Green Your Period
Thankfully, in recent years tips to go green have become rampant, and environmental awareness is on the rise. Many of us have done everything from the simple — change out our light bulbs, use recycled bags at the grocery store — to the invested: go solar, give up animal products, and so on. However, the issue of feminine hygiene and the accompanying products are rarely, if ever, mentioned. Is this because the topic is too private? Makes people uncomfortable? Inconvenient?
It’s uncertain exactly how long disposable diapers take to decompose in landfills, but it’s upwards of 500 years. Pardon the parallel, but it isn’t a stretch to see the relationship between the duration of time it takes a disposable diaper to decompose and a disposable menstrual pad and its packaging. If you do the cave math, 4 pads per day x 7 days x 12 months x 40 years x 60 million women in the U.S. alone, the waste is estimated to be in the billions of pounds annually. Not only is the volume an issue, but the manufacturing process and the actual components of the average feminine hygiene productinfluence the health of the planet and our bodies.
What’s a gal do to? Green your period — go reusable! If this is too private, makes you uncomfortable or seems inconvenient, stick with me. We’ll take it in stages.
· Don’t already understand the specific detriments caused by disposable feminine hygiene products in landfills, for marine life and in the manufacturing process? Learn more.
· Unfamiliar with the components of feminine hygiene products and why some things are better than others for your sensitive lady parts? Do some research.
· Unsure about your own cycle? Begin tracking it, and come to appreciate this cleansing and special process.
Ready to jump in? Assess your current products.
· What are they made out of?
· Are the components listed?
· Are the fibers cotton? And if so, is it organic?
· Is the fiber chlorine-free?
· What is the absorbent “core” of the pad made out of?
· For tampons, if there is an applicator, is it plastic?
· Are there scents or perfumes?
Assess your needs
Light flow, heavy flow, pads, tampons? Determine what you use, when you use it, and what you prefer during your cycle. Think about what is important to you in a menstrual product: overall quality, absorbency, comfort, ease of use, and so on.
Go online or to your local natural foods grocery or co-op. Find their feminine care section. See what’s available. Look for protection that matches what’s important to you and what you use in disposables. For example, if the first couple days of your period are heavy, you’ll need several reusable cloth pads with heavier absorbency. You know that during work days you prefer tampons, so check out menstrual cups. Then, toward the end of your period, the flow is light, so thinner pads will do. Up front this is an initial investment, but overtime the savings are so much more not only for our wallets, but our health and Earth.
It’s likely you’ll discover a new world of reusable menstrual products, brands and methods in stores and online. Over time you’ll find what works best for you, but don’t be afraid to experiment a little as you get used to a new process. You may also discover a source of fun. Never did you imagine the fabrics and patterns of your pads could be so exciting! Not able to make an investment? There are templates online that instruct you in crafting your own cloth pads.
Once you’re up and running with reusable pads, it is no big thing to rinse them after use and toss them in the laundry with your other articles. Or follow the manufacturer’s instructions in getting them clean. You can store your pads in a decorative basket on a shelf in your bathroom or under the sink and when you’re out you can keep them in a reusable baggie with a waterproof liner. Check out the website for the company from which you purchased your pads. Many times they offer storage solutions, especially when you’re on the go.
Taking interest in and control over our period in this way is empowering and ultimately a gift we not only give ourselves and the planet, but one we can pass on to generations to come by setting an example in conservation and sustainability.
Deirdre Hall blogs with humor and honesty about all things menstrual
Photo credit: Kris M