The Health of the Planet vs. the Health of Others

Alisa Shargorodsky, Weavers Way Zero Waste Consultant

What a wild and uncertain ride this has become for us all. In March, Weavers Way was gearing up to roll out the Co-op’s most comprehensive plastic reduction program in its history, with new and improved models for reusable prepared foods containers and butcher paper-wrapped items. We had been planning this for months. Then COVID-19 got a foothold here and turned everything on its head.

Addressing single-use plastic goes hand in hand with climate change. Plastic is petroleum and petroleum is a non-renewable resource. The oil and gas industries are having negative impacts on climate change. How do we reckon with this in the face of coronavirus?

First, we need to acknowledge that our lives are in each other’s hands. The stakes have never been this high. I am happy to see us taking social distancing so seriously, and I am deeply grateful to Weavers Way, which, despite this pandemic, is working hard to assure our community has its provisions. Home delivery has caused the Co-op to recalibrate its operation almost overnight, and this poses challenges that they are navigating gracefully. Please do your part by placing larger orders that last longer to alleviate the potential of overwhelming home delivery staff.

This is also a potent time to consider your purchasing habits. Are you generating a lot of single-use waste? You can avoid this is by buying larger quantities in bulk. Since some of us have a bit more time on our hands, we can start to audit our purchasing habits and audit our waste stream. This will tell us a lot about our consumer tendencies. Also, if buying in large quantity feels like overkill, consider splitting orders with friends or neighbors.

In recent weeks, I have fielded a lot of emails about whether to bring your own bags to the store. Many stores are forbidding customers from doing this. I think we need to do everything we can to prevent COVID-19 from spreading. Many larger chain grocers like Safeway are telling their employees to refuse to bag customers’ groceries if they bring their own bags to prevent the potential for cross contamination.

After each shop, I throw my cloth bags into the wash with soap and hot water. After they come out of the dryer, I fold them up and place them into one of the bags that I do not use at the store. This way I assure the bags that I am pulling out in the store are clean. I also tell the cashier that I will bag my own products.

I don’t think this is a time to impose any additional stress on any establishment or ourselves by trying to be perfect with our ecological actions. We will resume that way of life once this passes with even more reverence for the planet. Still, this is a great time to evaluate how we can live more harmoniously with the planet.

If you have any comments or concerns, please email me at