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TRASH ATTENDANT – Jacquelin Criger volunteers her time sorting items from the Sebastopol Farmers’ Market waste station into the correct bins. Criger helped formulate the market’s first-ever reusable metal utensil program, which made its debut on Sunday.

ZERO WASTE PARTNERS — Sunny Galbraith, Jacquelin Criger and Ambrosia Thomson show off the new metal utensil return bucket at the Sebastopol Farmers’ Market on Nov. 18.

TRASH ATTENDANT – Jacquelin Criger volunteers her time sorting items from the Sebastopol Farmers’ Market waste station into the correct bins. Criger helped formulate the market’s first-ever reusable metal utensil program, which made its debut on Sunday.

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For Jacquelin Criger of Sebastopol, zero waste isn’t just a goal, it’s a lifestyle. On Sunday, Nov. 18, the Sebastopol Farmers’ Market launched a reusable metal utensil program and Criger, 29, was found mining the waste bins.

“Small solutions really add up,” said Criger, an environmental studies student at Santa Rosa Junior College who brought the reusable utensil program idea to the farmers market.

Prepared food vendors Lata’s Indian Cuisine, Green Grocer, Chalk Hill and Shobou all participated by using stainless-steel forks and spoons donated by Recology, a local garbage service company.

Collection buckets were labeled and placed at each dump station at the market. Screamin’ Mimi’s Ice Cream offered the use of their commercial-sized dishwasher for the metal utensils. With the introduction of the program on Sunday, approximately 250 plastic forks were saved from entering the landfill.

“We only have one planet,” Criger said. “It’s easy to feel disheartened, but this is a really good reminder of how we can think of small things right under our noses to make a difference.”

A similar program at an Oregon market inspired the idea of the reusable metal utensil program. During a Sebastopol city council zero waste study session in September, Criger approached local environmental activist Sunny Galbraith with her vision for a reusable utensil program.

In October, Sebastopol became the first city in the county to adopt a Zero Waste Resolution drafted by the Sonoma County Waste Management’s Zero Waste Task Force, embracing the goal of reaching zero waste by 2030. 

ZERO WASTE PARTNERS — Sunny Galbraith, Jacquelin Criger and Ambrosia Thomson show off the new metal utensil return bucket at the Sebastopol Farmers’ Market on Nov. 18.

Creating community partnerships is one way the city indicated it could meet the zero waste goal. Ambrosia Thomson, Recology Waste Zero Specialist, said when they were approached with the chance to partner in the reusable utensil program they jumped at the opportunity to support the community.

She added that the program is aligned with the company’s mission statement; to create a world without waste.

Recology would like to use the Sebastopol Farmers’ Market model at other local markets. “It’s going to take other people like Jackie(Criger) and Sunny(Galbraith),” Thomson said.

Sebastopol Farmer’s market manager Carla Rosin worked with Thomson and 350 Sonoma, a nonprofit climate action group, to bring compost collection bins to the market in August. 

Galbraith said with the ability to compost paper plates, napkins and food scraps, the market has been able to divert approximately100 gallons of waste each week to compost rather garbage.  

With the new addition of stainless-steel forks and spoons, the market has the means to eliminate single-use plastic and “compostable” plastics that previously contaminated the compost collection bins and added to the landfill.

Galbraith said even some of the disposable food service items labeled compostable at the market are neither compostable nor recyclable, and are often tossed in the wrong bin, contaminating the compost and recycling stream. 

“Paper cups, plastic and ‘compostable’ plastic utensils are the biggest contaminants,” she said. “These ‘compostable’ plastics are not accepted at any of the compost facilities that Recology hauls to, and paper cups have a plastic liner that likewise make them unable to be accepted at compost facilities.”

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The Sebastopol Farmers’ Market is open year round from 10 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. at the Downtown Plaza. For more information about zero waste efforts in Sebastopol or to volunteer, contact Sunny Galbraith: galbraithsunny @gmail.com.

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