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
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(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

Washington Youth for Masks is a nonprofit fundraiser that has aimed to raise $25,000 to purchase 50,000 masks for four hospitals in Washington. While many individual people and groups are raising money to provide healthcare professionals with personal protective equipment (PPE), this initiative is particularly special; it is entirely organized and executed by youth in Washington. 

     Since the initial article was written, funds have jumped from around $8,600 to over $17,500 thanks to the hard work of the board members and roughly 210 representatives. The first delivery of masks was made on April 23rd to University of Washington (UW) Medicine. The delivery included 24 boxes, equating to around 20,000 masks.

Pictures from the first delivery of masks

    In response to the donation, the CEO of UW Medicine, Paul Ramsey, wrote a personalized letter thanking Washington Youth for Masks, the group’s organizer Angelina Chin, and everyone involved in the donation. 

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Letter from CEO of UW Medicine, Paul Ramsey

     Along with the letter, Washington Youth for Masks received a heartwarming message of gratitude directly from a few healthcare heroes on the front lines. 

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A Thank You from Healthcare Workers

     This organization is directly aiding in the fight against COVID-19, and youth are the driving force behind it. For all those who have donated or volunteered so far, your engagement matters and has a tangible impact. Thank you.

For more information, refer to my initial article, “Washington Youth for Masks: Youth Uniting for Protective Equipment” or refer to one of the links below! Every donation counts: $5=10 masks!

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

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

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/WAYouthForMasks/

 

By Mia Foster

A rubber band on a glass to mark whose glass it is.

     The concept of a wine-marker is quite logical; as all glasses look the same, a person puts an attachment on their glass so they know which one is theirs when they put it down. I have taken to applying this principle to water glasses. In my family and many other families, all our water glasses look the same. This leads to an excessive number of glasses in the dishwasher since no one remembers which belonged to them, so they grab a new glass from the cabinet instead of continuing to use the same one. Some may also grab a random used glass, not knowing who drank from it previously, and use that. In a global pandemic, that is incredibly unsafe. By simply making your glass identifiable, you can reduce the number of dishes you have to wash and the spread of germs within your family. I guess you could say it’s killing two birds with one stone (my mom would say petting two bunnies with one hand because the other saying makes her sad). 

Marking your glass is extremely simple- grab a rubber band and place it around your glass. It is of no cost to you! I will use my glass for a week or so before washing it- you can choose how long you go, but since it’s just water, you can reuse it for at least a few days. This is a very simple way to reduce your dishwasher use, saving water, electricity, and time!

by Mia Foster

As of April 10th, 19 states have extended school closures through the end of the school year, and all 50 states have currently mandated school closures, but not all have been extended through the spring (Nagel). These closures are imperative to efforts to flatten the curve, but the impacts on students’ academic progress and emotional wellbeing must be addressed. As a senior in high school, I have experienced this loss quite acutely. I can only speak to my experience, so I intend to inform you on how the closure affects the typical American coming-of-age experiences, how to support high school seniors around you, and ways to best replicate these quintessential experiences at home. 

chairs-classroom-college-desks-289740

What is Lost

I remember watching High School Musical 3 on repeat as a kid, imagining my own prom dance and graduation. I knew it wouldn’t be exactly as it was portrayed in the movies, but I didn’t care; I just knew that a similar experience was waiting for me. Growing up in America, those experiences are universal and anticipated. I used to try on my mom’s prom dress. I was so little that the heavy, peach-colored fabric drowned me. I put on her too-large heels and she curled my hair. I was a princess. My mom looked at me through the mirror and smiled. I always assumed I would have a dress in my closet that my daughter could try on one day, dreaming of her prom and feeling like a princess. 

Maybe it was presumptuous, but I just assumed I would get ready with my friends, put on my own princess dress, and dance. I assumed I would experience Senior Assassins and the All-Night Grad Party, which are traditions at my school. I assumed I would walk across the stage to receive my diploma as I saw at my brother’s graduation two years prior. And, mainly, I assumed I would live these experiences with my friends at my side. The losses experienced by the senior class are not insignificant. I know that I am not alone in my loss because many others are experiencing extremely debilitating losses during the pandemic, such as the loss of a job or a loved one. However, through some reflection on this tendency of mine, I realized that comparing my loss to others did not help my emotional state or that of others suffering. Seniors, your loss is significant. You have every right to grieve; it wasn’t just a loss of these ceremonies, but also a loss of their symbolic significance in the journey to adulthood in America. It is OK to be upset.

How to Support Graduating Seniors

  • Listen. Even if you don’t understand why this is so upsetting for the high school senior you are talking to, recognize that they did experience a loss and often want an outlet to vent their grief. 
  • Remind them that you are proud of the accomplishments they have made in high school. Often, a graduation ceremony is a way of congratulating and celebrating the hard work of students. Without that, students may feel a lack of closure and genuine accomplishment. Kind words can make a huge difference.
  • Validate their experiences. I personally have felt guilty for feeling this loss, and many of my friends have expressed the same feeling. Giving the person space and permission to feel what they feel can be very liberating.

Coming-of-Age: Quarantine Edition

The events that have been canceled cannot be perfectly replicated, but I believe that we should do our best to have our own ceremonies and celebrations to help fill that hole and provide some closure. My school has scheduled a virtual commencement ceremony, and when my family told me they wanted to make a party out of it (with just our family), I started to cry. They plan to make my favorite foods and spend the evening together. This is a simple, powerful, and attainable way of celebrating graduation. It obviously isn’t the same, but by treating it as a unique event instead of dreading it because of how different it will be, it feels a bit better. Some schools or private organizations are also trying to plan prom dances for summertime, should large gatherings be permitted. Another idea is to make graduation parties prom-themed, assuming that smaller gatherings are permitted before the fall. I can’t speak for everyone here, but I was mainly sad about not getting my own prom dress and the experience of getting ready with my friends. This option fulfills that desire!

Graduation, prom, and other senior-year events are part of the quintessential high school experience in America. While we cannot fix the loss entirely, by respecting the emotions of graduating seniors and doing what we can to replicate these experiences, we can hopefully provide some of the closure and encouragement most of us yearn for. 

accomplishment-ceremony-education-graduation-267885

Works Cited

Nagel, David. “Updated List of Statewide School Closures with Closure Dates.” THE Journal, 10 Apr. 2020, thejournal.com/articles/2020/03/17/list-of-states-shutting-down-all-their-schools-grows-to-36.aspx?m=1.

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