The virus that has affected the entire world for the past year has brought out the good, the bad and the ugly. Nevertheless, there’s been breakthroughs: Vaccines in the U.S. continue to be distributed, there’s been incentives given for those that have been vaccinated throughout the country and medical doctor’s speculations on herd immunity have been up in the air for a few months. To think that it has been more than a year since us Westerners have taken part in the “wear a mask” trend….Is trend the right word? No - it’s somewhat a ‘necessity.’
I don’t see masks going away anytime soon. For some, it helps with allergies, it has become a shield to protect others around you if you’re feeling under the weather, and some say they’re a comfort shield. There are many masks in the market now, specifically reusable and washable ones. From experience, I’ve found that reusable masks are my go-to because of the ability to control which prints and patterns to buy. I enjoy treating them as an accessory to my outfits as I’m out and about. I’ve diverted away from purchasing disposable masks because I’ve been slowly dedicating the “extra time and care” low-waste practices in my life for the past few years. Because of this, I’ve bought enough masks so I don’t have to worry about running out when it comes to throwing the used ones into the laundry.
The few times I had to wear a disposable mask were at a hair salon and doctor’s office. I noticed early on that people wore this easy-to-breath-through-your-nose mask option below their nose - and either this still happens or the mask has a constant habit of slipping. The trouble here in the U.S. is the “me” mindset. The “I’m healthy, I’m going to do as please, you can’t stop me” mentality seemed to be more relevant during the earlier stages of the pandemic. Now with more people getting vaccinated, things have slowly been re-opening and returning back to normal. In order for the virus to make its way out, this requires cooperation from each individual, which still includes wearing masks in indoor, crowded spaces - even for those already vaccinated.
Since everything has started, I’ve been able to assess the amount of waste that disposable masks impose on the environment. For example, when going on my walks, I see masks on the ground along with the usual beer cans and napkins. Due to this, I’ve personally opted for washable and reusable masks versus disposable. Some masks I’ve come upon have slots for filters (in my books, this means a Kleenex,) or the option to be over the ear vs around the ear. I’ve found that the adjustable strap ones have been much more accommodating. There are even mask makers out there that give you options on whether you’d like ear loops, over ear, or around the head. Thank you for the inclusivity!
Whether there’s masks made from recycled materials, brands that are conscious of the environmental impact that disposable masks impose, the use of deadstock fabric, or mask accessories that won’t have your mask flying through the air, there’s something for everyone. Hirmie is a Chicago-based brand that specializes in mask accessories, specifically mask lanyards. Christy Dawn is a sustainable women’s clothing brand that has deadstock fabric masks for sale in a beautiful selection of prints. Etsy is a great go-to with an endless directory of creators. Another Chicago-based creator is Kitten Surprise Vintage who creates face masks from vintage fabrics. Make you sure you check them out!