The best sustainable face masks

From using stuff you’ve already got, to masks that raise money for charity, here are my favourite face coverings

As of today, wearing face coverings in shops in England is mandatory. And about time, I say! I don’t know why it has taken our inept Prime Minister so long to implement this simple but apparently very effective measure for fighting coronavirus, but I am feeling very relieved about it.

I’m fairly certain my husband and I had COVID at the beginning of March, before lockdown. We had relatively minor symptoms, including losing our sense of smell which was really, really weird, and as a result locked ourselves down a week before everyone else. Testing wasn’t available then, so we can’t be 100% certain we’ve had it, but we’ve been wearing face coverings in shops ever since as a precaution.

At first it was just a scarf over my face, then I tried (unsuccessfully) to make one out of an old sock, and finally I bought some decent reusable ones. But I’ve always been disheartened that I’m usually the only person wearing a face mask in the shops I go in. I understand that a small minority of people are unable to wear masks for medical reasons, but I’m hopeful that from today I’ll no longer be stared at as the weird odd-one-out when all I’m trying to do is protect other people. Because let’s face it, most people are capable of covering their faces for a few minutes while they’re in a shop. It’s just a matter of respect for others, as far as I’m concerned.

Anyway, I thought it was about time I did a guide on how to abide by the face coverings rule while still being sustainable. I’m obviously not an advocate of disposable face masks (the new litter! I see almost as many on the pavements as discarded MacDonald’s rubbish), so here is a guide to some of the best that have the least impact on the environment and actually look rather nice to boot.

The one that does a good deed: #TOGETHER MASK

Full disclosure: this is the company I work for. But they haven’t asked me to write about them and I wanted to tell you about these ones because this is the best fitting mask I have tried so far. I have my grandmother to thank for my classic Greek nose, which doesn’t always fit comfortably into other mask designs!

cotton face mask

#TOGETHER MASK reusable organic cotton face masks, £12 each, and #TOGETHER single use filters, £3 for a pack of 5, togetherband.org

But there are loads of other great things to say about this mask, which is available in black or beige. It’s made from organic cotton. You can buy optional disposable filters for a bit of added protection (remember, the main purpose of a face covering is to protect others if you are unknowingly carrying the virus). And best of all, for every mask sold, #TOGETHERBAND will donate a medical-grade face shield to Médecins San Frontières so that they can continue their vital work fighting COVID all over the world. #TOGETHERBAND has already committed to donating 30 thousand of these shields thanks to its fundraising efforts since the beginning of the pandemic.

The fancy recycled one: Deakin & Blue

One of my only purchases this year has been a new bikini – now that I live on the Isle of Wight I need decent swimwear for swimming in the sea and my ancient too-small two-piece just wasn’t cutting it. I got a lovely yellow one in the sale from Deakin & Blue which is made from ECONYL – a lycra-like fabric constructed from recycled plastic items including fishing nets.

IMG_4276

Reversible Liberty print ECONYL face masks, £12 each, deakinandblue.com

To say thank you (I shared the bikini on Instagram without my body in it!), the lovely people at Deakin and Blue sent me this Liberty print mask, also made from ECONYL. It’s lovely a silky, so really nice to wear, and obviously a Liberty print is always something to be happy about! They’re also reversible, with a handy plain black option as the other side.

The one made from remnant fabric: Baukjen

I bought a pack of these masks early on into lockdown and I really love the ethos, as well as the design! Early to the party, Baukjen has actually expanded its face masks range massively since I bought mine. You have the option of non-profit masks that can be bought in bulk from packs of 10 for £25, and these are the ones made from off-cuts so you don’t get a choice of colour or print, but that’s not a problem because everything Baukjen makes is lovely (this is what I am wearing). It’s also using fabric that would otherwise have been thrown away.

IMG_4279

Baukjen non-profit remnant face masks, £25 for 10 (baukjen.com)

Due to customer demand, the brand has also introduced premium masks made from organic cotton. These are more expensive and you get to choose the colour and design – there are some lovely signature prints that Baukjen is well known for. These are £12 each or £10 for the smaller child size.

The one you’ve already got: a scarf

Your face covering doesn’t have to be a mask; anything that covers your nose and mouth is accepted. When many of us are facing an uncertain future as far as our job security is concerned, it’s good to know that you don’t have fork out any money in order to stay within the rules. And when the fashion pages of newspapers are reporting on how the bandana is the celebrity face covering of choice, it’s also the most fashion option! Win win.

IMG_4277

TIP: I tie the top half of my hair up before putting it on as it helps it stay put.

Go for a cotton scarf if you can (it’s one of the better fabrics to use but is also breathable) and you want a double layer, so fold into a triangle and wear like a bandana across your face. Scarves aren’t as effective as masks though because they don’t fit as tightly, and remember, none of the options I’m including here are medical-grade, and should only be used for short periods of time in shops or on public transport. Be sure to wash your masks and coverings between uses, and ideally keep them in an airtight plastic bag if you are taking them off and re-using them while you are out (I like those zip-lock reusable freezer bags). And always wash your hands before putting on or taking off your face covering.

This is just a round-up of masks I have tried personally, but if you have any other sustainable suggestions please do list them below as I’d like to hear about more! Stay safe, everyone.