Cynthia Albers

Cynthia Albers

We are fortunate to have a local government that cares for the health of our community. Even though I’ve seen a portion of my livelihood slip away during this gap between who we were at the start of 2020 and who we will become as we emerge from the grips of COVID-19, I find it vitally important to comply with health directives while we continue to look out for one another.

Have you purchased your natural-fiber face masks? Mine were made by Victoria Schandler (2 Dogs Stitch), who sells her wares through the Made Local Marketplace. Most days I am additionally grateful that the material also masks my impatience and frustration and my grief for what has befallen the world.

These are challenging times, for which none of us can draw on past experience.

The question continues to be raised, how can we protect ourselves without returning to wasteful and polluting habits? 

Managing human health and planet health

The sudden resurgence of single-use throwaways is heartbreaking. Leverage was being gained over the plastics industry and reusable containers were on the rise. I continue to seek modern answers in the practices of previous generations who lived easily without most of the products we find essential today.

Here are a few suggestions for maintaining ecological health:

• Continue to collect all food waste and kitchen scraps in your Green (yard waste) Cart. This small effort puts a large dent in methane emissions. Your food waste and yard waste will be processed at the composting facility.

• Request that your grocery items be placed back into the shopping cart after purchase, then cloth-bag those items at the car.

• As long as bulk bins remain closed, purchase foods in the largest packaging you can find, thereby eliminating the need for a number of smaller single-use packages. Ask your CSA to do the same. F.E.E.D. Sonoma packed my last CSA box into one large plastic bag, which I found very reusable. I transferred the produce into smaller, reusable containers at home.

• Ask your grocer to provide compostable paper bags in the produce department. Some stores have always offered them next to the mushroom bins, and Oliver’s Market offers them near the apples and oranges. The checker will need to open the paper bags to access barcodes.

• If you are anxious for a toilet paper alternative next time the grocery shelves are empty, research toilet towels or wee wipes to see if that old-fashioned solution suits you.

• Sadly, Sebastopol Community Market has completely discontinued its impressive selection of bulk soaps. But solid bars of shampoo and conditioner can be found in a growing number of retail stores. I’ve also heard of laundry soap sheets and liquid hand soap tablets (just add water) that might be worthy of consideration. Local makers at Soap Cauldron offer a complete line of body and haircare soaps that can be purchased from retailers or online.

• Tea enthusiasts will want to know about Samovar, owned by Sebastopol resident Jesse Jacobs. Samovar is busy filling mail orders for loose-leaf teas sold in completely compostable packaging, including the interior bag made of wood cellulose. What’s not to love about a delicious oolong named Iron Goddess of Mercy? I’ve found their Turmeric Spice blend to be the perfect tonic for our time.

• Reducing waste also means leaving the car at home whenever possible. Get your much-needed exercise by walking to the store, and don’t forget to bring your facemask.

What ideas do you have for bridging the current zero-waste gap? 

Cynthia Albers is a member of the Sebastopol Zero-Waste Subcommittee. Send comments to


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