This change is easy to make, but very impactful. When recycling, make sure you rinse out jars and other recyclable food containers. The rinse does not have to be perfect, but anything with excessive food residue cannot be recycled. Dirty items also risk contaminating other recyclables, so one dirty item has the potential to ruin a recycling bin, forcing it all to go to the landfill. But, as I said, this is an easy fix, so there’s nothing to worry about!

     To clean your recyclables, you can put water in it and swish it around until the majority of the food residue is gone. If it is a sticky residue, such as honey or jam, I like to fill the container with water and let it soak for a bit. 

     That’s it! Rinsing your recyclables is such a simple change, but it is so impactful. By making it a habit, we can greatly increase the percentage of successfully recycled items.

by Mia Foster

batteries lot
Photo by mohamed Abdelgaffar on Pexels.com

(A bundle of multiple colored batteries)

Currently it is considered safe to throw away single-use batteries in all states except California. However, just because it is deemed safe enough by the government does not mean it is the best option. Today I will go over how to recycle different types of batteries and, if you are unable to recycle, how to properly prepare your batteries for the landfill. 

Recycling Alkaline/ Single-Use Batteries

Every single-use battery contains reusable materials, such as zinc, manganese, and steel (Earth911). As in any other form of recycling, by choosing to recycle our batteries we divert them from the landfill, create new products, and prevent excessive mining for new metals because the metals from the recycled materials fill the quota.     

To recycle single-use batteries, find a mail-in or drop off recycling service near you. Call2Recycle is a wonderful resource, and Home Depot has partnered with them. If you live near a Home Depot, you can take your dead batteries to said location and they will recycle them for you. Earth911 also has an extremely helpful Recycling Locator that can help you find recycling facilities near you.

Recycling Rechargeable Batteries

It is required that we recycle reusable batteries when they are at the end of their life because they have toxic chemicals and heavy metals that are not safe for landfills (Home Depot). They are recognized by the EPA as hazardous waste and should be treated as such (Earth 911). These batteries can be recharged and reused hundreds of times but they will eventually die. When they do, follow the same process as with single-use battery recycling; the same facilities often handle both types of batteries. It is important to note that if you have a piece of technology with a rechargeable battery that dies, with the exception of cell phones, it is best to remove the battery from the device prior to recycling.

anonymous person showing recycle symbol on smartphone
Photo by ready made on Pexels.com

(a phone with a recycle sign, which is what you should do with your batteries if possible 😉 )

Throwing Away Single-Use Batteries

If you cannot recycle single-use batteries, you can dispose of them in the garbage (excluding Californians) if you take precautionary measures first. Dead batteries are not entirely dead and they are still a fire hazard. To prevent issues with disposal, tape over the ends of 9-volt batteries and place batteries in a plastic or cardboard box to avoid sparking.

Conclusion

Batteries are very common in our everyday lives and the proper disposal of them is an issue nearly no one understands. My family has jars of dead batteries sitting around waiting for the day when one of us knows what to do with them. I figure there’s no time like the present! Hopefully with this information on battery disposal we can rid ourselves of dead batteries together while being environmentally conscious.

by Mia Foster

Lightbulbs and batteries are such commonly used household items, they are considered essentials. By purchasing the correct light bulbs and batteries, we can decrease energy usage and the waste we send to landfills.

Light Bulbs

analysis blackboard board bubble
Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

A 60-watt incandescent light bulb is the traditional style but that does not mean it is the best; these bulbs are extremely inefficient and have a relatively short lifespan. The best option is an LED light, which uses 80% less energy and has a lifespan that is 25 times that of the incandescent bulb (Davis). While LEDs have a larger initial cost than incandescent bulbs, the savings in energy bills and the decreased need to continually replace bulbs make the swap more cost-effective over time. By switching your lights to LED, you can significantly decrease the environmental and monetary impact of your lighting. If you need more motivation, EnergyStar reports that: “If every American household replaced just one standard light bulb with a high-efficiency version, the United States would save about $600 million in annual energy costs and prevent 9 billion pounds of annual greenhouse gas emissions.” (Davis) The switch might feel small, but it makes a huge difference!

Batteries

close up photo of batteries
Photo by Hilary Halliwell on Pexels.com

Rechargeable batteries are a more complicated issue. Simply buying and using rechargeable batteries does not make them more sustainable; according to Yale Climate Connections, a battery must be recharged 50 times before its impact is significant (Grossman). This is due to different methods and metals used for production, the energy used to charge batteries, and the different processes of disposal. For this reason, it is suggested that we use rechargeable batteries for highly used items such as remotes, cameras, and electronic toys (Schildgen). These items need new batteries more often, meaning the batteries will be charged many times, making the switch environmentally beneficial. 

Conclusion

The appliances and products we purchase and use are fundamental to the sustainability of our lives. By making educated decisions about purchases we can decrease our individual economic impacts, therefore creating a larger cumulative decrease in energy use and product waste. Small items such as light bulbs and batteries are significant!

 

By Mia Foster

     There are many items that have become more ubiquitous, commonly used, or appreciated since the rise of COVID-19. These products are often the first to be swept off the shelves. In the mania of panic-shopping, which is another issue in and of itself, we often forget to think about the ecological impacts of these products and how to use them more sustainably. Good news for you, I’ve gathered some small tidbits on the products made infamous during quarantine and how to use and dispose of them properly!

Toilet Paper

     Hopefully we’ve all been using toilet paper our whole lives, but in the world of coronavirus, its value and cultural significance has skyrocketed.

     Recently, I realized that my family has a tendency to throw empty toilet paper tubes into the garbage. When I thought more about this, I asked myself; do we have to send these to the landfills? Are they recyclable or compostable? 

     According to Kathryn Kellogg, author of 101 Ways to go Zero Waste, toilet paper tubes (or cores or whatever you choose to call them) are recyclable, and some brands are even compostable. It is worth the extra effort to take the empty core to your recycling bin. If this is too much effort or you feel you will forget, you can put a small recycle bin in your bathroom. If you are feeling crafty, toilet paper tubes have also been the inspiration for many craft and organizing projects on Pinterest.

Masks

     During COVID-19 and after, masks are likely to become much more commonly worn than before. Instead of purchasing single-use masks, consider taking the time to make your own reusable cloth masks. To make this upgrade from single-use to reusable even more eco-friendly, consider making the masks out of old clothes that can’t be worn, curtains, or other sources of fabric that would otherwise be thrown away. The CDC has created guidelines for how to make your own masks, with both sewing and non-sewing options. Here is the link to their tutorials:

Soap

     Fun fact: liquid soaps have a 25% higher carbon footprint than bar soaps (Cleancult). A simple way to stay clean and sustainable is to opt for bar soap in your home. If you really want to stick to liquid soap, consider buying refillable soap. The companies will sell refill jugs and you can refill your own dispenser, lessening the amount of plastic packaging you consume and the cost of soap (buying bulk refills is often cheaper than buying the equivalent in individual dispensers). 

     

To conclude, while it might be easy to overlook sustainability during this global health crisis, it is incredibly important that we continue to do what we can to live more sustainable lifestyles. While these changes I’ve mentioned are small, many small changes add up. By being intentional about our consumption and disposal of products, we are personally taking steps towards a more sustainable world.

By Mia Foster

     Teenagers are often characterized as apathetic and self-interested, and this generalization has been amplified during the COVID-19 pandemic. TikTok videos of teens licking toilets or making racist jokes about the virus took the internet by storm, as well as infuriating reports of irresponsible teens treating school closures as an opportunity to spend time with friends despite social distancing and stay-at-home orders. These events spark anger, as they should, but the overwhelming response to the selfish actions of a minority of teenagers overshadows the selfless dedication of many teens to be a part of the solution to the pandemic. 

  A prime example of selfless acts by teenage activists is Washington Youth for Masks, a fundraiser founded by four young women attending Issaquah High School. This nonprofit, grassroots initiative began in Issaquah, a suburb outside of Seattle that has been hit particularly hard by the virus. The founders, Angelina Chin, Claire Kang, Faith Lee, and Isha Rudramurthy, saw the initial impacts of COVID-19 through their extended family in China, Korea, and India and felt personally compelled to take immediate action. The mission of the initiative they created is to raise $25,000 to order 50,000 masks for 4 hospitals in Washington State, all while promoting youth advocacy and involvement in the fight against COVID-19. In a time of heightened anxiety and distrust, Washington Youth for Masks is an agent of unification for passionate teens as well as a reminder of the undying determination of the next generation to take action to make the changes they desire to see.

What is Washington Youth for Masks?

Washington Youth for Masks is a nonprofit started by and run by teens who are working diligently to provide masks for healthcare workers faced with an alarming shortage of Personal Protection Equipment (PPE). A MultiCare hospital nurse in Tacoma “said an ICU nurse will often go through 36 masks in a 12-hour shift and is now being asked to use a single one through the same span of time” (Crowe). Without the essential PPE to follow typical sanitation procedures, healthcare workers on the front lines are at a direct risk of contracting COVID-19. This creates both technical and ethical problems. If healthcare workers get sick, there would be no one to care for them or the other patients. Most importantly, healthcare providers are sacrificing their time and safety. The least we can do to thank them is provide them with protection. 

Masks being distributed

     On April 1st, Governor Inslee announced that “we rather urgently need to increase the stocks of personal protective equipment” (KING 5 Staff). This is the exact goal of Washington Youth for Masks. Donations are used to purchase FDA-approved masks through the Well Klein factory in China. As explained by the founders of WA Youth for masks, “international business export of masks is very difficult and unsteady, but China does allow shipping via FedEx or DHL in small packages to any US residential address for personal or small donation usage,” which is why independent organizations are necessary to procure PPE. Additionally, this initiative allows for the timely delivery of PPE, avoiding the often excruciating wait for a government response when there is no time to waste. The first shipment of 10,000 masks was sent out on April 1st, and will be delivered to Harborview Medical Center, UW Medical Center, EvergreenHealth Medical Center, and Swedish Hospital in Issaquah. This organization was founded on March 28th, 2020, and by midday April 1st, it raised around $8,600 and had over 170 members from across Washington, with no sign of it slowing down. 

Accountability

Donating any sum of money to a nonprofit means putting your trust in the good will and organization of its members. When I first found the GoFundMe for WA Youth for Masks, like all others interested in donating, I wanted to ensure that the money I gave would go to use. The founders, also known as board members, anticipated this desire for information and have included proof of FDA certification, receipts from orders, and pictures of the delivered masks on the GoFundMe, Facebook, Instagram, and website as a way for those who donate to ensure their money is put to use. The connection with factories in China was secured by Board Member Angelina Chin, who had connections with them previously through the Issaquah Highlands Chinese Heritage Club. After becoming a team member, I have become even more sure of the dedication and genuine intentions of the teens in the project. They are working around the clock to cover all bases, from the technicalities of ordering masks to the recruitment of new members to email updates to members with essential information. I received one of my first informational emails at 1:30 am, which is a small testament to the tireless board members who are putting all of their time and energy into this initiative. 

FDA Certification for MG Surgical Masks

Q&A With Founder/Board Member Angelina Chin

Mia: How was the concept for this initiative conceived? 

Angelina: Ever since school closed, I’ve been working alongside my mom and the Issaquah Highlands Chinese Heritage Club (which I have been part of since I was like 9 because my mom founded it) to secure and deliver masks from China. The club coordinated the donation of 1000 surgical masks, 1080 N95 masks, 50 coveralls & 200 goggles to Swedish Hospital’s Issaquah campus on March 19. The majority of this was coordinated by adults in the community, but it inspired me to get a group of young people together to show that the youth can make a difference too. I’ve also been privileged enough to sit around in my room binge-watching Netflix shows and scrolling through TikTok the entire day while our front line healthcare workers were struggling and were in desperate need of PPE. So instead of lounging around and doing nothing, I wanted to use my loads of free time to give back to those people in any way I could (very cheesy but true), and I knew many other people wanted to as well. 

Mia: What sets WA Youth for Masks apart from other nonprofits?

Angelina: While I’ve seen many nonprofit organizations and fundraisers raise money to supply masks, I’ve never seen a completely youth-led effort in Washington. With the power of social media among other things, it’s surprising to see the impact our generation can have if we all work together and commit to a cause. And so far it’s working! In just 4 days, we’ve expanded to over 140 representatives from all over Washington and we expect to see a lot more people joining the effort. Each member is sharing the campaign with their family and friends, making the number of donations grow day by day. 

Mia: Why is it necessary for individual citizens to fund and procure masks instead of relying on local and federal governments?

Angelina: Due to supply chain limitations and the global scale of the virus, Washington hospitals are currently experiencing extreme shortages and very slow processing times for equipment sourcing. Also, according to many news sources,  many hospital workers have gotten in trouble for speaking out about the shortage of PPE. It is up to public initiative now – our campaign can get masks to hospital workers faster than local and federal governments can.

Mia: And lastly, why is this project important to you?

Angelina: I’m extremely passionate about giving back to the community and have great respect and admiration for health professionals who are sacrificing their well-being to help others. With my extended family living in China, I have a deep understanding of the concerns and fears that our community is going through right now – and the frustration surrounding the lack of PPE for health care workers. I am fortunate enough to have connections with large medical supply manufacturing companies and instead of doing nothing about it, I want to use the resources I have to help with whatever is needed. We are all in this together (again cheesy but true).

Conclusion

Washington Youth for Masks is a one-of-a-kind initiative that is spreading awareness to other teens, uniting them under a common purpose, and empowering the next generation to take action in the face of uncertainty. It is a direct means of supplying hospitals with the masks it desperately needs. Most importantly, it is a community created by the commonality of those who care deeply about this situation and want to be able to do something about it.

Get Involved

There are many ways to get involved:

  1. Make a donation to this GoFundMe directly. $5=10 masks!
  1. Become a team member/representative! This is only open to youth, as this is a youth-run operation. Responsibilities include fundraising, recruiting 1 new team member, and applying your passion and creativity to forming your own type of fundraiser or marketing format as you see fit. To become a team member, fill out this form.
  2. Whether or not you are able to be a representative/team member, we would still love your help spreading the word. Share the project with family, friends, and colleagues. Each donation has a major impact!
  3. Utilize your talents to fundraise. Some team members have been making and selling friendship bracelets. My project was this article!
  4. Educate for a cause. We have partnered with TeamUnited, an organization that offers tutoring services. They have requested donations to Washington Youth for Masks in exchange for tutoring sessions. Offer your time as a tutor or utilize their services for tutoring to support Washington Youth for Masks while promoting educational continuity during school closures. Facebook and email address below!

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/T.E.A.M.Uniteds/ 

Email: teamunitedihs@gmail.com 

GoFundMe: https://www.gofundme.com/f/washington-youth-for-masks-covid19-support-fund 

Website: https://wayouthformasks.wixsite.com/website 

Facebook page

Instagram: @wayouthformasks