Here at Wrapped in Newspaper we are always trying to do our best to minimise our negative impact on the planet. Whether that’s through not consuming animal products, eating local, seasonal produce or avoiding unethical companies, we are always seeking alternative ways of doing things. So what about our menstrual cycle then?
We are educated to use disposable sanitary products which is reinforced by advertising and product choice available in mainstream retail outlets. But are disposable products really the best option for the environment and our own health?
So even at first glance it would seem that the very nature of disposable pads and tampons are bad for the environment, the clue is in the name there! An average woman throws away 125-150kg of sanitary products in her life time and considering that it takes centuries longer for those products to degrade in landfill than the lifespan of the woman that used them, it really isn’t looking good for the environment. Add to that the fact that many of those products won’t actually make it to landfill and things get even worse… A report from the Women’s Environmental Network cites that for every kilometre of beach included in the Beachwatch survey weekend in 2010, 22.5 towels/panty liners/backing strips, and 8.9 tampon applicators, were found.
Health-wise, what now seems blindingly obvious to me, had actually never previously crossed my mind. Ultra-absorbant, super-discreet and convenient disposable pads and tampons are made using and contain chemicals. As explained in this article in the Guardian, independent studies by women’s health organisations have found chemicals like dioxin, carcinogens and reproductive toxins present in tampons and pads. And there is no research whatsoever that actually declares disposable feminine hygiene products safe. So why the hell are we all using them!
So what are the alternatives? I didn’t really know there were any but it turns out there are lots!
When I first started considering the impact of my moontime habits, I took it slowly. I found organic, chemical free, cotton alternatives to sanitary pads and tampons in health food shops. So far, pretty straight forward. As with all sanitary products you have to test out a few to find the ones that work best for you, so I just tried them out at home first before feeling confident to head out into the big wide world. But of course, this only really covered the health side and some of the environmental issues, not the disposable nature itself. What I did notice straight away was the discomfort and sometimes painful feeling I had just associated with my period (aside from menstrual cramps) disappeared. So I can only think it was a reaction to the chemical found in the products I had previously used.
Next on my list was reusable, washable sanitary pads. I think we all really need to get over the social taboo’s and gross-ness associated with menstruation so I’m not gonna talk about the ick factor associated with reusable sanitary products, I’ll leave you to find those discussions elsewhere online. But what I will say is that I was actually really surprised by how much I like using these. For me they are perfect for the lighter, early and last days. It really made be realise how often I threw products away that contained very little blood. However I don’t tend to use them on heavier days when I’m outside of the house or at work. The absorbency isn’t a problem but I find that having to carry around a used product really isn’t convenient at all!
There are lots of brands out there and none of them come cheap. But if you consider how much you spend each month on disposable products, you soon recover the cost and actually start saving money!
Slowly but surely, I am changing my habits for the better. Better for my health and better for the environment. And I really can’t encourage you enough to do the same! As I find with most things, it is liberating to do your own research, question social norms and make your own decisions based on evidence and it’s no different when it comes to feminine hygiene.
Next on my list, reusable menstrual cups … stay tuned…