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Chelsea Zero Waste Coalition: Covid-19, zero waste lifestyle go hand-in-hand

Courtesy photo. Co-founders of the Chelsea Zero Waste Coalition. Shawn Sinacola (teacher at Chelsea High School) on the left and the book store owner, Michelle Tuplin, on the right.

By Michelle Tuplin

Michelle Tuplin is a long-time resident of Chelsea, owner of Serendipity Books, and co-founder of the Chelsea Zero Waste Coalition. She writes short stories, teaches creative writing, is active in way too many book clubs, and loves her raised bed vegetable garden. 

It’s crazy to think back two months.

The Chelsea Zero Waste Coalition was riding a wave. Attendance at our monthly meetings was booming. We were engaging with enthusiastic business owners and planning the conversations we wanted to have with restaurants in town.

We were researching community-wide compost solutions and collating information on zero waste retail options available right here in Chelsea. At our meetings, we handed Shawn (Sinacola) masses of plastic to pass along to the Chelsea High School recycling program, before sharing recipes for home-made toothpaste, deodorant, and soap. 

Then it all stopped. Bandwidth speed became relevant and serious. Those in-person trips to local stores and cozy conversations we hoped to share with business owners over coffee from our reusable mugs were all put on hold.

I joined the ‘Angels Wear Masks’ group and began cutting safety gowns out of the very material I previously eschewed, thick plastic. 

Despite necessary adjustments to keep everyone safe, it has become crystal clear that a zero waste life-style is even more relevant than we thought. Shopping feels fraught, and we all want to spend wisely. Installing a bidet instead of purchasing toilet paper suddenly seems not so crazy (trust me, they’re amazing).

For city dwellers, orange bags may become the new currency as we all assess what we need to discard versus compost and recycle.

Victory gardens are popping up everywhere. Just how many cucumbers do you think Chelsea residents will eat this summer? Families are walking and biking.

Sewing machines have been dusted off. Sourdough starters–in various states of success–abound. The simple lifestyle, making use of what we have, consuming mindfully while limiting our carbon footprint is all the rage.

It’s not just what we do in our own homes. We all knew in theory that societies are created by micro links that form a bigger unit, and that we each play a small part in something greater than ourselves. But now, living through COVID-19, all of these tiny links are visible.

We see the small businesses in town and they all add up to our sense of place, our awareness of connected community. Suddenly, keeping it local is more than a slogan. It means wanting a yoga studio or a bookstore or a bank you can call on a Saturday morning. It means caring for our community diversity, making us all that much stronger.

It feels good to buy your dishwasher here in town, along with vintage jewelry, a shampoo bar, the latest novel, and some sprouted greens. Maybe bacon-flavored vodka, some beeswax wraps, hot fresh rolls, or a new carpet are on your list. Making our individual choices while supporting that thing bigger than ourselves – our community – is what this is all about.

And while we keep it local and take care of what we have, we are all reducing our carbon footprint and moving toward a zero waste lifestyle, a lifestyle that is sustainable and interconnected.

The Chelsea Zero Waste Coalition, established in 2019 by Shawn Sinacola and Michelle Tuplin, meets on the first Tuesday of every month from 7 to 8:30 at Serendipity Books or, for the foreseeable future, over Zoom.

Our June 2 meeting will be a discussion of all things gardening. Email [email protected] for the link to join. Our group envisions transforming Chelsea into a community proudly supporting sustainable, reduced-waste solutions–from biodegradable trash bag options, city-wide composting, to the elimination of plastic bags and styrofoam.   

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2 thoughts on “Chelsea Zero Waste Coalition: Covid-19, zero waste lifestyle go hand-in-hand”

  1. Yes, Michelle! Great thoughts for the way ahead. I agree 100% (well, still not sure about the bacon-flavored vodka).

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