Local Love

Who doesn’t love sitting in a local sidewalk cafe, sipping coffee on a crisp fall day, or shopping for birthday gifts in a tiny local boutique, where you know you’ll buy something no one else will? In the past few years, shopping local seems to have taken on a life of its own: it makes us feel good, like we’re a part of our neighborhood or city. Our local business organizations have been encouraging us to do our Christmas shopping locally since what seems like the dawn of time, with Christmas strolls and caroling in the downtown areas. And recently, gigantic tubs of generic-brand soap at Target have been losing their appeal for many of us.

Turns out, the push to buy local is about more than just the fact that it keeps the neighborhood storefronts from being boarded up (though that’s part of it) or that locally produced goods are less taxing on the environment (important too!), or even that, as any of us who have bought veggies from a farmer’s market can attest, local food often just tastes better. As I found out when I spent 30 days shopping only in local, independent Somerville businesses as an experiment for a magazine, there’s a whole economic movement around encouraging us to buy our everyday needs–not just our luxuries–at local stores and restaurants.

A recent article in TIME explained some of the benefits of buying local that help not only local business owners, but also the communities we live in. For instance, buying produce at a local farmer’s market or through a community supported agriculture program keeps twice the money in the community that buying the same produce at a supermarket would. (Presumably, local farmers are spending their profits at other local businesses, and the effect circulates more money in your immediate area, whereas a chain supermarket may spend money in other states or overseas.) Local buying can be a challenge, as I found during my 30-day experiment. And not even the staunchest advocate of local shopping is insisting you purchase 100 percent of your goods and services at local independents–they say even a 10 percent shift of your shopping to local independents will make an impact.

If you’re interested in the idea of local shopping, but aren’t quite sure how to do it, there are a few events coming up that will give you the chance to check out what your local economy has to offer.

The Boston Local Food Festival: This event, held tomorrow at Fort Point Channel in Boston, features everything from local craft beer tastings to a crop share to a seafood throwdown. It’s an amazing chance for both hard-core local foodies and novices alike to trade tips and tricks and to see the latest in the Boston local food scene–not to mention the face that once you’ve had enough to eat, you can check out art exhibits, music and get an autograph from Boston Breakers players.

Harvest Fest 2010: This October 9th Somerville event features all things local: food, wine, beer, music, art and fashion. For $20, you get to sample tasty treats from the increasingly hot Somerville restaurant scene and try beer from Pretty Things Beer & Ale Project. A bunch of local wineries will be serving up sips at the Harvest Fest wine booth, a fashion show will display the latest trends out of Somerville, and local musicians will rotate throughout the day. Tickets are available online now.

Local festivals and events happen throughout the year, so keep an ear to the ground for the one that’s showcasing the best of what’s around in your community. But never hesitate to check out the local storefronts and restaurants in your neighborhood, and when you are making your purchase, remember that your dollars go a long way towards powering the local economy. CoupMe offers lots of great deals at independently owned bars, restaurants, spas, shops and other activities every day of the year, so keep an eye out for a deal on the next place you’d like to try!

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