Tips to living a sustainable life

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Farmers markets are a great way to get outside on a sunny Florida afternoon, but they are so much more than that. In fact, they are a small part of a much larger initiative: local agricultural sustainability. This means harvesting the crops grown by local farmers and supporting our own local economy through community effort. At its core, the Ourlando Think Local First movement aims to change the way consumers eat, think and handle food. Local sustainability is critical to cultivating staples in the community in order to initiate a change that removes big business from the transaction and makes the relationship between farmer and consumer paramount.

With the information presented here, the conscientious consumer can gain a better understanding of the idea behind farm-to-fork dining and local cooperatives, specifically in the Central Florida area. Even as a native of your community for years and years, the idea of getting involved in this eco-endeavor can seem puzzling. However, there are endless resources made available. Right here in Central Florida are the Simple Living Institute, Homegrown Cooperative, Ourlando, Center for Holistic Living and Slow Food Orlando. Each of these organizations offer free, educational alternatives to big businesses and gives members of the community the chance to delve in at the surface level and dig deeper and deeper as they become more involved.

You may be surprised to learn that you may have already supported the Think Local First movement by simply dining out. There are dozens of Central Florida restaurants that source their food locally. If you have ever eaten at Winter Park’s Hillstone Restaurant, you have enjoyed freshly grown herbs right from their backyard overlooking Lake Killarney. If you have ever patronized The Rusty Spoon in downtown Orlando, you have supported locally raised produce and organic beef. These are just two of the great places to start and taste the difference from something that is homegrown instead of flown in.

To be sure, this movement is not a product of the 21st century. In fact, the Think Local First movement is argued to date back to the 1980s in Rome. However, it is certainly a topic that has resurged with the imminence of the Occupy Wall Street protests in Zuccotti Park, N.Y., that condemn big business. With the protests acting as a catalyst, the local sustainability efforts gained momentum.

The Think Local First movement is pivotal in making consumers aware of their impact on the environment. With constant solicitations and advertisements on television and radio, it can be easy to ignore the local butcher, baker or cooperative in your own neighborhood. However, according to, for every dollar spent at a local business, 45 cents is reinvested locally. Alternatively, for every dollar spent at a corporate chain, only 15 cents is reinvested locally. This is a simple example of a complex issue: by pumping money back into the local economy, the community will thrive and create a symbiotic relationship. A relationship in which there is reciprocity and loyalty. No matter your age, geography or even gender, this is something that everyone can be a part of in Central Florida.

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Natalie Costa is a local new media journalist who writes about sustainability in the Central Florida area. Visit