SUSTAINABLE PERIOD WOES
The internet is full of ways to have a sustainable period, from moon cups to eco friendly tampons to youtube tutorials and troubleshooting videos (for when that sustainable mooncup inevitably gets stuck) and it’s fantastic that our sustainable efforts have reached as far as our monthly cycles and our swimwear, and that we’re starting to think outside the bounds of a reusable coffee cup and water bottle.
I suppose the ultimate in sustainable periods has got to be the menstrual cup. Buy it once and use it for a life-time, sounds pretty perfect really. I actually had one bought for me by my Mother Earth loving Mother when I was about 16. I gave it my best shot at the time but to be honest it was completely terrifying for a new-to-puberty shy teenager who was not yet sexually active and hadn’t engaged in any sort of dialogue with her femininity. My jaunt into to world of plastic free periods was over pretty swiftly and I reverted back to my trusty Always pads.
Fast forward 12 years and I was ready to have another go. I graduated pretty quickly from the keep cup and water bottle to the plastic-free period when I found out that one sanitary pad can contain the same amount of plastic as 4 plastic bags, and take as long as 500 years to break down. Not only that, 1.4 million tampons, applicators and even pads are flushed down the loo every day in the UK and often end up endangering wildlife in our rivers and oceans. From a more personal point of view, it’s much better to avoid plastic coming into contact with your intimate parts as plastic based products are so long lasting, absorbent and durable that users end up wearing them far too long and irritating intimate skin. Non organic tampons are also bleached and treated with harmful chemicals too - which we then insert straight into our vagina! Not for me, thanks.
The evidence was pretty compelling; it was certainly time to make my period plastic free. I really felt like a menstrual cup would work for me, not only am I totally happy with the idea of having to ‘get my hands dirty’ so to speak (this turned out to be a very real phenomena), but I was also super excited to stop spending a small fortune each month on pads and tampons (the average woman spends about £4,800 in her lifetime on sanitary products), whilst saving the planet at the same time. Bring it on!
Well I think you can tell where this article is going now, I’ve been building up the comedic suspense (I hope) since paragraph 1, and yes, you’ve guessed it - me and the moon cup just can’t be friends. I tried, believe me I tried really, really hard. I even bought several different varieties and shapes of menstrual cup, including the lily cup that’s shaped more like a diaphragm and allows you to have sex whilst using it. I mean, this was most certainly not my intention given that I couldn’t get any of the damn things to stay in, I just thought the different shape might fit my clearly defective vagina a bit better. Well I was wrong, and now I’m stuck with three menstrual cups that I can’t use, and definitely can’t give to a charity shop like I might an unwanted pair of jeans. Sadly, it’s landfill for the cups - not very sustainable at all.
The first thing I want to say is that if, like me, you’ve tried your best with a menstrual cup but due to factors out of your control (in my case an inverted cervix), you simply can’t make it work, then please do not feel guilty. The last thing we need is yet more women feeling like their periods are an embarrassment, or that because they can’t use a moon cup they are bad environmentalists. This is simply not the case. For a while afterwards I have to admit, I was pretty annoyed at the situation but it has just spurred me on to find a solution that works for me.
I really thought I’d found it when I discovered THINX period pants! And let me just say that they are actually amazing, and I am totally in love with them. It’s just that I have a pretty heavy flow (bit graphic, soz), and I can’t get by with just one pair a day. So you’re at the office having a full-on shocker of a day and you’ve got to go and change your sodden knickers, perhaps roll them up into a little plastic bag and put a fresh pair on? I wasn’t quite sold on that. Count yourself lucky if you can get by with just one pair though!
Were they do come into their own, however, is night time, when you might not need as much protection. If you’re a tampon user that uses tampons overnight then don’t, swap to these instead and give your body a break from foreign invasion for 8 hours. They are similarly great for a day time back up at the start of your cycle when accidents tend to happen, and I find the thong style perfect for those tail end days when you still need a bit of protection but not much. Lastly, please, please don’t get put off by the idea that “it really can’t be nice wearing them” or “how do they actually work though?!” until you’ve tried them, because they are great.
So this left me with a bit of a problem, I needed something for heavy days that wasn’t a menstrual cup or a plasticy pad or pearlescent applicator tampon. The best option for me has been the birth of a few period supply companies with an emphasis on sustainability. Here are my options for a sustainable yet moon cup free period.
OHNE is a tampon subscription service that, if you order the applicator tampons, come wrapped in 100% paper/cardboard packaging with not an ounce of plastic in sight. They arrive in a big cardboard box (the branding is super cool), and the mail bag is 100% biodegradable. I use these on the first few days of my period in combination with some THINX undies and I feel completely protected and good to go. Period guilt at not being able to use a menstrual cup GONE. The tampons are also 100% organic cotton, which for me is pretty damn important.
Already mentioned, totally in love with.
Similar to OHNE, Freda is a period delivery service that allows you to customise your order - so for example you might want some tampons and some panty liners, up to you, but you decide and they get delivered to you in recyclable packaging. Freda say that where they have no choice but to use plastics (non applicator tampons for example, or panty liner wraps) they will push for them to be made from plants, not fossil fuels, contain no harmful chemicals and be recyclable. Where recycling is not permitted, as in the case of items with blood on them, then they will demand that their materials be biodegradable. Again, it’s all 100% organic.
Natracare make organic tampons (paper packaging) and pads and liners that aren’t laced with plastic. All Natracare pads are backed using plant materials that are totally natural and compostable. You can avoid the leaks, without using plastics.
This article was contributed by Stay Wild family member, Grace Kingswell. Grace is Nutritional Therapist and Lifestyle Medicine Advocate. @gracekingswell gracekingswell.com