How do you feel about periods? What about saving the environment? Have you ever thought about menstrual byproducts and how they contribute to environmental degradation?
Personally, I did not have a positive relationship with periods growing up, but I did want to help take care of the environment. Interestingly, I had not made the connection between menstruation and the environment until very recently.
Would you believe me if I told you that approximately 11,000 pads and or tampons per woman are thrown away to landfills throughout her lifetime? This amounts to roughly 300 pounds of trash which is accumulated including pads, tampons and applicators.
Menstruation is something that is not frequently discussed in general, and certainly not enough as a cause of this amount of trash and environmental degradation. However, this is a major aspect which impacts each of our lives- as human animals living on planet Earth, we experience the impact of increased trash to our ecosystem. Harm to the habitats of nonhuman animals and surrounding biodiversity as well as those in more impoverished areas is the crux of this issue. Pads and tampons with their high absorbency materials, can clog drains and disrupt marine habitats. Regardless if you menstruate or not, this is an issue which concerns us.
This brings me to my next question: do you know about the different options that are available to manage one’s menstrual cycle?
Aside from the more conventional methods like disposable tampons and pads, there are other options which are much more eco-friendly include reusable pads, disposable menstrual cups, and reusable menstrual cups. One option that I have used for about two years now, is the menstrual cup. [insert picture and some music of the menstrual cup picture] I personally use the cup and have experienced many benefits. It is much more convenient, you save money, it is safer and you are not throwing anything away.
First, it is convenient as it lasts between 10-12 hours without leakage. This means that it may only need to be cleaned out twice a day: once in the morning and another right before going to sleep. I could finally sleep easy without the fear of needing to run to the bathroom to change out a pad or tampon.
To talk about economic benefits- the upfront cost is around $30-$40 for a good quality brand such as the DivaCup, which is the one that I use. There are cheaper ones which cost about $8, but I’m not sure of their quality.
Even these relatively expensive brands pay themselves off within a few cycles. An estimated $1,600 could be saved by making the switch to a menstrual cup from tampons, depending on the brand that you use.
Next, to address safety, I have learned that menstrual cups are notable. They are made of medical-grade silicone without the presence of chemicals such as dioxins which are found when bleaching cotton for tampons or pads.
This is serious as dioxins are carcinogenic, meaning they cause cancer. Granted, the level of exposure is thought to be rather low, however, each exposure has an impact of some chemical deposit which can accumulate over time and cause harm.
Looking for Totally Chlorine-Free (TCF) products in pads and tampons are one way to avoid this health hazard. Also, there is a lesser possibility for toxic shock syndrome with menstrual cups – keeping in mind the main factor is to keep it clean and to change it out within the recommended time frame.
Lastly, and very importantly, I see the environmental benefit of reusable menstrual hygiene products be it cups and or pads.
I find that reusable products can be a tool of empowerment to women all around the world, especially in impoverished areas with little education on or access to healthy menstrual hygiene management. This could be a chance to stand up for both the environment and take charge of one’s health.
This brings me to the work that my friends and I are doing this summer as the recipients of the 2018 Davis Projects for Peace at the University of Oklahoma. This award for our proposal gives us $10,000 to buy menstrual cups, the airfare for my boyfriend to travel to India, cover the salaries that we will supply to the volunteers in the NGO called Social Consultancy Services that we have contacted to educate women in villages as well as in students. I will be helping to make pamphlets which will include the directions on how to use and clean the menstrual cup.
I share this, not to force you to change, but to show what is possible and what is necessary if we want to help the environment and ourselves. We, as consumers, and educated individuals, can make a difference.
We do have the power to move forward- this is the only way to have hope for the future. Not to look back with regret, but to move forward with hope. We are a part of this intricate ecosystem and environment and it responds to our choices.
It all starts with a conversation. This is my challenge to you. So, maybe the next time you are talking to family or friends, and the topic of the environment comes up, bring up periods and reusable products. From here, education and awareness can begin.
Will you take me up on it?
Femme International. (2016). Retrieved from https://www.femmeinternational.org/
Lunette. Retrieved from https://www.lunette.com/blogs/news/menstrual-cups-and-toxic-
Projects for Peace. Retrieved from http://www.davisprojectsforpeace.org/about
Scantron, A. Women’s Voices for the Earth. (2017). Retrieved from https://www.womensvoices.org/2014/06/30/toxic-tampons/
Zavadski, K. (2016). Save the planet, ditch the tampon. The Daily Beast. Retrieved