Student News
Natalie Doud

Natalie Doud

In this past year, we have learned many lessons due to the pandemic, one of them being the importance of maintaining our personal health. However, many have failed to recognize and shed more light on the importance of maintaining the health of the environment as well.

The coronavirus pandemic has not only changed our state of life, but the state of the Earth on an environmental level, resulting in a mixture of both positive and negative changes. For instance, with fewer people on the roads, there has been an improvement in air quality. However, more safety guidelines means an increase in personal protective equipment (PPE) usage and thus an increase in waste.

To ensure our own safety and the safety of others, we had to increase our consumption of single-use plastics, like plastic gloves and takeout containers, utensils and bags from restaurants. While this is a good way to diminish the possible transmission of COVID-19 and is a result of stricter safety regulations, this has led us to now use wasteful products daily.

Health care workers, in seeing a surge in hospital patients as well, have been needing to use more PPE, which contributes to the ever-increasing plastic pollution and waste 2020 has seen. However, while we can’t control our PPE usage until the pandemic subsides, we can control other aspects of our everyday lives that also contribute to increased pollution.

To compensate for this growth in our everyday use of disposable PPE products, try eliminating unnecessary products like plastic straws and single-use plastic water bottles. Instead, purchase a reusable, metal straw or simply opt to not use a straw when you buy your third Starbucks of the day. You can eliminate even more waste by purchasing a reusable water bottle. You’re at home most of the time anyway, so walking a few feet to refill your water should really not be such a mountainous task. But, if reusable bottles are not for you or you just don’t have access to one, then try to remember to recycle every water bottle and recyclable product you use. Either way, you can reduce your carbon footprint and take a step toward a more sustainable lifestyle.

When you recycle, your waste gets used in a more environmentally friendly and sustainable way. For example, according to Repreve data, if everyone in the U.S. recycled one plastic bottle, more than 54 million T-shirts could be made from those recycled materials. By recycling, you’re helping keep the Earth clean by minimizing waste and maintain a more circular economy by keeping these materials flowing in a continuous cycle as they become repurposed after use.

It’s important to remember that disposing of waste responsibly does not solely apply to recyclable goods. This includes any sort of waste, including disposable masks and gloves, which I’ve continuously seen littered in the street. If disposing of waste is a difficult task for you, then, instead of reaching for disposable PPE, try purchasing reusable masks and gloves, which are just as sanitary as disposable ones, but you still need to remember to wash and change them out after every few uses. If everyone worldwide uses one disposable mask per day, this could result in a monthly global consumption and waste of 129 billion face masks, according to Science Magazine.

We cannot control the state of the pandemic, therefore it is imperative we take control over what we can, and that is the environmental state of the Earth. Remember to recycle and responsibly dispose of your waste, live ethically and sustainably, and think about Mother Nature every time you purchase and use a new product.

Natalie Doud is a senior at Carlmont High School. Student News appears in the weekend edition. You can email Student News at news@smdailyjournal.com.

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(7) comments

Tommy Tee

Excellent letter, Natalie!

Terence Y

Nice sentiments, Ms. Doud, but what about the unintended consequences of your proposed solutions to eliminate waste? For instance, manufacturing a metal straw, according to some studies, takes as much energy as creating 90 plastic straws with carbon emissions equivalent to 150 plastic straws. What about the water and detergent to clean those straws – they won’t clean themselves. Reusable masks require using water, energy and detergent to clean those masks. How much energy is used to pump your water and manufacture your soap or detergent? Reusable water bottles require cleaning, using up water and detergent. We may be able to reduce some waste, but at what cost? Electricity and potable water services are not free. How much waste/pollution is created to provide electricity and potable water?

Tafhdyd

Terence,

Like everything else you blather about, you complain but offer nothing in return. Is your solution to say the heck with it, do what you want or do you even care?

Terence Y

Taffy, so I ask some questions and all you can do is attack me? I guess you don’t like getting out of your comfort zone. How about answering some of my questions? You probably think someone driving an electric car is doing their part, but guess what, they’re just moving emissions from the tailpipe to the power plants. Electricity doesn’t grow on trees. However, you can get electricity by burning trees. To answer your question, give me the facts and I’ll make an educated decision. If there are no facts, then you have the freedom to do what you want. BTW, I notice you don’t offer any nuggets of wisdom. C’mon man, as blundering Biden would say, get out of your comfort zone and make an effort!

Tafhdyd

It has been a bone of contention since electric cars were first made, especially when they were first made, that their carbon footprint was larger than traditional cars. As developments improve the efficiency of both the manufacturing and operation of them it will be reduced. I didn’t offer suggestions to Ms. Doud because I am not objecting to or questioning her position in her letter.

ellynjd

Thank you Natalie for that great parallel. As an Instacart-er, I've felt so dismayed at how many plastic bags are used to bag produce. With all I do otherwise to help the environment, this has been a big set back! We need to ban single use plastic. There are very few recycling options for plastic right now. We are selling plastic to other countries where it is legal for them to dump and burn them, just moving plastic pollution to another part of the globe.

Terence Y

Ellyn, I’m sure people reuse plastic bags, whether the smaller produce bags or the checkout size plastic bags. But let’s say we ban single use plastic. What’s the alternative? Wrap up meats extra securely, so no juices leak out? Would you trust meats to be packed next to your other foods, with no bag liner? I imagine most people would go to Costco and get their plastic bags in the form of much larger 10-gallon plastic liners, or thicker Ziploc plastic bags.

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