Let's Talk About Periods
Bloody periods, eh? Whilst menstruation is a natural cycle in a woman's life, bleached plastic sanitary products aren't so natural. Today I want to talk to you about the alternative products to tampons and towels which are better for your health, the environment and your budget. Gents, if you've stumbled upon this post, you're welcome here too! Women getting periods isn't a secret, and it's also not something you're isolated from - all of us are around because of it, and perhaps you have a wife, sister or daughter who could benefit from you understanding the effects of the commercial products out there. Finally, there are cultures around the world today where shame surrounds menstruation and causes girls to drop out of schools (or worse), so let's break free from the attitude of embarrassment surrounding periods.
Women in the UK use an average of over 11,000 disposable products in their lifetime each. This amass of pads, pantyliners and tampons results in 200,000 tonnes of waste per year. This waste (which is mostly plastic - one pack of sanitary pads contains the equivalent of four plastic shopping bags) makes its way into landfill, seas and rivers. A 2010 beach clean in the UK found that every kilometre of coastline had an average of 23 sanitary pads and 9 tampon applicators. Not exactly the discreet ending we were hoping for to our cycle? The truth is that our culture teaches us to assume that disposable sanitary products are the norm when in reality they're harmful to our health and more. Conventional disposable menstrual products (i.e. not 100% cotton) are bleached white with chlorine and have added synthetic materials (including fragrances) which can be harmful to our bodies giving risk of Toxic Shock Syndrome (TSS). Disposed products also produce methane and harmful gases when they rot.
Introducing: reusable sanitary items. There are lots of innovative products out there made by companies dedicated to sustainable habits. One of my favourite purchases is the menstrual cup (pictured above). It's a bell-shaped silicon cup that offers a comfortable, safe, odourless and eco-friendly period for up to 12 hours. A lot of my friends use these and I'd say it takes a couple of cycles to get used to, but I would never go back. I find it more dignified, more manageable and way cheaper than tampons. Ruby Cup sell these silicon cups and donate 'one for one' to a girl or woman who has no access to menstrual products - I'd recommend buying from them! Moon Cup are an alternative UK brand, with Diva Cup and Lunette as the leading US brands. Other reusable items out there are period-proof underwear by SheThinx and washable sanitary towels (i.e. by GladRags). You can even sew your own reusable pads if you're feeling ambitious.
Sustainable living is the ability to perpetuate a habit endlessly without it becoming detrimental to ourselves or the planet. Periods are a natural part of a woman's monthly life so it doesn't make sense to rely on disposable products which need to be replaced perpetually. Especially when these sanitary products are dominated by a market selling items which contain synthetic chemicals and are built from plastic (which can't decompose). Reusable sanitary products made by conscious companies are the most sustainable innovations out there to make periods less of a bloody hassle.
• Remember, these reusable menstrual products are more expensive to initially buy than their disposable counterfeits but in the long-run they will save you money.
• Google 'reusable sanitary products' to see what options are out there in your country.
• If transitioning to reusable products seems like a leap too far right now, try exclusively using organic cotton items (which are biodegradable). Natracare are a great environmentally-friendly brand to use.
• Finally, be willing to talk about these things and break out of the cultural taboos that exist around this subject.