Live Local KW

Competing Interests? Environmentalism and the Live Local KW Challenge

AJ joins Live Local KW, a one week challenge to support local businesses and organizations by eating, shopping and playing local.

“This is going to be easy.”

That was my first thought on being challenged to sign up for Live Local KW and “eat, shop and play locally” for one week (next week – you can still sign up here).

“This is going to be easy.”

That was my first thought on being challenged to sign up for Live Local KW and “eat, shop and play locally” for one week (next week – you can still sign up here).

“I already do that.” I eat at a downtown restaurant once or twice a week, I local food as much as possible, I don’t really leave KW for entertainment… But wait – how many weekends did I go away this summer, for family or camping? How many things have I bought online in the last few months?* Oh.

But still. I’ve totally got this, though the fact that the challenge isn’t holding participants to a specific definition of “local” – “you can decide what local means to you,” they say instead – makes things a bit complicated for me.

Live Local KW is largely about promoting the many awesome local businesses, organizations, activities and spaces we have in Kitchener-Waterloo. It’s about getting to know our two cities and all that they have to offer, finding hidden gems you can’t believe you didn’t know existed.

But as an environmentalist, living locally is also about reducing my impact on the earth, specifically the distance things have to travel before I use, consume or enjoy them. With that in mind, “local” doesn’t just mean stuff you can get or do in town, but stuff that comes from here.

This is most easily applied to food. Thanks to Bailey’s Local Foods and the local produce stocked at health food stores (and Central Fresh Market – go Midtown!), a good portion of the food I eat is grown and/or processed not too far from here. But there are few restaurants I’m aware of that focus on serving local ingredients (though there certainly are some).

I suspect it’ll be even trickier to find locally-sourced stuff in the “shop” category, though I will try. And I’m not even sure this logic applies to the “play” category – I suppose that one’s more about my own mode of transportation (bicycle!) and the fact that there’s plenty of cool stuff to do here and you don’t need to go all the way to Toronto for “culture.” And this would probably be a good time to enact my recent resolution to buy fewer books (especially online) and start using the library.

I also worry that my efforts to embrace the spirit of Live Local KW and explore both Kitchener and Waterloo will mean that I’ll actually consume more than usual next week, simply by venturing into more places that sell things, increasing my footprint in the short-term. In some ways, I keep my footprint small by virtue of being a homebody and not going out and doing a whole lot. 

But a sustainable future will require strong local economies and networks, and less reliance on unfeeling transnational corporations and ethically- and environmentally-dubious global supply chains. So there’s a long-term goal to consider as well. Plus, participating in a local economy doesn’t have to mean contributing to increased consumption of resources. Perhaps it’s time for me to really delve into KW’s sharing economy, especially after all that research I did.

So maybe, for me, Live Local KW is about engaging more in my community, laying the groundwork for the kind of resilient, self-reliant community I want to see in the future. 

You can follow my efforts on Twitter: @InHabitings – and everyone else: #LiveLocalKW.

*In my defense, one of my camping trips was local – Laurel Creek by bicycle. And I really only order stuff online once or twice a month, at most, but that’s a lot more than never. 

Laura is a past A\J managing editor. She has an MA in Communication Studies from Wilfrid Laurier University, is an organizing aficionado, lackadaisical gardener, and former musical theatre producer. @inhabitings