the plan

Taking steps to a more local lifestyle is a little daunting at first. Luckily for me, I live in a vibrant city that offers a lot in terms of locally produced goods and services. I’m also fortunate that a major retail chain, Target, is located here, which means that things which are harder to find from local vendors (toothpaste, bath soap, etc) can at least be purchased from a company that keeps money in the community.

I decided to start by breaking down basic needs and general purchases and set up some guidelines for sticking to the challenge. Here are the categories I’ve devised: 

Food and Drink

  • Groceries: local chains or co-ops, farmer’s markets, and CSAs. At least 50% of each purchase should come from local producers whenever possible.
  • Eating out: local restaurants or restaurant chains only, with seasonal and local ingredients where possible. Local beverage companies (this won’t be hard!). 
  • Production: utilize my garden space for as long and as productively as possible. Consider helping out with a CSA. 

Basic Needs

  • Household needs, toiletries, and general purchases: purchased locally, produced locally whenever possible, national where not, green
  • Clothing: primarily resale/thrift. If new, locally produced or sold, or handmade.
  • Pet supplies: purchased locally, produced locally or nationally (luckily, my particular brand of cat litter is made here in Minnesota!).
  • Utilities: use green, local energy. Currently I do not pay for my basic utilities but I may in the future need to make those decisions. 
  • Transportation: biking, walking, public transit. Purchase gas as infrequently as possible, and from locally run chains. Most gas stations, while they have a larger brand identity, are run by smaller family businesses. 

Entertainment

  • See live performances by local performers and artists, at locally-owned establishments. 
  • Purchase produced work from local vendors. As a musician myself, I have an obligation to support artists all over the country, and the world for that matter, but I can make an effort to avoid iTunes and Amazon and support great places that make the Cities’ cultural scene an exciting place to be.

Travel

  • Vacation locally, keeping money within the state or region. While there support businesses local to that community.
  • When elsewhere, use local companies to arrange travel. Support businesses local to that community. 

Disclaimers

  • This is a project that primarily focuses on how I spend my own money and time. People treating me to gifts, food, cultural experiences, etc, should not feel obligated to follow the guidelines and can spend their money as they see fit. 
  • I hope to maintain this project for a year, and beyond that if possible. If at any point I have to make a decision or purchase that falls outside of the boundaries I’ve set up here I will be forthcoming. 

Plan of Attack

In truth, I spend very little money on day-to-day life. I pay rent, bills, purchase general needs, and go out occasionally. I try to live as simply as possible, mostly for the sake of my wallet and my sanity. This is, first and foremost, an opportunity for me to engage myself more deeply in my neighborhood and community. I will document every local purchase and experience I make here, and provide links and reviews to the services in question. I hope to come out, at the end of next year, a richer person for it. 

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the challenge, accepted

My most ambitious plans usually come to me in a moment of self-loathing. 

It’s like my brain, desperate to stop my internal pity-party, will start spitballing, throwing out ideas and projects and resolutions for me to focus on rather than whatever indulgent emotional spiral I’m stuck in. 

Thanks, brain. You rock. 

It all started on a bus ride home from the library. I’m fortunate to live in an area of Minneapolis that is heavily serviced by public transit, and can choose from 3 different bus lines to get me home from the downtown area. I happened to catch the 6, and it occurred to me that a trip down Hennepin would mean an opportunity to get some dinner and read my book a bit more before huddling back up at home. 

My first thought was to go to Chipotle- cheap-ish, easy, delicious, and a more fast-food oriented establishment that wouldn’t mind a solo diner, reading a book. My second thought involved a detailed breakdown of the wonder of guacamole. My third, and most important to the story, thought was a realization that surely there was another, local, equally delicious restaurant that would fit my current needs, and that likely I’d never been to before. I’ve lived in the Cities for four years but only in Uptown for six months, and for a lot of that time have been on the broke side. Thus, limited knowledge of nearby culinary options. 

But I was hungry, and my brain at that point was not working fast enough, and I was a little bummed out about one thing or another, and my stomach said it wanted a burrito. 

Mid-way through said burrito, brain whirring back into functionality, I became a little mad at myself for caving so easily. I make an effort, whenever possible, to live green, and to me that includes buying from local vendors. In addition, as mentioned earlier, I could stand to have a better knowledge of what exists in both my neighborhood and my city. Community is just as important to build as sustainable living practices. 

A new year is coming up, and while I’ve never been one for resolutions, I do like challenges. What if, said my brain, we try a year of eating locally- exclusively. WHAT IF, it said again, getting excited, we extend that to every aspect of life: shopping locally for gifts and basic needs, supporting local artists and musicians, buying clothes from independently owned resale shops, encouraging homemade goods…etc.

I do a fair job of living locally as it is. I buy produce at farmer’s markets or from my local co-op’s selection of Midwest grown fruits and veggies. I bike in fairer weather, and walk or bus in icy wintertime. I try to gift people from things found at area businesses, and I generally avoid national retail chains (but Target is local, right?).

But I could do better. When getting a receipt at my co-op, I always look first at the little graph at the bottom that tells me how much of my purchase went to local goods. I haven’t been doing as well lately as I’d like. It’s harder in winter, to be fair, but is that an excuse? 

Why a year, you might ask? A year is an awfully long time, you would rightly say. I would agree. A year is a flippin’ long time to try to pull off one challenge. And so trite and overdone too. 

The length of time is just a place marker. I want to do this for the rest of my life. But a goal ‘endpoint’ means I’ll stay organized, focused, and honest. Have I mentioned I love a challenge? 

There will be some rules/procedures/stipulations to follow. The project begins January 1st, 2013.