Photo by the Metropolitan Transportation Authority from Flickr

Green Tips: Eco-Friendly Masks

Green Tips | September 17, 2020

The coronavirus pandemic has changed our lives in countless ways. Perhaps the most noticeable change is the addition of the face mask to our wardrobe. While face masks have been instrumental in mitigating the spread of the coronavirus, single-use masks have begun littering the ground across New York, ultimately making their way into our oceans by way of storm drains. Once in the ocean, these masks can be ingested by wildlife, with possibly fatal consequences. As a result, we must all take steps to use and dispose of our masks responsibly. Below are this week’s Green Tips on eco-friendly mask use.

Disposable Masks

We recommend using reusable masks to reduce waste, but understand that they are not always feasible. If you opt to use a disposable mask, here are some tips to responsibly use it and extend its life:

  • Reuse each one for as long as possible.
  • After each use, store in a clean, ventilated container (paper bag works well).
  • Only handle it by the strings to avoid contaminating your hands.
  • Avoid using disinfectants on the mask to prevent inhaling chemicals.
  • If you see any soiling or damage to your mask, properly dispose of it in the trash. Masks that end up on the floor can enter sewer systems and ultimately waterways. This poses a significant risk for marine life

Reusable Masks

Reusable masks are a great alternative to disposable masks and help reduce waste. Here are some recommendations for using, making, and caring for your reusable mask:

  • Use at least a double layer mask to effectively stop the spread of COVID-19.
  • Machine wash your mask with the rest of your laundry, or hand wash each mask for at least 20 seconds with hot and soapy water. Then, make sure that the mask is completely dry before reusing it. You can air dry your mask (preferably in direct sunlight), keeping the maximum possible surface area exposed, or machine dry it at the highest temperature that the fabric allows.
  • Keep more than one mask on hand, so if one is being cleaned, you can use another one.
  • Get creative! You can choose from an almost endless variety of textile designs, or even make your own reusable mask. Some ideas include upcycling a T-shirt, or fashioning a mask from quilting cotton

A Note on Gloves

The CDC says that for most of our everyday lives, gloves are not needed. Gloves are recommended for cleaning surfaces and caring for infected people. Disposable gloves have a stark impact on the environment, from production to disposal:

As an alternative to using gloves, you can take these three very effective measures to protect yourself:

  • Wear a mask (see above!)
  • Avoid touching your face
  • Carry hand sanitizer. You can even make your own!

Thank you for checking out this week’s Green Tips! We at NYLCV hope you and yours are well, and that you have a great and safe week.

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