Resolution 101: Shop Like a Localist

Okay, let’s just put it out there — I’m a resolution junkie. I like giving stuff up. I’m really good at discipline. I like competition and challenges, and it doesn’t matter so much to me if I’m competing with other people or myself or even with a calendar (like we do with New Year’s resolutions). The idea of giving myself a little life makeover is just very inspiring to me.


I’m the first to admit that my all-out challenges are a little bit stupid. I totally get that New Year’s Day is a relatively arbitrary date to start a life change and that my goals can be unreasonable. (In case I didn’t know, my family and friends come through with lots of eye rolling and sighing to underline the point whenever I tell them my new ideas.) But my silly little goals (and silly big goals) have led to some seriously positive change in my life.


I could list plenty of challenges like this, but the most timely is my 2011 New Year’s resolution to shop only from local stores for a year. (I write about that decision here, if you’re interested.) That project led to my opening Church Street Coffee & Books, and more recently to writing The Localist, a book that’s about that resolution and what I learned because of it. To me, this is the beautiful thing about resolutions — they can teach us more about ourselves and our world, and they can have far-reaching impact that we don’t necessarily imagine when we (sometimes drunkenly) commit to them on New Year’s Eve.


I still think shopping locally for a year is a pretty great resolution, and I encourage anyone who wants to try it to give it a shot. But I also understand that not everyone is as addicted to resolutions as I am, and not everyone’s in a position to be able to overhaul your life in one fell swoop. If there’s one thing I’ve learned from constantly resolving, it’s that the best resolutions are the ones we can actually keep. They’re the ones that become a part of our lives and create real, lasting change.


With that in mind, I thought I’d share a few Localist resolutions that aren’t drastic. They’re challenging but totally doable, and they’ll still make a huge impact in our communities (and probably in our lives) if we choose to adopt them:


Buy Books Locally

This could easily be adapted to “buy music locally,” and they’re both vitally important. Some of the most important philosophies and artistic statements are also the ones that don’t make money — the ones corporations won’t support. Art and ideas are key to who we are as people and to our ability to thrive as a society, and leaving big businesses in charge of these decisions is really dangerous. Locally owned stores tend to make more varied choices and that effects what’s published and produced — I write at length about this in my book (which you can buy from a local bookstore or even a local music store — see what I did there?).


Wishing you could get the selection of Amazon at a local bookstore or music shop? Well, you probably already do. Every bookstore and music store I’ve visited is able to order pretty much whatever you want. You can call the shop, place your order, and usually pick it up within a week at a store near you. It’s not drone delivery, but it’s more convenient than you might think. And I’ll bet you’ll get introduced to some fantastic new books, albums and films that Amazon’s algorithm would never have thought to recommend. In Birmingham, try shopping for books at Little Professor, Alabama Booksmith, Church Street Coffee & Books or at library sales. For music, check out Seasick Records in Avondale or Charlemagne or Renaissance Records in Five Points.


Eat out Locally

You know those resolutions that are all about treating yourself? Well, this is one of them. Eating locally often results in better tasting food, better service and healthier food (even fancier chains use a lot more processed and frozen food than you probably realize). In Birmingham especially, this resolution is easy and pretty awesome — we have a huge variety of locally owned restaurants that have fantastic food and pretty low price points (I’m thinking Brick & Tin, Carrigan’s, Bottle & Bone, Chez Lulu and food trucks, to name a few). Even if you limit yourself to just the triumvirate of Trattoria Centrale, El Barrio and Paramount (which share owners), you can cover breakfast, lunch, dinner and drinks and eat really well (and probably bump into me as well, since I’m at one of these places basically every day).


You can also adapt this resolution to Buy Groceries Locally (Organic Harvest, V. Richards, Western, farmer’s markets), or Buy Coffee Locally (Urban Standard, Octane, O’Henry’s, Red Cat, Crestwood Coffee, Church Street).


Share Localism through Social Media

I know it feels silly to post everything you eat (I don’t actually recommend you post everything you eat, unless you really want to lose followers). But it’s a great idea to post from locally owned shops and restaurants when you visit them. It makes the shop owners feel great when they see your posts, and it helps your friends and followers to be more aware of local places and more likely to give them a try. You can hashtag your posts #localist or #instagrambham to get a little more exposure, and I’ve even been seeing the #localistbham hashtag pop up now and then on Instagram as well.


I’m going to be posting about my New Year’s resolution in the next couple of days (spoiler alert, it’s about shopping locally), but I hope this list will get you thinking about what might fun for you to try. Maybe your resolution will last all year, and maybe it’ll just last for a few days — either way, I think it’s worth it to give positive change a shot. And New Year’s seems like a great time to do it.


Carrie Rollwagen is the author of The Localist: Think Independent, Buy Local and Take Back the American Dream. It’s available wherever books are sold and online in paperback and as an ebook.


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