Menstruation – periods, Aunt Flo, “time of the month”, or whatever other euphemism you can come up with – happens to every woman at some time in their life. Monthly bleeding is often spoken in a development, medical, or feminist context – but is it a waste issue? Picture an adult grizzly bear (female, of course) at 150kg – that is the amount of disposable menstrual products an average lady uses in her lifetime.
Before commercial products for menstruation were used only 100 years ago, women used cotton or cloth, animal skin, feathers, and even ancient versions of tampons from Egypt and Greece.
From the 1850s and onwards, you could use bloomers with extra padding, rubber shields, and early tampons. Back then, menstrual cups were used but were made of rubber – natural, of course – but certainly not comfortable. The advent of plastic manufacturing in the 1950s and 60s changed the convenience, availability, and comfort of products.
Now, you can buy tampons with plastic applicators, pantyliners with plastic adhesive, and most pads are entirely plastic. However, the health and environmental effects of these products are just becoming known. For instance, the potentially fatal Toxic Shock Syndrome is a blood infection associated with the use of high-absorbency, synthetic tampons. Fragrances in products contain hormone-disrupting phthalates. Pesticides, fertilizer, and herbicides are used in the production of cotton, which tampons are made of.
If that made your pelvic floor tighten, it does get better – some companies have caught up with people’s concerns in recent years and these products are readily available in pharmacy chains and online. Now you can now buy a variety of low-waste products including:
- silicone menstrual cups
- washable pads
- washable period underwear
- applicator-free tampons
And many women on hormonal IUDs, which can last up to 5 years, don’t get their period at all.
What’s great is that there are some great side benefits to using these products:
- These waste-free options CAN save you money, big time: a Chatelaine study found people spend on average $65 a year on disposable products when a reusable cup could cost just $3.79 annually and
Silicone cups can last up to 10 years!
- Life gets a little less messy because.. No more gross garbage to take out. Simply wash your liners or underwear!
- Some period panty companies give back to help women all over the world have access feminine products, and in the short version, having these products means these girls can get back to school or work, breaking free from poverty!
- Reduce the stress that comes with forgetting a tampon or pad.
- Feel the freedom of not having to rely on costly, uncomfortable, plastic products!
There is no right answer for which products women should use, but if you are looking to reduce your plastic footprint, we are lucky to live with so many comfortable and plastic-free options.
On Mother’s Day, let’s say cheers to our mothers and the big, red, mess we all came from!
And if you’re planning on getting flowers to celebrate, slow down and learn about Slow Flowers for Mom!