In times of COVID-19, having a face mask handy is a must – per recommendations from the CDC, many regions around the United States are requiring that people wear them as a precautionary measure while they’re out and about. But with so much to take into consideration about where we go and how to stay safe, the last thing we need to worry about is whether the mask or face covering we wear is harmful to the environment. Sure, we’ve seen a huge decrease in carbon emissions now that transportation has seen a drop – but due to extra precautions needed during our daily errands, we’re also seeing a massive increase in the disposal of single-use items like takeout waste, grocery bag waste and PPE.
So what exactly makes single-use PPE harmful, and how do we safely wear reusable masks in a way that 1) makes life simpler and 2) is better for the environment? Read on to find out more, and to get our recommendations for choosing and reusing your eco-friendly face mask!
Single-Use Mask Materials And Why They Aren’t Sustainable
Single-use procedural and N-95 masks are derived from polypropylene. This material is a go-to in the medical field because it’s both breathable and provides a more medical-grade level of protection from microorganisms.
Polypropylene is also a triple whammy to our environment, and should make non-healthcare workers think twice before using it. Whammy Number One: polypropylene can take hundreds of years to break down. Whammy Number Two? Polypropylene is derived from fossil fuels – which means not only does it contribute to the waste in our oceans and landfills, but it also releases greenhouse gases as it breaks down. And Whammy Number Three comes in the tiny microplastics that are shed when it gets into our waterways, harming unsuspecting aquatic life.
Even if you wear your surgical or N-95 mask multiple times, when disposed of it will harm the environment. So you may be asking yourself, “What’s the best type of mask to wear that will be kinder to the planet?” Luckily, we have some great options ahead!
The Best Type Of Face Masks During COVID-19
Cloth face masks are excellent for ensuring your mask’s impact on the environment is minimal. The CDC has released statements saying that while single-use masks offer the most protection, the 100% cotton, two layer masks available are effective for protecting others from the virus. These statements also say that it’s important to reserve the N-95 and surgical masks for first responders, to minimize the impact on those taking care of patients with COVID-19. Cloth face masks that can be washed will help to keep others safe from this nasty virus.
Hemp masks are also a great choice: did you know that hemp fiber’s irregular, hollow core gives it certain anti-microbial properties? Masks made from hemp fabric trap and absorb microbes and particulates that may otherwise find their way through. This fabric is also resistant to mildew, and gets softer after each use!
How To Safely Wear An Eco-Friendly Face Mask
Properly wearing a reusable mask is simple: first, make sure that your hands are nice and clean using your favorite natural soap before touching your reusable mask. This will prevent the germs on your hands from transferring to your face. And when you wear your mask, double check that it’s covering both your mouth and nose – this will help to safeguard others from your germs as you exhale.
Here’s an important tip: remember to wear your mask on the same side and way each time you put it on – this way the part of your mask that’s been exposed to the elements won’t be directly on your mouth and nose.
After a day’s use of your reusable mask, put your mask in a reusable bag (Ziptuck or Stashers are our go-tos) until you’re able to wash it. And whatever you do, don’t wear a dirty mask! We recommend having a few reusable masks in your home per person – this way you can keep your masks on a washing rotation, so you always have a clean mask handy.
How to Clean Reusable Masks Sustainably
Washing your reusable cloth mask at least every other use is an absolute must – scrubbing it in hot water for at least 20 seconds is the easiest and most eco-friendly way to go about it. And when you hand wash your reusable mask, don’t forget to use your all natural detergent! Once you’re done, you can hang the mask up to air dry outside, as exposure to sunlight kills 90% of germs.
Explore all our PPE (Personal Protective Equipment) offerings, from face masks and face coverings to hand sanitizers. And most importantly, stay safe!