One for the ladies*
* or people who have periods, however you identify.
This post is about periods. And about how to avoid generating a huge amount of waste when you have your period. Even if you don't personally have periods, read on! Maybe you can pass on some information to someone who does...if you're brave enough to talk about menstruation, that is.
Periods are not always talked about very publicly. In most cultures, menstruation is considered shameful and dirty. The reasons for this are too complex to go into here but, if you're interested, you can read more in this fantastic article.
I think it's important we work actively to reduce menstrual stigma and to talk openly about our periods. For lots of reasons. Having a period is nothing to be ashamed of. Around half of us have, had, or will have them at some point. They are a sign of the amazing, magical power of the female body to create life. And while periods are sometimes uncomfortable, they are also linked to positive symptoms such as increases in creativity, emotional connection or vivid dreaming, according to an article by Clue.
If you're still reading, let's talk about one aspect of periods that we can rightly be ashamed of. The HUGE amount of waste we create when we use disposable menstrual products!
Our unwillingness to talk about out periods, and society's insistence that menstruation is dirty, have helped the disposable menstrual product industry to thrive, despite the fact that there are cheaper, more convenient and much more environmentally friendly options out there.
Check out Intimina's menstrual waste calculator to see how much waste you personally generate. If you don't like the numbers, take a look at the three reusable options below and see if any of them could work for you. If you have questions, feel free to ask them in the comments or to send me a message. And I'll try my best to answer frankly.
My personal favourite reusable product, a menstrual cup is exactly what it sounds like. A tiny cup made from medical grade silicone and inserted into the vagina like a tampon. It collects blood and you empty and rinse it once every 12 hours before reusing it. (NOTE: That means you can forget about it all day long.) It is super environmentally friendly since one cup can last up to ten years and it creates no other waste. It's also very kind to your wallet. I use an organicup, which cost me around £10 when I bought it. That's just £1 a year! Compare that with how much you spend on tampons, pads and liners every month.
The only real disadvantage of a menstrual cup is that it take a little while to get used to getting it in right. There are different brands and different sizes so you might have to try more than one before you get your perfect fit.
Period underwear, such as THINX, looks and feels like regular underwear but is specially designed to hold up to two tampons worth of liquid (10ml) while feeling dry. A major plus for the environment is that period underwear is reusable and generates very little waste. Using period underwear may also save us from wasting in other ways. Each of us throws away 5 or more pairs of underwear ruined by leaks, every year, according to THINX. A small environmental minus is that you will probably be doing a little more laundry than you would otherwise do. The only reason I haven't bought any THINX yet is the price. (Oh, and my non-consumption pledge!) They are definitely an investment but I have gotten only good reports from people who have tried them.
A practical disadvantage of period underwear is that it needs to be washed in cold water without fabric softener, to protect the absorbent stuff. That means you might need to run a separate load of laundry for them. But the people at THINX suggest that we should be washing all our lingerie like this, in any case.
REUSABLE LINERS & PADS
These are made from cloth that you simply wash and reuse. Imsevimse has a variety of different shapes and sizes and has both Swedish and British websites. If you're very handy, you could be even more environmentally friendly by making your own from old fabric. Just make sure you use a natural fibre to minimise the chance of skin irritation.
I haven't tried cloth pads yet but I am reliably informed that the laundry can be a bit overwhelming until you get used to it. A tip from instagrammer @a.simplified.life is to soak them in water and vinegar when they are dirty and then wash them with your regular laundry.
Any one of these reusable options will considerably reduce the amount of waste you generate when you have your period and the amount of resources you consume. But, if you don't feel ready to make the change to reusable menstrual products yet, at least consider switching to organic products that come in recyclable paper or cardboard packaging. Small steps are better than no steps at all.
But even if you don't change your menstrual products at all after reading this, I hope you feel inspired to talk about periods. Ask your friends what kind of menstrual products they use and how they find them. Don't be afraid to suggest reusables, if you find they work for you. After all, knowledge is power!
- Druet, A. 2017. How did menstruation become taboo? A look at the historical roots and theories behind menstrual stigma. Clue, Culture section. https://helloclue.com/articles/culture/how-did-menstruation-become-taboo.
- Spinks, R. 2015. Disposable tampons aren't sustainable, but do women want to talk about it? Guardian, Sustainable business section.https://www.theguardian.com/sustainable-business/2015/apr/27/disposable-tampons-arent-sustainable-but-do-women-want-to-talk-about-it