March 13, 2012

If one of your green goals is to shop local and support more businesses in your area, you do not have to abandon the Internet altogether. You can use the web to locate the best shops, services, and restaurants in your area. Research local gems and avoid dud spots using these five sites:
This site contains the most complete listings of local farms, CSAs (Community Supported Agriculture), farmer’s markets, and restaurants that serve local fare. You can often get great deals on buying direct from the farmer – not to mention it tastes better, is fresher, and healthier. Most local farmers grow their produce and livestock sustainably and/or organically. You can also support farmers outside your driving range by buying direct from them and having the products shipped to your home. Everything from local unheated honey to grass fed beef jerky.

Etsy Local
We all know Etsy is the place to shop for the best things handmade, but did you know you can use them to shop local? Find craftsmen and artisans and then pick up their creations right at their door. It’s a great way to support moms locally who have their own businesses or are trying to make supplemental income. Just put in your zip code and see all the items selling near you. I have found some very talented folks right in my own backyard.

This is the obvious way to find local businesses as more of them realize the new generations make local decisions based on what is available on the Internet. Be specific in what you are searching for, in other words – don’t type in ‘store’, try ‘Italian bakery’ or ‘baby boutique’. This enables you to find more small businesses that stand apart from the chains. Most often they have the best reviews too. You can also look for businesses right on Google maps to browse what is right in your neighborhood.

Why buy something new when someone living close wants to get rid of it at half the price in ‘like new’ condition? Save money both by buying things you need and getting rid of things you do not need on Craigslist. It is great for selling/buying baby clothing and gear, furniture, and other home items. Help keep trash out of landfills simply because someone doesn’t need it and you do. Note: beware of scammers (they usually are pretty obvious), pay and accept only cash, and do not share your email or phone number in your post.

With a huge database of customer reviews, Yelp enables you to shop local and find businesses that stand out in their service. Search your local community for little gems, mom and pop businesses, and places to avoid – all reviewed by people in your own neighborhood. The next best thing to word-of-mouth.

Keep in mind that sometimes the best local businesses are owned by the generation before us, many of them are not visible online. You may find that your neighbor knows a few spots that are worth your time. Don’t be afraid to talk to people and ask for local shopping recommendations! You may even make a few friends in the process.