Un-mask the Earth

Un-mask the Earth

The environmental impact of the pandemic

As quickly as we have noticed our planet begin to heal and wildlife inhabit their former homes, the waste component of one-time-use face masks and gloves has
become overly apparent, as well. I’m sure you have noticed discarded masks, gloves, and sanitizing wipes littering the streets and parking lots of grocery stores. Those that are not picked up by store employees or sanitation workers will inevitably be picked up by a gust of wind or washed down drains to later end up in our oceans and waterways.

From my perspective, it seems as though our concern for our own health doesn’t translate to the health of our environment. It only takes a minute or two to discard these landfill-bound products in a waste bin. I can’t help but think about the massive amounts of plastic and non-biodegradable products entering our landfills by the tons.

Brainstorming Solutions

I came into this world with the innate compassion for the environment. From a young age, I thought about how we impact our earth positively or negatively. I would collect cans and other recyclables and wait for my mom to take me to the
local grocery store to recycle them

On one hand, I enjoyed putting cans in the recycling machines and receiving nickels, but I also felt a huge amount of pride at being a part of the solution and not the problem. It was fascinating thinking about what products those recyclables were going to be transformed into.

Fast-forward to the world we live in today. Now, I am seeking to find or create a possible solution to the compounding waste problem we are currently facing. I suggest we start by calling our local grocery stores and demanding recycling or trash bins for all these disposable gloves!

As stated on April 16, 2020, in the article, “Discarded coronavirus face masks and gloves rising threat to ocean life, conservationists warn” from the Independent, “The rise in disposable face masks and gloves being used to prevent the spread of coronavirus is adding to the glut of plastic pollution threatening the health of oceans and marine life, environmentalists warn.”

Plastic in the Ocean

Scientists don’t know exactly how much plastic is in our oceans, but estimate approximately 8 million metric tons enters them each year. This is equivalent to
nearly 90 aircraft carriers. If you think about all the plastic items you use on
a daily basis—such as the one-time-use coffee cup you start your day with, the container your lunch comes in, or the plastic water bottle you drink from during your workout—it’s astounding how much disposable plastic one person can use in one day.

Many of us are aware that plastic does not decompose and can remain in its original state indefinitely. I learned in the article “Plastic pollution
wreaking havoc on marine ecosystem,” published on iWitnessNews, that a plastic bottle can take up to 450 years to biodegrade, while a plastic grocery bag can take up to 20 years.

When single-use plastics enter the ocean, they are broken down by wave action and sunlight into “microplastics.” Microplastics are tiny particles less than 5 millimetres in size, which are worn down from larger particles such as bottles and bags, polluting the oceans. Microplastics are usually mistaken for food by marine animals and when consumed, microplastics block their digestive system, causing them to die.

Leading by Example

But just as you continue to see carelessness, you are shown those who care greatly for the environment. They lead by example to show their neighbors and community how important it is to keep our streets and sidewalks clean. Caring
for Mother Nature with no compensation but the gratification of seeing the change is their greatest reward.

Just recently I was shown there are “green hearts” in our Valley. After two separate occasions of seeing a man near Bell Road and 64th Street with his blower, rake, and filled garbage bags lining the sidewalk, I knew I had to stop to meet him and thank him for his acts of kindness.

Acts of Kindness

I met Jack, and learned that he cleans debris from the sidewalks until it becomes too dark to continue. He gathers the garbage discarded by those who don’t have the same appreciation for the beauty around them.

We all lead busy lives, but Jack takes it upon himself to restore his beautiful neighborhood. As I was speaking to Jack, another person stopped on his jog to thank him and acknowledged the fact that he has been out there many days and hours cleaning their streets.

Environmental Impact Pandemic
Jack has a “green heart” and spends time cleaning up his neighborhood.

I asked Jack, “Why do you do what you do?”

He replied by saying, “I guess the way I see it is that we all play a role in our communities, whether it’s large or small. I think we’re all blessed to live in
this country, and for those who have the ability to step up, we also have the responsibility to do what we can on behalf of our community and the people
we share it with.”

It’s evident that Jack appreciates the world that surrounds him.

Another comment that he made that resonates with me is, “I often think that if everyone picked up one piece of trash when they saw it, how much of an impact that would have in every city, town, and state!” Recently, I’ve heard that Jack has influenced others—there was a ripple effect in the younger generation because of his community service. The best compliment is those who follow suit without having to enlist their help.

Picking up Litter

In our family, we never make it home from a walk without pieces of litter to put in our recycling or trash bin.

As we all navigate the precautions for our own health, we also need to be cognizant of our environment. As the old video store Blockbuster used to promote: Be kind, rewind. Let’s consider repurposing that slogan to save the environment: Be Kind, Reduce-Reuse-Recycle!

We need this slogan to remind those neglectfully dumping their one-time-use gloves and masks that are defacing Mother Earth. It’s very simple—take your garbage home with you or find a waste bin. We can all create a ripple effect by teaching the next generation that keeping the streets, beach, or any public place clean is the same as keeping their room clean!

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Ivy Ciolli is a native of Arizona born with the innate desire to protect Mother Earth. She is a wife and proud mother of Cole and Brooklyn. Her days are filled with volunteering at her children’s school, and philanthropic work involving abused and neglected children and animals.

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