The pandemic has made face masks an essential part of everyday life as we continue to keep safe from the coronavirus. The chances are we’ll be continuing to use them for quite a few more years whether mandatory or just precaution. So, it’s time to look at the environmental impacts of increased mask usage.
Face masks and environmental pollution
When the pandemic first started, everybody picked up disposable masks because it was known to be the best protection against the coronavirus. The realization of how much pollution and waste this would cost was not known at the time.
However, as it becomes evident that this virus is not going away any time soon, we need to look at the damage we are causing to the environment. During the Covid-19 pandemic, it is estimated that 129 billion face masks and 65 billion gloves are used monthly. We need to find a better solution to help the planet battle the demand for single use face masks.
What are eco-friendly face masks and why do you need them?
Eco-friendly face masks are the solution to reducing the use of disposable ones. While they might be convenient, disposable face masks aren’t recyclable and will end up as trash. Eco-friendly masks are responsibly sourced and meant to be reused to reduce the environmental impact.
Reusable face masks need to be washed often and preferably with hot water to keep bacteria from growing. These are more suitable for everyday citizens and not for those in the medical profession.
Let’s look at some options of eco-friendly masks and perhaps you could find one to suit your needs.
15 eco-friendly masks to check out
Malia designs sell masks that are ethically handcrafted in Cambodia using recycled materials. There are a variety of designs to choose from that come in packs of 3 or 5. They provide excellent contoured fit in assorted colours and also come in children’s sizes.
By purchasing masks from Malia designs you will be supporting a fair trade business that sustainably employs women in Cambodia. The organization also works with organizations to fight human trafficking and part of your purchase will go towards this fight.
For Days is a zero-waste brand that makes reusable masks from organic cotton jerseys. The masks are adjustable because they are pleated, have secure earloops, and include a filter. It comes in packs of 5 and can be returned to the company for credits when you’re ready to recycle them.
All products from For Days are 100% recyclable and will be reused for new fabric when returned to them. Packagings are also made with recycled and renewable materials. Throughout their supply chain, workers earn 20% more than minimum wage to maintain livable wages.
Outerknown’s recycled cotton masks are 2-ply cotton masks that come in assorted packs of 3. The pleated fabric is made from 100% cotton and has elastics for a secure comfortable fit. This mask is made from textile waste in factories and turned into fresh fiber.
The company operates on strict sustainability standards and is fair trade certified. They have also taken part in charitable campaigns to rid the ocean of plastics. Outerknown’s sustainability roadmap is impressive and they continue to be dedicated to growing as an eco-friendly brand.
Face masks from Avocado are made from non-toxic organic cotton that is suited for those that have asthma or allergies. The design of the face mask is breathable yet accommodates filters. It is made of two layers of cloth and comes with the option on tie straps which could make it more comfortable for wearers.
As a brand, Avocado strives to be carbon neutral and offsets more than 100% of the carbon emissions caused by all the sectors of its business. All the resources used throughout the business are sustainably sourced. They are also members of 1% For The Planet and contribute 1% of revenues to responsible non-profits.
The organic cotton face masks at Anchal are sustainably made from upcycled fabric scraps. It is a 2-layer one size fits most mask that has adjustable ties for a better fit. The fabric is embroidered in India and cut and sown in the US. The dense cotton weave provides protection and breathability
Anchal upcycles vintage cotton sari materials found in vintage markets in India. All their products are made using Kantha stitching that originates in West Bengal. Anchal is a non-profit that hires artisans in India and provides them with sustainable employment. You’ll also be able to donate to the work that they are doing in India.
Whimsy + Row
At Whimsy and Row, their washable masks are upcycled from deadstock textile. It is 100% cotton that becomes more comfortable with every wash. It fits snug around the face and comes with elastic hooks but it’s always good to check measurements out before purchase.
Whimsy and Row ethically source natural fibres with items that are produced locally and have limited runs. It is also a carbon-neutral company who prioritise reducing their carbon footprints and offset any emission that is remaining. As a company, they also support various different organizations including Black Lives Matter, One Tree Planted and Global Fund for Women.
Baukjen face masks are handmade in Portugal by family run factories.They make no profits off the masks and sold simply to help the community during this time of Covid. Each pack comes with 8 adult masks and 2 children masks that are assorted colours. Masks are made from upcycled materials, have flexible nose clips and elastic fastenings.
Baukjen uses 100% biodegradable packaging and uses at least 85% responsibly sourced materials with that number still growing. As a certified B corp, they are balancing profit and purpose while having transparency about how their clothes are made.
Life Without Plastic
The organic face mask from Life Without Plastic is made from two layers of 100% cotton woven together. It is plastic-free, zero waste, and environmentally friendly. By buying from a zero-waste store, even delivery would be plastic-free.
Life Without Plastics strives to help as many people as possible decrease the use of plastic. The company finds safe, ethically sourced materials to replace plastic for its products. They also support many communities such as Plastic Pollution Coalition, Environmental Defence, and Breast Cancer Fund.
Arraei makes sustainable face masks from extra unused materials as part of their zero waste project. It comes in a pack of 4 with assorted colours and multiple sizes. The mask has a 3-layer fabric design with strings that can be tied behind the head or made into ear loops.
Arraei are a sustainable brand that operate under the ‘Slow Fashion’. They use natural fibres in their products that are either GOTS or OEKO-TEX certified. Fabrics are biodegradable within 1-5 months so the waste is limited. They also use sustainable packaging with recycled paper and compostable plastic. The company has donated masks and supplies to the value of $37000 during this pandemic season.
Ecomask is made in Germany from post-consumer recyclable using 100% renewable energy. Their masks come with a 5-layer filtration system that has a 98% efficiency rating. This reusable mask comes in 5 different sizes so it gives you options to pick the best fit for you.
Proceeds from this purchase go towards saving marine lives through Healthy Seas. Ecomasks uses compostable carbon-negative packaging so you will also be reducing plastic packaging wastage. When you’re done with the mask, you can send it back to Ecomask and they will recycle it for you.
Synergy Organic Clothing
Made from deadstock materials, Synergy face masks come in random colours. It is a carbon-neutral product and 5% of the sale is donated to Feeding America. The mask is a one size option that is made from 3 layers of 100% cotton and has ear loops.
Synergy is a B Corp that prioritizes sustainability and fair trade. They also reduce textile waste by recycling used Synergy garments and offer customers a discount for doing so. Products are sourced and made in India and employ fair labour practices for its workers.
Baggu masks have exciting fun prints to brighten up your day and add as an accessory to your wardrobe. With 100% quilter cotton, its thick weaves will effectively block droplets while remaining breathable. It comes with adjustable ear loops and a nose wire to offer the best fit. It’s a great choice if you’re looking for something fun but effective!
Since 2007, Baggu has made sustainability part of its mission. With choosing recyclable and biodegradable materials, they are ensuring their packaging is not ending up in landfills. They’ve chosen to use vegan and recycled materials in their productions. Their products are ethically manufactured in China where livable wages and humane conditions are ensured.
The Made Trade mask is made from recycled hemp and cotton on the outside with a cotton interior. It is a two-layer mask that is designed with filter pockets and pleated for better coverage. There are two different sizes available for adults and one for kids. Made Trade employed Portland-based staff who were affected by the Covid-19 situation.
Made Trade is a diverse brand that promotes fair trade and sustainability. It is women-owned and celebrates diversity with people of color-owned brands. As a company, they are climate neutral and contribute to multiple conservation projects.
Hyer Goods make limited-run items from sustainable materials to reduce waste. You’ll have the option of cotton masks with adjustable strings to help get the best fit. They also have velvet masks for cooler temperatures. The buy one give one programme donates one mask to a worker in need for every mask you purchase.
Hyer Goods is also part of 1% For The People and donates 1% of net sales to charitable causes. All products are ethically manufactured at their female-owned, SEDEX compliant factory in India. All delivery packages are plastic-free and made from 100% recyclable materials.
We’ve seen many cotton masks but if you have a sensitive face, you may want to consider a silk mask from Ravella. The mask is made from 3 layers of pure Mulberry silk with soft-touch earloops. It also comes with a removable filter and adjusted nose strips. The best part is 10% of the proceeds will go to a cause of your choice.
Ravella sources for silk sustainably without harmful or toxic chemicals and are made in minimal waste facilities. The washable silk is 40% denser than average silk making it more durable and will last longer.
There are many different options for sustainable eco-friendly masks that would be able to suit your needs. Each of these companies is doing a great job minimizing their environmental impact, practicing fair trade, and caring for their workers. Take your pick for a mask that helps the environment and contributes to a cause you believe in.