A Period of Change: My Switch to Eco-Friendly Menstrual Products (Part 1)

I try to live consciously. Sometimes, female biology makes that difficult. To put it simply, periods can suck both for those who have them and the planet. Thankfully, there are alternatives, and they might make a great last-minute gift for a sister, cousin, friend or yourself.

Women spend about $160 per year on disposable menstrual products which pollute the environment. According to OrganiCup, these products—including their packaging and individual wrapping—produce over 200,000 tonnes of waste per year. Today, most menstrual products are made of or packaged in plastic that can’t be recycled for sanitary reasons.

As Alejandra Boruna explains in a Nat Geo article, early tampons were made of plant-based materials. They were still disposable but not made of plastic. Even today, many tampons are made of natural fibres like cotton.

Although natural fibres might sound like the way to go, they still wreak havoc on the environment. For example, cotton—although biodegradable—is very environmentally damaging. An article from The Independent explains how cotton production is highly water intensive and uses pesticides and toxic chemicals that harm the earth. In addition, packaging is still a problem. For example, most tampons in the U.S. are packaged in plastic applicators which are then individually wrapped in (you guessed it) plastic. Before I first travelled to Europe, I thought tampon applicators were standard and a must. I later realised that they weren’t needed and was happy about cutting down on waste.

But that wasn’t enough. Menstrual pads and liners also generate lot of waste, and again, natural fibres aren’t necessarily the answer when used to make disposable products. For a while, I’d been seeing ads for reusable menstrual liners. They were made of cloth—often cotton, but washable and durable. I finally decided to look into buying some.

I found a UK-based brand called Cherriful which sold reusable liners in packs of six and ten (while other brands sold only three- or four-packs). The value was perfect for what I wanted, but the product description didn’t include size information. I emailed the customer service team to ask, and a representative responded within the hour.

In her email, the representative said that she’d checked out my blog (using the link in my email signature). Coincidentally, she was Czech and liked my photos of the Czech Republic. She offered to send me a complimentary package of the reusable liners for me to review for my blog. Frankly, they would’ve been well-worth the money if I’d purchased them. They’re easy to use and wash as well as comfortable and fast-drying. In fact, I keep asking my friends if any of them would like reusable pads for Christmas.

So, I highly suggest spreading some sustainable love along with your holiday cheer. Merry Christmas, Planet Earth!

Lastly, I have to acknowledge period poverty. Too many women around the world don’t have access to sanitary products, proper spaces in which to use them or even the freedom to manage their menstruation. Organisations like ActionAid are doing what they can to tackle this issue, including providing reusable pads. In addition, Scotland has become the first country to provide free period products to all. I Support The Girls (@isupportthegirls) is another organisation doing incredible work, especially in response to covid-19. Please join the movement in whatever way you can, whether that’s by staying connected on social media or making a donation. ❤️

Thank you!

This week, I’m thanking Zero Waste Scotland for raising awareness about reusable menstrual products. Zero Waste Scotland is a not-for-profit environmental organisation that conducts research and leads campaigns in sustainability, specifically regarding resource efficiency. In 2019, the launched Trial Period, a campaign that provided free reusable menstrual products for people to try. Give Zero Waste Scotland a like on Facebook and check out their website.

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