Stopping shopping out of town

By now, many people have heard of The 100-Mile Diet: A Year of Local Eating, the best-selling book written by Vancouver authors Alisa Smith and J. B. MacKinnon that gave sustenance to a growing movement toward eating locally.

Sheila Keenan, a local blogger and freelance writer, will be recording her efforts to shop only within the boundaries of New Westminster for one full year. (Larry Wright photo)

The concept of the 100-mile diet has also given birth to something called the “100-mile rule,” where people only purchase things, including food, produced within 100 miles (or, here in Canada, 161 kilometres) of where they live.

Local freelance writer Sheila Keenan is taking it one step further. Starting Oct. 1, Keenan plans on putting her money where her house is by shopping only within the borders of New Westminster – call it a seven square-mile diet–- and sharing her experiences through her blog, My Year of Shopping Locally.

“New West is a bit of a weird spot,” said Keenan. “It is surrounded by all kinds of shopping, but there is no big hardware store, no movie theatre or other things most people take for granted. Look at Columbia Street – if you want to buy a wedding dress, you’re good, but anything else, not so much.”

Keenan said she is still working out the details of what will be and what won’t be permitted – such as how she will manage an upcoming trip to the Interior or whether to continue paying for cable TV and subscribing to a movie mail delivery service that is based out of town.

“It’s my own experiment, so I can set my own rules,” she pointed out. “At one point, I was thinking up a lot of exceptions, but then I thought, well, if everything is an exception, it won’t be worth much.”

The Queensborough resident has a bit of an ace up her sleeve in that she lives not far from Wal-Mart, although she said she doesn’t intend to let the experiment turn into My Year of Shopping at Wal-Mart. Another temptation for the stay-at-home worker to resist is relying too heavily on her husband, who works in downtown Vancouver.

“I do most of the shopping for groceries anyway, and we’ve agreed that I can’t say to him, ‘I need this, this and this.’ He’s not technically doing it with me and will carry out his normal routine.”

She said she’s noticed her shopping habits have already been affected just gearing up for the October start date.

“My original idea was for September to shop quote unquote ‘normally’ but, really, once I decided to do it, that’s gone right out the window. I don’t think I’m shopping normally at all. I’m usually the type of person who goes to Costco maybe twice a year, and I’ve been there twice in the past two weeks, which for me is weird,” she said with a laugh.

“I’m also finding it a bit uncomfortable talking about how much I spend. I didn’t really think I would initially, but I’m finding it is already affecting what I buy and making me look at my shopping decisions more. I’m getting very self-conscious about my purchases.”

She said one of the things she is looking forward to is researching New West’s past. Once upon a time, the city was a shopping hub for Lower Mainland residents, and she hopes projects like the upcoming River Market and Plaza 88 development will help restore some of the Royal City’s former glory.

“That’s one of the things I want to explore in the blog – New West’s shopping past and how it changed over the years.”

(This story was first published Sept. 25, 2010. © Copyright (c) New West Record)

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