Living Sustainably: Think local for vacations with sustainable impact

By Hannah Schulze, Local First of West Michigan
One sure-fire way to guarantee yourself an A+ when it comes to planning your family vacation is to emphasize unique, exciting experiences that will result in priceless memories for years to come.
And a way to add to those experiences is the human connection that can be gained by interacting with the local business community in other places or here at home, whether you are exploring far-flung dream locales or building a deeper connection to your hometown. That local connection also will ultimately contribute to the environmental and social well-being of the place you’re in.

Here are a couple guidelines to keep in mind:

Check out the local grub: Food culture is one of the best ways to connect to a new place or to discover a new facet to your own city. Everyone eats!
Look for restaurants that purchase produce from local farms, as a deeper connection to growers often means that the business is intentional about its impact on the environment. Farm-to-table doesn’t have to mean a higher price-tag, either. Check out the food truck scene at the Grand Haven, Holland, or Muskegon farmers markets for a diverse cultural tour of fresh, locally-made snacks that won’t break your vacation budget.

Dive in to community spaces: Food is a universal connector, but you can also find that connection to a place through art, music, and history. Local art galleries, museums, and libraries are often inexpensive or free to enjoy and can give you a window into the values and culture of the place you’re in.
The Armory Building in Grand Haven is a collaborative space shared by a brewery (Grand Armory Brewing Company), a coffee shop (Aldea Coffee), a casual BBQ restaurant (Righteous BBQ), and an educational art exhibition space that serves as a gathering place for locals and visitors alike.
Stop in to the Herrick District Library in Holland or Loutit Public Library in Grand Haven to browse the shelves or log in to learn about how previous generations enjoyed your new favorite vacation spot.
You might find something surprising!

Overall, local businesses and organizations give more per capita to charity, have smaller environmental footprints, and create living-wage jobs at a higher rate than their non-local counterparts.
So, when you seek to support local wherever you are or go, you are making the choice to invest in businesses that have a positive impact on that community. Feel proud of how you vacation – choose Local First!

 Hanna Schulze is program and fund development manager for Local First of West Michigan. Local First’s mission is development of an economy grounded in local ownership that meets the basic needs of people, builds local wealth and social capital, functions in harmony with our ecosystem, and encourages joyful community. For more information visit

This Week’s Sustainability Framework Theme
Economic Development: Businesses and the local consumers are driving engines that generate capital for growth and development. We want to be a location of choice for new business and industry.

Living Sustainably is a collection of community voices sharing updates about local sustainability initiatives. It is presented by the Holland-Hope College Sustainability Institute, a joint project of Hope College, the City of Holland and Holland Board of Public Works. Go to for more information.