COVID-19 has left small businesses/local shops struggling to remain in business while front line workers are in need of essential items such as face coverings. However, disposable masks have created a new environmental issue and we should be looking for more sustainable solutions. While surgical masks keep out bacteria, they are a plastic-based, one-time use item that has a long afterlife after they are discarded (possibly ending up in landfills and oceans).

Additionally, many small businesses impacted by COVID-19 have been struggling to stay open and some (i.e. NYC) have started making reusable cloth masks to sell to the public. Our solution aims to address these concerns on both the front-line worker and small business sides by enabling small businesses to contribute towards limiting the negative environmental impacts of disposable masks while providing an essential commodity for healthcare workers in the form of a sustainable, locally made reusable mask. By making reusable masks the norm, we can contribute to saving the environment one mask at a time!

What it does

Earth Masks connects front line workers with small businesses/ local shops! Front line workers are able to purchase reusable masks from local shops that are closest to them. The application integrates a chat feature to ensure personable and effective communication takes place between both parties. Earth Masks puts the environmental impact of disposable masks at the forefront of the solution, by relying on the distribution of reusable masks. The mobile app is gear towards two communities which are being heavily addressed when discussing COVID-19, and with more time and users Earth Masks can develop into an app that pairs as many front line workers with local shops as possible.

How we built it

Android Studio: created the basic program features of the application written in Java and connected the backend of the application with the Yelp API to determine the local shops based on zip code. Yelp API: integrated on the backend to provide the location of local shops based on zip code. Figma: built out the UI and designed the application and its many features such as, communication through the app and determining the closest local shops.

Challenges we ran into

We weren’t able to integrate the Yelp API into our app, which is why we created the Figma prototype to show what Earth Masks can do! Finding a mentor well suited to Android Studio was difficult, but we consulted Stack Overflow and Medium articles to help us out!

Accomplishments that we’re proud of

It was our first time at a hackathon and we were able to collaborate like no other, and we learned how to use APIs! We also built on our skills in Android Studio and Figma! We were all collaborating on multiple aspects of the project, and were able to communicate ideas and suggestions effectively!

What we learned

There are so many resources online that can help put together pieces of code! And, many people bring different skills to a team, which allows for all skills to be extremely beneficial!

What’s next for Earth Masks

Building out the app by integrating both the Yelp and Typeform APIs, by integrating the Yelp API Earth Masks could easily suggest local businesses near a front line worker, and by integrating the Typeform API Earth Masks could allow local businesses which are not on Yelp to be listed as users of the app. Earth Masks also plans to integrate sustainability-driven messages throughout the app and make an effort to promote the use of reusable masks when possible!

Video Demo

Prototype Demo Android Demo

Tags: Best Beginner Hack Best Sustainability Hack

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