Let’s celebrate International Women’s Day with a great figure, feminist and to us ecologist, Leona Chalmers, the brilliant mind spearhead the invention of the menstrual cup. Yes, you understand correctly, here we are going to discuss about bloody issues. But pay attention, this is important. Although feminine periods are often a taboo in today’s society this matter needs to be addressed opennely as the environmental impact is considerable, not mentioning the women’s health problems.
#1 Environment. According to various studies, an average woman will use about 17.000 tampons and pads in her lifetime. Of course this number can vary depending on each woman, but try to do the math: every month, during between 3 or more days, changing every 2 or 3 hours – here again those numbers can differ – well it ends being a lot! Correlating to the world feminine population this is approximately 7 billions of tampons and pads polluting the planet each year. Tampons and pads are not the only problem, the packaging, plastic applicators, cost of transportation and costs of production should also be taken into consideration regarding the environmental impact.
In terms of production, farming of cotton, in the case of tampons, requires large amounts of water, pesticides and fertilizer. It results on severe health impacts on the ecosystem and on farmers, 20.000 deaths a year according to the World Health Organisation. What about applicators? Well, don’t think I have forgotten the plague of marine life: plastic! Tampons applicators are often ditch to the toilets – DON’T – and end up polluting rivers, lakes, and our oceans. The Ocean Conservancy’s International Coastal Cleanup project collected, in 2009, 20.000 tampons applicators out of 4 million plastic waste pieces. We will finish up by having more tampons applicators in the sea than fish, not my type of food.
Last but not least, discovering the use of bleach in the production process of tampons makes you think twice about inserting them into your vagina. For some unexplained reason we tend to believe that white things are more clean, pushing the industries to come up with bleaching process of tampons using Chlorine Dioxin among other chemicals. The result is that pads and tampons are not only damaging the environment but are also threatening the women’s health.
#2 Health. Let’s just remember for a moment the math we did earlier in the previous paragraph, which was how many times a woman is using pads and tampons during her lifetime, you got it? Right. Now think about the consequences, the amount of plastic and chemicals in contact with the vagina all along period flows. This is an extremely delicate organ, capable of secreting and absorbing fluids at a higher rate than skin, putting women at a great risk of chemical exposures. That makes you suffocate? Us too.
The feminine hygiene related products such as menstrual cycles are still so unmentionable in our societies that women are not often aware of the dangerousness of the products they use regularly during their periods.
This subject is certainly not much approached from a scientific point of view, but unfortunately it is the same regarding a societal and economic viewpoint.
#3 Society and Economy. Very often products to manage period flows are subjected to taxes because they are considered a “non-essential” items. And this products are not for free! The price can be an obstacle for many women in particular from low income families and also homeless women, forcing them to resort to unsanitary methods to manage their periods.
#4 Eco-friendly solutions. Protecting the environment and embracing your femininity without damaging your body is possible. In the market today you can find many eco-friendly alternatives to chemical pads and tampons. First if tampons are indispensable to your life, try not to use applicators and look for organic cotton tampons non chlorine-bleached. And for those looking toward more sustainable solutions you can switch to reusable cloth pads and also underwear made to absorb the fluid with revolutionary tech-savvy fabrics! But, the best option is – your new green best friend – the menstrual cup. Yes finally this is it. No need to develop more on the WHY should we all use menstrual cup, for all the obvious environmentally, healthy and economical reasons we discussed above.
#5 Embrace the nature.
The cup, what is it? Well, it is a soft and flexible cup, bell shaped, made of medical silicone that you insert in your vagina like a non-applicator tampon. Cheap because reusable, the menstrual cup is good for your wallet, your health and your planet. You can keep a cup for many years, imagine the impact, no more useless packaging, no more tampons and plastic applicators dumped in the nature, and economies each month! True, the cost of a cup is about 30 euros, this may seems expensive but think that it will last at least 5 years, you won’t have to buy pads and tampons each month, what a relief. Also, unlike tampons, the cup collects menstrual fluid and does not absorb them, so your vaginal flora is respected.
How does it works exactly? It’s very simple, with clean hands of course, just fold the cup in a C shape to insert it into the opening of your vagina until it pops open and feels comfortable. You can keep it for 12 hours, depending on your flow, then you can empty it in the toilet or the sink, rinse it – never with soap to avoid yeast infections – and just replace it. It does not leak so you can enjoy your life freely and go running, swimming, whatever. So convinced and ready to join the green movement? 😉
By Mathilde Morgat