This is a series of posts in partnership with PERIOD.org for National Period Day.
Over the immensely empowering environmental activism I’ve seen and participated in over the past year - including the Youth Strikes and Extinction Rebellion - the amount of women leading the movements has been incredibly notable. Greta Thunberg, inciter of the Youth Strikes, is a key example of this. Even in Extinction Rebellion (which has a decentralized leadership structure) the split between men and women participating is roughly equal.
I mention this in respect to menstruation because the mainstream products used by women (or people who experience mensuration) during their periods cause an immense amount of waste, and has a huge strain on the environment. When I learnt that in my lifetime, if continuing to use disposable pads and tampons, I will use approximately 1,100 of these products, I knew I needed to start looking for other methods of period protection. Ninety percent of a pad is plastic - that’s up to 150kg of plastic contribution simply through the average woman’s lifetime of periods. That’s a lot.
So, for those of you who are not already familiar, let me introduce to you a wonderful concept: reusable menstrual products. Now, I know this might sound a little strange, but stay with me here.
Reusable menstrual products come in a multitude of formats. Personally, I chose to use reusable menstrual pads - super easy to use and wash, just soak them after use and throw them in the wash to make them come out clean again before reuse. Many of my friends opt for the menstrual cup. This is a silicon cup, which you can insert into the vagina by folding in half and releasing it a few inches below the cervix in order to create an air-tight seal to prevent leakage. Once in properly, the cup can last up to 12 hours and is much safer than tampons as there’s no risk of toxic-shock syndrome.
If you don’t want to go along either of these roots, another option is always buying more ‘eco-friendly’ pads and tampons. In the UK, brands such as Albany Mae and DAME offer products which cut down on plastic, both in the products themselves and in the packaging used to sell them. However, this is definitely the more expensive option, considering with reusables you’re buying something that'll last you years at least.
Periods will affect the majority of us women for a decent portion of our lives, unavoidably. So, we may as well try and limit the amount of waste caused by them. I would appeal to governments and public institutions worldwide to begin providing women with access to subsidized or free eco-friendly equivalent to disposable tampons and pads, especially to those less financially comfortable in our society.