25 March 2013

Hyper-Localism vs. Plain Ol' Consumerism

On Friday morning, I enjoyed a lovely ride to a meeting about four miles away. Then, to lessen the sting of grading papers, I stopped off at a lovely French restaurant to read through pages and pages about various perspectives on media effects theory. When I emerged in the early afternoon, the air was crisp, but the sun was bright and the sky was blue. I had the perfect ride home... Only to ride again in the afternoon to meet a friend for a beer at a great local pub.

By the time I picked the kids up from daycare, the wind was howling and snow was beginning to fall. Just as predicted, an early spring snow storm hit Denver. On Saturday, we weren't sure what to do with ourselves, so we headed south to Ikea. In a mini-blizzard. It was actually a great trip, but I can't help but compare our experience at the big box store to our experiences at the businesses in our neighborhood this weekend.

Although plenty of snow was on the ground by Saturday afternoon, I was still able to walk a mile to our neighborhood grocery store for dinner supplies. (A big thanks to all the homeowners who had already scooped their walks by then!) On Sunday, we were all experiencing a little cabin fever, so the kids and I drove a little over a mile to the Denver Museum of Nature and Science to check out the new exhibit on Mammoths and Mastodons. Since we have a membership, we were in and out in a little over an hour - just in time to catch the second half of the Iowa State v. Ohio State basketball game at the local pub. On the way home, I dropped my bike off at one of the local bike shops while Nate picked up a few garden supplies at the local hardware store (they're in the same building!).

So, what's the difference? For everything but Ikea, we could walk or bike comfortably (although we drove some this weekend due to the weather). Ikea is a 30-minute drive in good weather. By staying hyper-local, we were able to support a variety of businesses within a 4-mile radius - all of them local and all of them offering a variety of services - including food and beverages, bicycle repair, garden supplies, groceries and a museum experience. At Ikea, our sole reason for visiting was to buy things. And in the end, we didn't even buy what we had intended to buy - we bought other stuff instead. And, we ended up talking to a wide variety of people by staying local: A lone woman out walking her dog after the snow storm, a man who reminisced about his own small children at the pub, the great waitress, the bike shop guy, the garden guy, etc. Do you know who we talked to at Ikea? No one. Not one soul. Unless you count the handful of people who witnessed Lila's total and complete meltdown at the end of our trip and nodded our way with sympathy.

Although I can't avoid big box stores completely (man, I do love Ikea), I'm starting to realize that the local scene offers all we need - and more. And, since we can bike to Stapleton now, I can largely leave the car at home. If I do have to drive, I can combine a variety of errands into one trip because so much is located within my neighborhood bubble. And very soon, I'll be able to bike for groceries with only one major street to cross.

Photos courtesy of @shaggybrownie on Instagram.

How about you, do you try to stay local, or even hyper-local? If you bike or walk for errands, has it changed your buying habits to focus more on the local?

And don't forget... Post a picture of you on your bike on Instagram (shopping locally or not) by March 31st and you'll be entered to win a copy of The Soup Peddler. Tag it #everdayonabike to be entered.

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