Green Junction: “Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself.” By Julie Peller Ph.D.

In wearing face masks, practicing physical distancing, getting vaccinated, and following other public health measures, we live God’s commandment, “Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself.” Moreover, when we respect, value, and show gratitude for the gifts of others, their expertise, the services they provide, especially during difficult times, we live according to this law of love. Throughout this pandemic, many have given the ultimate gift of their lives in serving others. Indeed, we all have a role in conquering the pandemic, which is far from over. The more we follow the commandment of love, the fewer the number of people who suffer and perish.

In following public health protocol to reduce the spread of the virus, most people choose to wear a reusable or disposable face covering. Unfortunately, most choose the accessible, inexpensive throwaway item, which is similar to single-use plastic bags and plastic water bottles. A recent study indicates that approximately 90% of purchased masks are single-use; most of them consist of non-biodegradable plastic layers. The choice of disposable face masks adds to the world’s plastic waste problem. In the UK, an estimated 53 million of these masks are added to landfills every day.  The improper disposal of just 1% of face masks translates to more than 10 million items. Additionally, the manufacture of disposable face masks requires earthly resources, and their transportation is considerable since the vast majority of the single-use masks are made in China. Most of the masks are distributed in plastic packaging, which adds to the waste.

The much better choice is a reusable cotton face mask, which can be washed and worn many times. Lots of local people with sewing skills have created reusable face masks. Purchasing these helps one another, doesn’t deplete as many natural resources, reduces waste, and does not require transport overseas. Also, it is healthier to cover your nose and mouth with cotton, a natural material. We all play a role in reducing the spread of the infectious virus by wearing masks, getting vaccinated, and practicing other public health measures. In turn, we show care for one another and then extend this care to the earth, our typical home, when we choose reusable masks. 

Julie Peller Ph.D. is an environmental chemist (Professor of Chemistry at Valparaiso University ) and she leads the Environmental Ministry at Nativity of Our Savior in Portage IN. Julie has been writing a weekly column for church bulletins for the past ~6 years called the Green Junction and is helping to move the call of Laudato Si to action forward. Her Research Interests are in Advanced oxidation for aqueous solutions, water quality analyses, emerging contaminants, air quality analyses, Lake Michigan shoreline challenges (Cladophora, water, and sediment contaminants), student and citizen participation in environmental work.

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