Updated: May 15, 2020
Publication Date: April 22, 2020
As remote learning continues for Rider University and other colleges across the country, for some, it still remains difficult to grasp our current situation. For others, however, it is a moment of reflection on how human beings treat our planet, and what better day to reflect than Earth Day?
Fifty years ago, on April 22, 1970, roughly 10% of the U.S. population took to the streets to protest environmental ignorance and inaction. It was this day that had grown to become recognized by millions as one of the largest civic events in the world and has sparked hundreds of other movements, laws, and legislation. Although we may not be able to express our passion for this day out in the street or on the campus green, digital Earth Day events are sweeping the nation and coincidentally, large numbers of people are taking up sustainable hobbies and crafts. Some are even a necessity, such as the growing need for face coverings.
Face and surgical masks have become scarce. Most stores are now closed. What else can you do but make some yourself? Before the spread of coronavirus became severe, it was recommended by the U.S. Center for Disease Control and Prevention that individuals only wear face coverings if they are sick or caring for someone who is sick. However, those guidelines were modified to include anyone who must venture outside for whatever reason, especially if they were to be around larger groups of people.
Many individuals, like senior secondary education major Sean Hubert, have begun to understand the importance of being able to fashion your own, and coincidentally sustainable, face masks at home.
He elaborated on the process explaining that he “had some solid fabric at home, but actually had to go out and get some more as the demand rose.” What started as an idea to sew his own face coverings for his outings, grew into a mini business to benefit others. It does not need to be complex, either.
“I make my own pattern which I trace, cut out, pleat and sew. Now it doesn’t take much time to make them because I have it down to a system,” Hubert clarified when asked about his process. These homemade face coverings have been distributed and sold to members of his community, with the help of his mother, and all they need is some fabric and a sewing machine.
People are repurposing fabrics of all kinds, from small towels and t-shirts to old bandanas and scarves. Many of these items most likely would have wound up in the trash, due to the temporary closure of countless businesses that accept your old clothing. In an unexpected way, homeowners are learning one of the most critical components of sustainability: reusing what you already have.
Assistant Professor in the Department of Theater and Dance Robin Shane has also been making masks.
“I am someone who only feels ‘normal’ when I’m making things. As a costume designer, I’m often drawing or fitting or stitching costumes, and I also like to make quilts (when I have time.) With theater basically canceled and the need for masks to prevent the spread of COVID-19, I delved into my cotton fabric stash and have been making masks for friends and family. I have used up all of my fabric and elastic, but I have had friends donate bags of their own fabric stashes for me to use. I have run out of elastic, so I use hair ties (ones lying around and then I bought some). I am enjoying combining fun, bright fabrics for the fronts and the lining and trying to make something beautiful out of a horrible situation. Hopefully, it is helping! I don’t ask for money for them. I ask people to donate to The Actor’s Fund which is an organization that helps people in the Theatre Community. I’m creating, and I’m helping people… it’s a win-win,” Shane explained.
We have been faced with an unimaginable situation. Businesses closing down, some permanently, people forced to distance themselves from friends and family and classes now all online. However, while we seem to be mostly isolated from the outside world, parts of nature have begun to heal, as it seems our footprint on the world has been forced to shrink. We cannot ignore the monumental losses in biodiversity and rising temperatures, but we have been given a chance to step back and take note of the part we have played in these crises.
Junior environmental science major and chemistry minor Carissa Moore suggests that “now is the perfect time to recognize Earth Day since we can see it in a light we haven’t seen in decades. Celebrating it will hopefully sway people to be more aware of their actions in the future.”
Earth Day was created to draw attention to human impact on the environment. It was created 50 years ago out of the hope and determination of countless individuals to ignite change. If we channel that kind of drive, just imagine the incredible metamorphosis our planet could undergo.