Drink Firefly, Coast, and Palmetto (and quit smoking)
On average, American consumers spend $497 a year on booze. The binge drinkers among us surely spend double that — and if we all pull together and drink Firefly Sweet Tea Vodka from Wadmalaw and local beer and wine in our neighborhood pubs, we'll be doing our economy a big fat favor. So, hoist one or two or three for the economy. And unless you've got a hydroponically grown supply of organic tobacco, you should give up the smokes. They'll save you and the health care system a bunch of money.
Go to Gerald's, Hay Tire, and other locally-owned automotive care places
We spend an average of $2K a year on our cars, keeping them clean, getting them fixed, etc. Why go to national chains when places like James Island Automotive and Hay Tire are locally-owned and treat you with respect? Gerald's has made a name for itself by giving out roses to the ladies, but down the street in West Ashley at Hay Tire, the guys are equally friendly and accommodating — which kind of goes with the territory when you shop and spend locally. These owners can't absorb losses through a national chain of stores. Instead, they've got to provide the best service possible and win your repeat business and positive word of mouth. So, the next time you need an oil change, forego the tempting $20 coupon from a national chain and give a local proprietor your business.
Donate to locally-run charities like Crisis Ministries, the Lowcountry Food Bank, and Trident Literacy
Charlestonians are a generous lot. Americans on average donate $1,620 per household and our state's nonprofits have seen a 17 percent surge in operating revenue over the past five years, according to the Coastal Community Foundation. With the high rates of illiteracy, crime, poverty, and hunger in our community, local donations can have a tremendous impact. And nonprofits are responsible for employing more than 23,000 people, so that money not only helps solve local problems but also helps make the community more robust. Besides, helping feed, clothe, and educate kids in the troubled parts of town can make your own neighborhood a better place.
Go Biodiesel, get your energy locally
Local energy alternatives aren't that prevalent, but you can gas up with biodiesel from pumps at the BP Station off I-26 at College Park Road. Next door to Fox Music on Montague in a freestanding pump, you can find Southeast Biodiesel's blend, which is made at Noisette out of chicken fat (otherwise a waste product) and can be used without complications in any diesel engine. You can also find out about how to go solar and earn net-metering credits at www.scgreenbuildingdirectory.org.
Join a CSA, shop at the Farmers Market, rediscover the Vegetable Bin
We spend a lot of money on food: $3,400 per household per year. In recent years, the local food movement has taken off and, with the help of organizations like Lowcountry Local First, Slow Food, and Coastal Conservation League, consumers and producers are figuring out how to connect. For instance, the debut of Community Supported Agriculture programs last spring let 1,000 subscribers support four local farmers in exchange for weekly boxes of food. And each town has a weekly farmers market where you can find locally-grown and produced goods.
Exercise more, eat right, get your drugs from the Pitt Street Pharmacy
Health care is one of those expenses that is hard to control — once you're sick. But, if you're eating local and reducing your carbon footprint by riding your bike and walking more, then you're already well on your way to improving your health and reducing health care costs. Another way to keep it local is by using a local pharmacist — a couple of locally-owned pharmacies have even gone retro, offering sodas and sandwiches while you wait for your prescription to be filled. Actually, the Pitt Street Pharmacy in Mt. Pleasant's Old Village simply continues to do what it's done for 60 years, provide trustworthy service to generations of villagers.
Go see A Christmas Story at Village Playhouse
Charleston is rich with local entertainment — just flip through the pages of this newspaper for evidence — so why sit at home and watch an unsatisfying movie created by some multinational conglomerate with an office in Hollywood when you can enrich your life with live performances? We've got tons of music, theatre, comedy, dance, and art to choose from on a weekly basis. And if you simply must watch a movie, head to a place like 52.5 Records and rent it from there. Or see what's playing at the Terrace Theatre on James Island. At least you'll funnel some money through a locally-owned establishment that way.
Eat at FIG
As if we need another reason to eat at FIG, McCrady's, Trattoria Lucca, Peninsula Grill, et al. Become a local food snob — avoid the chains, except for the ones that are locally-owned or locally-operated franchises. In Charleston, most high-end dining destinations are locally-owned, and there are plenty of midscale ones to take the kids to and avoid the temptation of settling for fast food just because it's cheap and easy.
Ride CARTA, buy a bike at one of the many local shops
CARTA struggles to survive, but it also continues to innovate. Area and city planners are committed to keeping mass transit alive, but if we don't use it, don't expect it to remain an option. Park your car and ride the bus — express routes to the 'burbs have become a popular option, carrying more than 12,000 passengers a month to and from the peninsula on a daily basis. The College of Charleston provides free rides to its employees in order to reduce parking woes and encourage ridership. Or ride your bike. Don't have one yet? Head to one of our many local bike shops: The Bicycle Shoppe, Trek, or Mike's Bikes, and you'll end up with a quality ride and a place to go for maintenance.
Go local on your housing costs
Now that the global economy has melted down thanks to the derivatives market and default credit swapping (whatever the hell that is), it might get easier to localize our housing expenses. Fannie, Freddie, and Countywide may be defunct, but local banks like Carolina First, Atlantic Bank and Trust, Bank of South Carolina, and Tidelands are still doing business in our community, lending money and helping people like you finance big purchases. If you're not in the position to be buying, then look to rent from a local landlord.
For help in figuring out who's local and who's not, pick up a copy of Lowcountry Local First's new directory or visit their website www.lowcountrylocalfirst.org.
Local events for local shopping
Buy Local Week will be happening in communities across the country the week of Dec. 1-7. Lowcountry Local First has organized a host of cool activities in the area designed to promote local merchants and independent businesses. So, forget those coupons from the big box store and get out there and buy local.
Give Local Holiday Bazaar
Tues. Dec. 2
10 Storehouse Row, The Navy Yard at Noisette
Do your Christmas shopping locally at this holiday bazaar, which will feature an assortment of artisans, chefs, musicians, and nonprofits. Bring cash or checks and buy holiday gifts, learn about local charities, and sample homemade cuisine while enjoying live music. Free and open to the public.
Eat Local Night
Wed. Dec. 3
Park Circle Coffee and More, Fat Hen, Slightly North of Broad, High Cotton, The Old Village Post House, FIG, Fish, Coast, 39 Rue de Jean, Virginia's on King, Cypress, and The Glass Onion — all locally-owned and operated — will feature a Local Lover Plate, with food grown and produced locally.
Independent America screening
Thurs. Dec. 4
$10 adv., $15 door
Terrace Theatre, 1956 Maybank Hwy.
The documentary film Independent America: The Two-Lane Search for Mom & Pop will be screened at the Terrace Theatre. In the movie, the filmmakers take a trip through 32 states, avoiding major highways and corporate chain retail. Traveling on alternative roads, the duo can only do business with Mom and Pop. The movie starts at 7:30, and the after-party, sponsored by American Automated Payroll, will be held at Zia Taqueria with appetizers and beer.
The Buy Local, Be Local Bash
Sun. Dec. 7
Lowndes Grove Plantation
$30 for members, $40 for nonmembers
The Buy Local, Be Local Bash will feature live music, local beer, wine, and food from some of the best chefs in town including Fish, Coco's, Monza, Taco Boy, The Fat Hen, Maverick Southern Kitchens, Holy City Hospitality, FIG, the Old Firehouse Restaurant, Cypress, Tristan, and Middleton Place.