Her year of shopping locally

Uptown New Westminster. Photo: Dennis Sylvester Hurd
Uptown New Westminster. Photo: Dennis Sylvester Hurd

New Westminster writer Sheila Keenan is committing to do all her shopping locally for the next year – and will blog about it to boot. In her first blog post explaining her motivation to take on the project, she writes:

I’ve always been the kind of person who wants to shop locally. My desire stems from vague notions that shopping locally is good for the community, the local economy and the environment, though I really don’t know that much about exactly how local economies work. I want to find out whether and how my actions as a consumer effect the local economy. You see, despite my desire, the reality is, I don’t really shop locally all that much.

Most of the shopping I do in New Westminster is usually at chain stores and it’s mostly for groceries or food. I go to Safeway, Walmart, Starbucks, Boston Pizza and White Spot. For most other items, including clothing, furniture, hardware, and shoes, I leave New Westminster and drive to another community to do my shopping.

The reason I leave town to shop is the same reason I think New Westminster is uniquely suited for this experiment. It’s in the middle of a large urban area, but it’s really just a small town (population 60,000) in many ways. But, unlike towns with similar populations NOT in the middle of a urban area, New Westminster seems to be missing certain kinds of stores and services that drives me, and has me driving, to other communities to shop. One reason I want to do this experiment is to see just what retailers and services are missing from New Westminster, as well as to find out what is here. (I’ve heard there are interesting stores in New West, even interesting clothing stores, but I’ve never set foot in one.)


If I’m typical of New Westminster residents, leaving town to buy most goods and services, that diverse and ambitious mix of retailers will never be attracted here. If the retailers aren’t here, residents will keep leaving town to shop. It’s a vicious, but predictable, cycle.

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My husband and I make an effort to shop and eat locally, especially since launching our blog, but since having our second child, I’ve started doing a lot more shopping online. It’s just too stressful for me to bring two small children into local boutiques. I wish there were more options to shop online from local stores. It’s hard to find stores that will even ship to Canada. Still, I remain interested in keeping a healthy segment of my discretionary spending in the local economy, and I look forward to reading Sheila’s posts (and maybe getting some tips on new stores to visit!).

If you’ve got any favourite local shopping suggestions, please share them in the comments!

10 Replies to “Her year of shopping locally”

  1. This is an interesting story and I look forward to more posts. I do alot of shoppping out of town for the specific reasons like parking meters, hills and locations. A lot of places have huge parking lots for their patrons with a variety of different stores nearby. around here you seem to have to go place to place. I need to go to the bank, one place, go to safeway, drive to another place, go to walmart, drive some more. If I had to rely on transit I would be spending the day just to do a few things. But then again, If I did hop on the skytrain it wouldn't be far to metrotown would it.
    Another thing is the packaging. Packages to carry more packages. Did I ever tell you about the black and decker paintbrushes ? a box contains 4 more boxes, each little box contains 2 paintbrushes wrapped in plastic. I watch a guy restock at a walmart one time and we talked about the nonsense packaging.

    I think thats one of the GVRD's waste plans, to reduce packaging and such waste.


  2. One thing Sheila might want to add to her adventure is to try WALKING or cycling (if she is physically able) since she is staying local. Being conscious of one's environmental footprint is often a driving (pardon the pun) factor in consuming locally and far better for one's health. Being relatively new to New Westminster, I look forward to reading more on her blog and learning more about interesting places to shop.

  3. Norman: I’ve spent a lot of time trying to establish shops and services within walking distance of me. I’ve recently moved to Sapperton and am enjoying finding new shops close to my house. I don’t ever find the need to spend all day in a car: I walk / transit / drive to uptown and can generally accomplish everything I need by walking a few hundred feet. Rather than blame the city or the regional district, why not proactively reconsider your habits? Find a bank beside your preferred grocery store, choose not to purchase the overly packaged paintbrushes. Personally, I believe one should take ownership over one’s habits and impacts rather than waiting for regulations and bylaws and legislature to tell them how to live. Kudos to Sheila – I am looking forward to reading more.

    1. Hi Jen, I saw your place on your blog, cute house.
      I agree with you, and I did not blame the city for the problem, well, other then the ever present parking meters ! And the B&D paintbrushes, well if you walked up to the isle, and saw them hanging on the rack you wouldn't know the waste it took to get them up there, so how is the consumer to know the real cost of the goods on the shelf. As Kathleen stated you have all these MIC products that come half way around the world, and there still in the local shops and even 7-11. And I think Travis also makes a good point about a hardware store, for the time it would take to get over to Griff, and what if they didn't have it. I can't blame city planners on this one ! It's the business that chose to setup shop. Kinda like that bridal district, they made it a destination location. The walmart in queensbridge is sorta like a outside mall, but the walk across the parking lot to the home outfitters feels like the quarter mile. Thats the only place I can really think off offhand that has such tremendous parking in new westminster but you have to venture across the bridge ! Atleast it's flat walk !


  4. As a somewhat new resident in New Westminster, one year and counting, I agree that shopping locally can be a challenge. I live in Sapperton and until this month we were not able to buy any fresh fruit or vegetables locally except from 7-11! The recent opening of a deli/grocery store in Sapperton has been a welcome addition.

    Our family is very locally minded. We don't own a car and work from home. We have found most things we want and need are accessible in New Westminster, but because of the ease of transportation it is just as easy to go to another city to shop, eat or for entertainment.

    I recently read the book "Locavore" it's enlightening to really think about how globally we do shop and live.
    With a project like this it will be interesting to see just how local someone can get. Things like the 100 mile diet shows many of the difficulties that one may not of thought of, no coffee, no cooking oil?

    Another book I think of is "A year without Made In China" Is there anything wrong with this idea? Why not support Canadian manufacturing? Why deny someone half a world away a right to produce a product I want to buy? If I buy the product at the corner store, but it is MIC is it still local?

    It is possible to shop and live locally, but just how local, and what someone is wiling to live "without" is the real challenge.

  5. Great topic and good for you, Sheila, for making the effort and commitment to do this. I think re-examining how we behave as consumers is crucial to our future as a civilization. Cheap, easy, and convenient for the individual can and does result in huge costs to our environment, so choosing to buy locally is an investment in the quality of life we will experience in the near future.

    My shopping is mostly done locally, although I am often frustrated by New West's lack of a hardware store. I mean, can we really call ourselves a community without a hardware store? It's not such a hardship to ride my bike across the Patullo to Home Depot or down Marine to Canadian Tire, but when I'm out getting groceries it would sure be nice to stop in at the local hardware store and talk nuts and bolts with someone knowledgeable about such things.

    Anyway I had to voice that to someone other that my wife because she's heard it more than enough!

  6. Thanks, Brigette, I checked out their website and it looks interesting, although I wonder if they would be stocked with the type of small apartment projects I generally need supplies for? I can get by with dollar stores and Army and Navy, but M6 bolts and mylar nuts might be the type of thing that is too specific for a dollar store and too small for Griff? Anyway I'll definitely check them out next time I ride across the Queensborough and thanks again for the tip!

  7. Travis, since I have *no idea* what M6 bolts and mylar nuts are, I'll leave that investigation totally up to you! 😀

    You're welcome for the tip – hope they have whatever you're looking for. 🙂

  8. PS – Although I'm not fond of the big box stores, we will also soon have (for better or worse) a Lowe's here in Queensborough too.

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