Hello there, and welcome to another pledge in MNN's Nest, an interactive program that helps you create and accomplish easy and Earth-friendly personal goals. With each goal that you tackle, you earn points that are then turned into donations to your favorite nonprofit eco-charity.
This challenge involves activities that we at MNN wholeheartedly endorse: buying stuff and eating out. Can't get much easier than that, right? There's a catch. Before you expand your carbon footprint (and decrease your retail horizons) by driving miles and miles away to a not-so-local mall, big box store, chain restaurant or before you click the "buy" on the website of your preferred online shop, consider keeping it in the 'hood by supporting more local and green businesses this year. Whether it's frequenting a mom-and-pop video store (remember those?), clothing boutique, grocer or coffee shop whose corporate headquarters are not in Seattle, keeping your purchases local will help keep small businesses, not to mention the local economy, thriving. And since many local shops, restaurants and the like observe sustainable business practices, it's good for the environment, too.
One stop shopping (and eating): So how can you make sure that a business is indeed locally owned and operated? Well, if you live in St. Louis and have seen the same electronics store that's down the street from you while traveling in both San Francisco and San Antonio, chances are you won't run into the owner at a PTA meeting. Most towns and municipalities have associations exclusively for locally owned and operated businesses. If you're in doubt of a business's membership status, just do a bit of reconnaissance work ... ask. Simple as that. And while many small businesses are conscientious about keeping commerce within the community, they're also conscientious about greening their day-to-day operations, as well. There are numerous, city/region-specific online guides to help shoppers and diners make greener choices. For example, there's the ReDirect Guide for the Denver/Boulder/Fort Collins area, Portland/Vancouver metro and Salt Lake City/Park City area. Then there's Greenopia, a website that provides eco-business listings for various cities ranging from Albuquerque to West Palm Beach and everywhere in between.
Meet the producer: An easy, direct way to support your local economy is to hit up regional farmers markets. Most farmers markets offer more than just produce — meats, cheeses, baked goods, flowers, handicrafts, artwork, you name it — and chances are that the person selling you let's say, honey, most likely produced it locally, as well. It's a simple and intimate way to shop, and short of producing your own food, it's the best way to ensure you know where exactly it's coming from and that it's fresh. Plus, shopping at farmers markets can be the most inexpensive way to go since it's not subject to all those environmentally unfriendly extraneous packaging and shipping costs. And if you're not a big on cooking at home, chances are that the owners/chefs of locavore-inspired restaurants will be shopping at the farmers market for the day's ingredients and not waiting for food deliveries that have traveled an average of 1,500 miles in diesel exhaust-spewing trucks to reach your fork.
Ready to get your commerce on local and green style? We sure are. Grab that reusable shopping and pledge to support more local and green business this year.
More personal pledges to consider:
- Once a week, I will walk one place instead of driving.
- I will make my home more energy-efficient.
- I will actually use my reusable bags.
- I will get my kids (and myself!) outside more this year.
- I will do a toxin audit of my home.
- I will eat more meals at home.
- I will read three environmentally themed books this year.
- Instead of throwing them away, I will recycle my old electronics before buying new ones.