to extend your workout. For the more adventurous and physically fit, commit to riding your bicycle to work once per month or even more frequently. For more information and to find local bicycling programs, visit this Bike to Work Web site.
  • Consider entertainment options closer to your home. Attend a concert in the local park, buy tickets for a community-sponsored movie screening, or create some fun with friends in your backyard. For ideas, check your city newspaper or peruse an online app store to find a local events application for your mobile phone.
  • If you have children, think about selecting a neighborhood school for them using a website like Great Schools, which allows you to search for schools based on your zip code and specified radius. In addition, think twice about sports activities that require driving long distances for practices and games. For a closer-to-home option, consider signing up your kids for swim team at a local community center, instead of soccer in a different city or field every weekend.

Living local may be easier to do for in-city dwellers, but it’s not impossible for suburbanites, says Paul Edwards, author, co-founder, and co-director of Let’s Live Local. Paul and his wife live in the mountains of California in an Elm Street Economy community.

“Don’t fall victim to the idea that localization is confined to urban neighborhoods,” Edwards says.
To live local wherever you choose, Edwards recommends these starting steps:

  • Individually patronize local services and stores, and local craft fairs for gifts. Be tactful in letting owners know how they can serve you better. This includes hours, merchandise, services and buying incentives.
  • Make a list of basic services that you need.  Explore offering one that is missing or form a co-op with other community members.
  • Be open to alternative means of exchange, such as community currencies, time banks or bartering.

How are you striving to live local? Let us know by sharing your comments below.

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