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 firstname.lastname@example.org.