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  • Jana Fischback

Recommitting to reusables

Updated: 6 days ago

By Jana Fischback with help from Anne Theisen


Two steps forward, one step back. The movement away from single-use plastic items was gaining momentum, but has been largely “quarantined” with the arrival of the pandemic. Staying safe necessitates some throw-away items. However, evidence supports the safety of using objects like reusable grocery bags and travel coffee mugs. 


We now understand that the novel coronavirus is much more likely to spread from close contact with an infected person rather than surface transmission. The CDC’s website states that no cases of COVID-19 have been identified where infection was thought to have occurred by touching a contaminated surface, including shopping bags. Still, many businesses are wary to have their employees handle our reusable items like personal bags and coffee mugs. But think about it this way - the virus can likely survive just as well on single-use bags and cups as it can on our own items. So if we’re properly cleaning our own items, we've just eliminated all of the contact it would take to get those single-use objects to the point where that employee grabs them - at the checkout or coffee stand. 


Grocery store staff still might not accept your reusable bags like they used to, though some stores will, like Fred Meyer. There are two ways around this - see if they’ll let you bag your own, like they will at Safeway and Albertsons. If not, ask to just put the products back in the cart, Costco-style, and bag them at your car. That may be the easiest option if you are doing a lot of shopping. If you’re not shopping for much, the self check-out line is an easy place to bring your own bags. This can be a good option if you’d like to use your own mesh produce bags as well. If you're interested in locally-made produce bags, check out Bagaloo Bags.


A helpful reminder at the cart-return at the East Wenatchee Fred Meyer store

Most of us have plenty of reusable bags, especially cotton totes. Those should be washed after each use. But if you’d like to upgrade, one bag that’s locally made is perfect for our current situation. It’s called the “LastBag” and made by eqpd in Twisp (pronounced, “equipped”). Instead of a single-use plastic bag that will be reused once, these bags feature a lifetime guarantee. But what makes them especially great right now is that they are very easy to clean with spray disinfectant. You can buy LastBags locally at Arlberg Sports or the American Shoe Shop.


eqpd's LastBags are easy to disinfect

For your favorite espresso drink, ask your barista if they’d be willing to take your reusable cup. Again, handing them a clean mug to fill, with clean hands, should not be a problem (masks on, of course!). Some at drive-thru stands are happy to do this, such as JB Steamers in East Wenatchee. But if you find it’s a no-go, and you’re in a store or cafe, you can just ask for your drink “for here” and pour it in your to-go cup yourself. 


A happy customer at JB Steamers using her own cup

If you don’t have time to stop, then one option is locally-owned Foray Coffee on north Wenatchee Ave. No, they won’t take your reusable cup, but they do offer a pretty cool service. Order your drink from their app ahead of time and it’ll be hot, ready to go when you arrive. They’ve got some fancy technology that estimates your time of arrival based on where you are so the drink is made just before you get there. What’s eco-friendly about this, you ask? You barely have to stop your car before you’re handed your order, so there’s very little idle time, compared to a typical coffee stand where you’ll sit waiting for several minutes. You’ll end up with some landfill trash, but you'll at least save some gas and reduce carbon emissions from idling in the meantime.

The Foray drive-thru features locally-roasted Mela coffee

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Sustainable Wenatchee is a 501(c)3 non-profit that promotes a culture of environmental stewardship and social sustainability in the Wenatchee Valley.

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Photo donated by Frank Cone