Zero-Waste Guide to Seabright (Santa Cruz, CA)

The ever-growing Zero Waste Bloggers Network is compiling an e-book filled with zero waste travel tips for cities around the globe. I’m writing about my favorite part of Santa Cruz, California (a place I loved long before I discovered its plentiful options for zero waste living).

The little neighborhood I’m referring to is Seabright… where I lived with my best friend after college, where I met my husband, where I’ve worked for over a decade, where our family explores almost every weekend, and where you can eat, drink, shop, and play without making any trash. Here’s the 411…

Zero-waste-friendliness of Santa Cruz:

Santa Cruz is a pretty “green” city overall. The Seabright neighborhood has several options for Zero Waste grocery shopping and food to go. There are many businesses that support reusables and offer discounts for bringing your own container. Although most servers won’t think twice about a cloth bread bag or a glass lidded container for a deli sandwich, there’s still a chance you’ll get some confused reactions!

Where to shop for groceries:

1. Staff of Life Natural Foods Market @ 1266 Soquel Ave. Santa Cruz, CA 95062

Staff of Life sells Strauss milk in returnable glass bottles and St. Benoit yogurt in glass bottles (not returnable but better recyclability than plastic). You can buy single eggs in your own container or buy a dozen and return the empty carton to the store. There is a 50-cent discount at the meat counter for bringing your own container. There are fresh baked goods (loose in a case) and salad bar items that you can put into your own container.

You can buy loose produce using cloth bags and the bulk items are abundant: flour, rice, beans, grains, granola, cereal, nuts, trail mix, rice crackers, tortilla chips, dried fruit, cookies, candy, spices, tea, coffee, honey, olive oil, apple cider vinegar, peanut butter, vanilla, molasses, cocoa powder, sugar, olives, pickles, bagels, laundry detergent, dishwashing liquid (for hand-washing, not a machine), beauty products (shampoo, lotion, conditioner), and bar soap.

They also have a cafe out front (Cafe del Sol) that has kombucha on tap, smoothies (bring your own bottle), and coffee (bring your own mug for a 25-cent discount). If you happen to see the sign in the window that advertises this discount, you can thank me!


2. Whole Foods Market @ 911 Soquel Ave, Santa Cruz, CA 95062

Whole Foods has many of the items found at Staff of Life, plus coconut oil, fresh bread, and pizza. (Whole Foods has a better price on bulk peanut butter.) They offer a 25-cent discount for a reusable coffee mug (I’m also responsible for that sign!) and *total bonus* they have a compost bin!


My favorite local specialty shops:

1. The Bagelry @ 1636 Seabright Ave. Santa Cruz, CA 95062

You can get loose bagels here in your own bag and if you have a jar, they will fill it with cream cheese. They might want to soak the jar in sanitizer first (say “okay”). You can also order bagels with cream cheese to eat on the spot. They come in a basket with waxed paper so have your own container ready (I prefer a 10-inch cake pan).


2. The Buttery @ 702 Soquel Ave. Santa Cruz, CA 95062

The Buttery has excellent baked goods and fresh bread (bring your own bags or containers).


3. Seabright Brewery @ 519 Seabright Ave. #107, where you can fill a growler or two!

Farmers Markets:

Wednesdays 1:30-5:30@ Lincoln St. and Cedar St. (downtown Santa Cruz).

My favorite zero-waste restaurants: 

1. Charlie Hong Kong @ 1141 Soquel Ave. Santa Cruz, CA 95062. They use organic ingredients and serve food in real dishes with reusable chopsticks. You can bypass their paper napkins and use your own.

2. Tacos Moreno @ 1053 Water St. Santa Cruz, CA 95062. I haven’t seen anyone else bring their own pan for burritos, but they put up with me! *CASH ONLY*

3. Akira Sushi @ 1222 Soquel Ave. Santa Cruz, CA 95062. Amazing sushi! Just hand the server your napkin and chopsticks when you’re seated and say, “May I give these back to you? I brought my own.”

How to avoid bottled water: 

Some people in SC drink the tap water. (My son’s preschool serves it to the kids who don’t bring their own!). But if you’re nervous (like I am), fill your reusable bottle when you stop in at The Buttery, pay for water from the dispenser at Staff of Life, or take your leftover water with you when you leave a restaurant. Need ice? Fill your cups at the gas station; ask if you can buy some, and they might give it to you for free.



Where and how to compost:

Santa Cruz County will give its residents a rebate for setting up a city-approved composting system at home but there isn’t an official municipal composting program. If you’re visiting and have some food scraps (or other compostables), you can drop them in the receptacle at Whole Foods near the registers (@ 911 Soquel Ave, Santa Cruz, CA 95062).

You could also check with Santa Cruz Community Compost Company. It’s run by a woman named Ivy who collects her customers’ compost once a week… by bicycle! Maybe she would make an exception and do a one-time pickup?

Where to recycle:

There are recycling bins at most public parks, stores, and beaches in Santa Cruz.


Vintage shops:

Tomboy has some cool vintage (and new) clothes @ 1207 Soquel Ave. Santa Cruz, CA 95062

Fun (zero-waste) stuff to do in Seabright:

1. Seabright Beach: East Cliff Dr. Santa Cruz, CA 95062 (at the end of Seabright Ave.) You can climb on the whale statue (or even go into the Natural History Museum that it belongs to!) just outside the entrance to the beach.

2. “Belligerent Point” (That’s what we named it way back in ’05. You can probably guess why!) has a great lookout/view of the Boardwalk. Take Ocean St. toward the water and turn left on East Cliff when it ends. Go up the hill (passing the train tracks/trestle on the right), then turn right after the bridge (East Cliff continues this way). Park when you see the cliffs above the beach. There is a very short trail on the right that leads to the viewpoint. You could also walk there (carefully) from Seabright Brewery.

3. The Santa Cruz Small Craft Harbor: 135 5th Ave. Santa Cruz, CA 95062. A nice place to stroll, look at boats, and view the light house. There is a free water taxi across the harbor in the summer.

4. Arana Gulch: The multi-use trail begins on the corner of Broadway Ave. and Frederick St. in Seabright and ends at the corner of 7th Ave. and Brommer St. near the north harbor.

5. Pacific Edge Climbing Gym: for beginners and experts alike, ages 6 and up.

Fun (zero-waste) stuff to do *near* Seabright:

1. Free concerts at The Boardwalk: 400 Beach St. Santa Cruz, CA 95060. The actual Boardwalk (games, prizes, concessions) has waste potential, but you can avoid it if you’re prepared and crafty (buy unwrapped food or bring your own, don’t buy souvenirs or play games, and enjoy the rides!)

2. Boardwalk Bowl: (a bowling alley across from The Boardwalk): 115 Cliff St. Santa Cruz, CA 95060

3. Take the Roaring Camp Railroads train from The Boardwalk to the redwoods, and back!

4. Walk on the wharf and check out the sea lions or rent kayaks: 21 Municipal Wharf, Santa Cruz, CA 95060

5. Walk on West Cliff Dr. or East Cliff Dr. These roads hug the water’s edge from one end of town to the other. The west side is more touristy and has a surf museum in its lighthouse. The east side is less populated. Both are beautiful.

Additional Zero Waste businesses await you just outside of Seabright:

On the west side…

1. The Food Bin and Herb Room @ 1130 Mission Street, Santa Cruz, CA 95060: The Food Bin has bulk potato chips, dog food, and multigrain crackers (in addition to dry goods found at Whole Foods and Staff of Life). Across the street from The Food Bin is The Herb Room, which has a great selection of bulk herbs, supplements, lotion, bath salts, detergent, and ingredients for homemade beauty supplies.

2. Sones Cellars @ 334 Ingalls St. Santa Cruz, CA 95060: You can buy a refillable (flip top) wine bottle here… and refill it… and refill it.

3. Santa Cruz Mountain Brewing (right across from Sones) @ 402 Ingalls St. Santa Cruz, CA 95060, where you can fill another growler!

4. Kelly’s French Bakery (right next to SCMB) @ 402 Ingalls St. Santa Cruz, CA 95060: Wonderful baked goods and fresh bread

5. El Salchichero @ 402 Ingalls St. Santa Cruz, CA 95062: You can get their handcrafted, sustainable meat in your glass container.

6. Companion Bakeshop, just down the road @ 2341 Mission St. Santa Cruz, CA 95060: Fresh baked bread, pastries from scratch, and coffee


1. The Penny Ice Creamery @ 913 Cedar St. Santa Cruz, CA 95060: Best ice cream ever (made from scratch with local, organic ingredients) and you get a discount for bringing your own container. If you prefer cup over cone, request a ceramic one and ask for a metal spoon. Otherwise you’ll be served cardboard and plastic with your ice cream.


2. Crossroads (@ 811 Pacific Ave. Santa Cruz, CA 95060) has a variety of used, high-end fashion. They buy, sell, and trade. There are a few other vintage shops on Pacific Avenue as well.

Wether you live in the Santa Cruz area, or are just passing through, spend some time in Seabright soaking up the local culture and learning the Near-O Waste ropes!


One thought on “Zero-Waste Guide to Seabright (Santa Cruz, CA)

  1. ambdoa May 9, 2016 / 2:23 pm

    That is a *wonderful* informative post! Good job detailing the beauties of Santa Cruz and zero waste.


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