If you’re like most of America, you’re spending the first few days of the New Year thinking about possible resolutions. Most of these resolutions have some sort of visible, outward reward. Maybe you want to lose weight or keep your house cleaner or stop biting your nails.
All of these resolutions make things look better on the surface. But that’s also the problem with them—they are surface deep. They don’t always change underlying, deeper conditions that cause the problems, which is why they are easily forgotten by February. So this year, I challenge all of you to make a resolution that affects more than the surface of a problem. Make a resolution that will make a real difference, and solve a real problem: resolve to live locally.
Living locally can mean many things—like shopping for your groceries from the farmers’ market instead of the mega-mart, for example, or dining at a locally owned restaurant rather than a chain. It can be as simple as hiring a local car detailer to clean your car rather than taking it through the gas station car wash, taking your dog to the family-owned pet grooming parlor, or buying your next book from a small, independent book store.
The effects of buying local are nothing to sneeze at. For every $100 spent at a locally owned business, $68 stays in the local economy compared to only $43 spent at a national chain. And if every household in Hampton Roads spent just $10 a week on local food, that would generate over $384.2 million dollars annually. Now those are resolutions with results!
Living locally doesn’t have to just be about where you spend your money. It can also mean meeting and greeting your neighbors every day, visiting your neighborhood dog park and getting to know the other dog owners in your area (you might even score a friendly dog walker!), or getting involved in a local charity or nonprofit. The more you invest into your community, the better the return on your investment.
And if cutting calories or eating healthy is on your list of to-dos for 2013, living locally fits right into that as well. Local food is generally more nutritious because it has traveled less time to get to you. Produce at the grocery store is picked from the fields an average of 7-14 days before it arrives at the grocery store. Tack on a few more days for you to get there and pick it up, and you’ve got a lot of lost vitamins, minerals, phytochemicals, etc.
Locally produced food is also usually less chemically treated and includes heirloom varieties that are bred for their taste and nutritional factors, rather than their ability to survive a two-week truck drive. So even if there are some surface factors you’re trying to fix, living locally might still be the answer. Take this recipe below for shredded chicken with kale and lentils. This protein-packed meal uses locally produced chicken and greens readily available in Hampton Roads, as are dried lentils from local markets and retail outlets.
So this year, make a resolution that matters. Resolve to live locally. Once you start, I promise you won’t forget about it by February.
Shredded Chicken with Kale and Lentils
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1 small onion, finely chopped
1 teaspoon fresh thyme leaves
Coarse salt and ground pepper
2 bunches kale, tough stems removed, torn into bite-size pieces
2 cups lentils (from a 15.5-ounce can), drained and rinsed
2 cups shredded cooked skinless chicken breasts
Lemon wedges, for serving
In a large skillet, heat 1 tablespoon oil over medium heat. Add onion and thyme; season with salt and pepper. Cook, stirring occasionally, until onion is softened, about 5 minutes. Add kale and cook, stirring occasionally, until kale is wilted and tender, 4 to 6 minutes. Transfer to a medium bowl. Add 1 tablespoon oil and lentils to skillet; season with salt and pepper. Cook, stirring, until warmed through, about 20 seconds. Transfer to bowl with kale, toss to combine, and divide among four bowls. Top with chicken and squeeze lemon over top.
Rachel Burns is the owner at The Content Chop Shop, a small shop providing content marketing services to small businesses, designers and nonprofits. She is also the co-owner of Burn Both Ends, which develops and presents educational opportunities and resources for small businesses looking to grow. She is a local to Hampton Roads and a vocal spokesperson for all its myriad advantages, her favorites of which is the Atlantic Ocean. She has been published in The Virginian Pilot, Tidewater Women, and AltDaily, among others. She lives in the Hickory section of Chesapeake with her husband, two pugs and several feral cats.