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Welcome to the Sonoma County Gazette ARCHIVE of PAST EDITIONS. Our NEW WEBSITE is up and running, so GazExtra is serving as your path to archived articles. Thanks for being part of our Sonoma County community...stay in touch...e-mail me - VESTA

Thursday, May 5, 2011

Sonoma County Bag Ban gets Personal

by Mary Munat AKA Green Mary
At a recent planning meeting for the Public Forum on single-use bags, the group was discussing what to serve for light breakfast fare, and at my suggestion of including fruit, Melissa Bushway said, “No fruit is in season locally now, so what can we have instead?” I lightly jerked back in the eco-chair inside my head, but externally smirked and nodded, delighted to be environmentally headed off at the pass by this principle-driven young woman. Working together on this all-volunteer campaign, I became ever more intrigued by the intelligent, charming activist on the bag-ban path beside me. Melissa demonstrates that relying on reusable bags and habits can be seamless.

The most striking thing about Melissa is her awareness of the impact of her actions and the core knowledge that what she does, what everyone does in every day life, matters, a lot. How does one get to be this way? Melissa grew up on a 14-acre, redwood-covered property in Santa Cruz, with an arborist dad and a gardening mom. The nearest neighbor, still her best friend today, was a quarter mile away and her house had no electricity. She came into the world from the woods and has always deferred to nature when making decisions.While going to school at UC Santa Cruz, her classes as an Environmental Studies major increased the number and complexity of her natural filters.

When she learned about the destruction that shrimp farming wreaked on local eco-systems, she stopped eating shrimp. Then she started asking questions about farmed salmon, sometimes causing eye rolling from her dining companions, but steadily wondering where things came from and what they cost on all levels to get to our plates, homes or lives, and making adjustments to her lifestyle to suit new information… What a good idea!
In casting about for options for eliminating plastic bags from her life, she took her passion for sewing and began making produce bags, mostly out reused vintage fabric with patterns harking back to the 70’s and 80’s, bright and easy to use as we all move away from plastic bags wherever we can. What a good idea! She recently began selling them at the Share Exchange Made Local Marketplace in Santa Rosa.

Growing up, she had chickens and made her allowance by selling eggs to her neighbors. Even today, living in a rented apartment in Petaluma, she’s got five chickens, sharing the eggs with the friends and trading with neighbors for other produce. When asked if she was a rarity among people her age, she said, “among my immediate friends, yes, but I know there are lots of other people out there.” There are increasing numbers of young adults canning, bee keeping, gardening and cooking organic meals at home.

When she shops at a grocery store, Melissa takes her reusable bags, Pyrex containers and glass Mason jars to the store to fill up at bulk bins. The occasional meat she eats is ordered from the meat counter and placed in her glass containers, largely eliminating packaging from her shopping trips. Many people observing her practices declare, “What a great idea!” We can all shop this way. “It does require significant pre-planning,” she admits, “but this is a lifestyle that supports my likes and my principles.” She’s got her boyfriend Matt shopping with an African woven basket, refillable containers and almost always joining her in the “If-I-don’t-have-my-to-go-mug-I-don’t-get-to-go-coffee” commitment.

Melissa says that being an environmentalist is not radical at all, but more a drive to survive. “I step outside and like to breathe clean air. I like to have yummy, healthy foods to eat… We should all care because we want to CONTINUE.” What a good idea…

Americans use 60,000 plastic bags every five minutes! Where do the bags and other plastics end up, and at what cost to our environment, marine life and human health? The riveting film documentary “Bag It!” follows average American Jeb Berrier as he decides to takes a closer look at our cultural love affair with plastics. To see how our crazy-for-plastic world has finally caught up with us, and what we can do about it, come to the Community Movie Night, sponsored by Salmon Creek School’s 5th grade class as part of their ongoing “Plastics are Forever” campaign. The screening takes place at the new, LEED-Platinum Environmental Education Salmon Creek Falls Center on the school campus at 1935 Bohemian Highway in Occidental.

Don’t miss supper beforehand of hearty, farm-fresh soup and salad bar for only $10 ($5 for kids)!

Date: Friday, May 13. Pre-film supper: 5:30pm., cost: $10 adults, $5 kids. Movie: 6:30 pm., cost: free. Childcare is available.

The movie is appropriate for 4th grade and up. For more information about the film, and to view a trailer of the movie, check out the website: For more information about this event, contact Laurel Anderson at