In honour of the #climatestrikecanada that is happening now across this great land I would like to revisit how important your choice of product for managing your menstruation is. Each product we buy and use contributes to the greater human and planet condition. How you manage your monthly period is one way you can make a small but integral change for the better and if more women did so, the better it would be.
The traditional disposable products of sanitary napkins and tampons that many of us use are adding to the plastic problem every time we bleed. Just take a moment and think about the amount of garbage a single box of tampons or pads contain. The larger packaging is generally recyclable but the contents are not. Each tampon or pad may come wrapped in plastic and the tampon applicator may also be plastic. Unless you have a specified recycling bin in the washroom - which I have never seen anywhere in my life - the majority of these are going directly into the trash, not to mention the actual used tampon or pad (remember NEVER flush your tampons or pads down the toilet. NEVER).
I caution you to be discerning when choosing a menstrual product to manage your monthly flow. The average woman bleeds only about 3 tablespoons of blood each month. I think we can agree that’s not a whole heck of a lot and yet we tend to consume disproportionate amounts of product to manage this relatively small inconvenience.
Not only do traditional pads and tampons cost a fair amount of your hard earned money and you must keep restocking them over and over again but some are also made of nefarious materials that may cause health problems. Always check the ingredients on the box and if there is no list of ingredients, consider it toxic. Don’t you want to know what you’re putting inside or against the most delicate part of your body?
Alternatives do exist. They are called ReUsable Menstrual Products or RUMPS.
Rumps include menstrual sponges, menstrual cups, reusable cloth pads and menstrual underwear and a brief synopsis and examples of each are below.
Menstrual Sponges are made of sea fibre that is an all-natural alternative to tampons in that they are inserted into the vagina and soak up the blood. One advantage of a sponge is that they conform to the individual’s body and thus are very comfortable once in place. Each sponge needs to be thoroughly rinsed and wrung out before insertion and will absorb for about 4 hours when it will need to be rinsed, wrung and reinserted or a new one used in its place. The bonus is that sponges are natural and contain no toxic chemicals that could harm you. The use of sponges is a learning curve (much like tampons and cups) but if you’re concerned about environmental waste then this could be the option for you.
A menstrual cup is a little silicone rose-shaped cup that once inserted into the vagina it catches the blood of your period. The cup can remain in place for up to 12 hours before it will need to be emptied, rinsed and reinserted. 12 hours! That’s a full day of life. Wowza!
Our friends and favourite, the DivaCup, a Canadian company, is widely available and comes in 3 sizes and retails for about $29.99. One cup can last for up to 10 years. Imagine the money you can save! The hassle of running out of product will no longer be a problem AND you are helping save the world, one period at a time.
Cloth pads are incredibly comfortable and can be personalized in an infinite variety of fabrics, pattern and sizes. The common cloth pad is made from cotton and is free from harmful chemical that may be found in traditional pads. Using cloth pads is better for the environment as there is no waste and easier on your budget as you simply reuse your cleaned supply every month. Without a doubt there is more work required when using cloth pads because in order to reuse them you must quickly rinse them in cold water and eventually wash and dry them before reusing. This takes time and effort. You have to ask yourself if you’re the type of woman who walks the walks and does all the little things that grow your integrity. They might prove to be a bit tricky if you have a heavy flow and need to change them often but all the negatives can be easily resolved with a little ingenuity and determination. You can custom order or make your own pads and really be in control. You can unleash your creativity with the colour and pattern of the fabric you choose and change the absorbency potential of each one by adding or deleting the layers in the middle. You can have butterfly themed pads for light days and watermelon ones for the first few heavy days. Heck, invite your crafty friends over and have a pad making and swapping party. Here is a link to a sight that offer a tutorial and pattern to make your own. Happy sewing!
This category is the newest in the marketplace and one that I personally have not tried but would love to hear from anyone who has their honest opinion on the effectiveness of them. The general idea is that instead of adding a pad to your underwear, the pad is built right into the gusset of the panties themselves. This means that you can just wash and wear them again like you would regular underwear and although the initial cost might be quite steep, you will be set for a year or more. Brands like Knix, Lunapads and Thinx all offer different sizes, colours and styles. For example, Knix offers leakproof underwear for light days or as a back-up for peace of mind while Lunapads states their underwear can hold 2 tampons worth of blood.
I urge you to really have a long hard think about what you use for your period every month. The fact that periods are a repetitive business means that whatever product(s) you use will be habitual and the ramifications of them might be as heavy as your flow. By choosing an option with little to no waste you will be making the world and your period environmentally friendlier and isn’t that empowering?