Sustainable periods. You may be wondering what sustainability has to do with periods? You might be thinking, ‘hey periods are hard enough, please do not give me an added stress’. Well do not worry I had the same worries but after learning about the environmental impact of periods and exploring the easy ways some of us can cut this down I am confident you will want to learn more too. Today I am going to dive into sustainable periods. Exploring the environmental impact periods have, why period products can be unsustainable and how we can make small changes to make our periods more sustainable.
If you are interested in hearing more about my own experiences listen to our recent Time of the Week Podcast where me and Alison chat all things sustainability.
What does sustainability have to do with periods?
So first up, what does sustainability have to do with periods? Periods lead to A LOT of waste. The average person with a period actually uses over 11000 disposable period products in their lifetime. How crazy! Now of course, they are not using these just for fun. Period products are a necessity. But it took me by complete shock when I discovered that many of the standard and most popular disposable period products out there can contain up to 90% plastic. This products add up to an equivalent of 500kg of plastic which can take over 500 years to degrade in a landfill.
So what needs to change?
Sustainable lifestyle is a growing change. Most of us want to live more sustainability. We recycle, we cut out certain products or we turn the tap off when brushing our teeth. The environmental impact of periods is also gaining much more attention and that is definitely stage one- more awareness, more learning. Progress is being made, for one, this week is actually Environmenstrual week (19thOctober – 25thOctober 2020). This is a whole week dedicated to raising the awareness of the environmental impact of periods and aiming to reduce the amount of menstrual waste, run by WEN (Women environmental network).
So after awareness what next? What do we do with this information? Sometimes it is easy to feel helpless. To feel so shocked by a statistic or fact that you think to yourself; what impact can I have? I am here to tell you; stay hopeful, you are more powerful than you think. There are lots of individual changes that can help make a big difference. Changing what products we use, changing hoe we dispose of these products or cutting down on additional and unnecessary products are some of the few. Explore my own personal, more specific tips at the end of this article…
Now I am not here to just rant and judge. We have to realise that periods are a biological function- no one choses to have a period and so sustainability has to be a choice and has to be accessible to everyone. Periods are also unique to the individual. For some cutting out certain types of products will be easier than for others and some change will simply not be possible for some. On a much wider scale, we have to rally together and pressure the large companies and institutions distributing or selling products- only then will sustainability actually be feasible for the majority.
Some tips from someone trying her best
Now I admit I still have a lot to learn about sustainability, and there are individuals and activists who have achieved much more than me. (my favourites outlined at the bottom of this article). I still think it is important to start somewhere. To not set the bar of expectation too high or to criticise ourselves too much. We are all trying our best.
Below I have outlined some of my personal tips for trying to become more sustainable when it comes to periods. Have some of your own tips? Comment on this blog below, message our Instagram or Facebook pages or get in touch via our contact page- we love to learn!
Reusable is best
So reusable products save up to 90% of the waste created from disapoable products. By using reusable products (such as menstrual cups, period underwear or reusable period pads) our waste is drastically cut. This has a huge impact and can also be a real poiitve in other ways; reusable products save you money as you do not need to buy products very month, they also do not contain the harmful chemcials which disposable porducts can contain. Overall they are great for you and great for the planet.
Just swap 1
So I was a tampon user since I was pretty young. I hated pads. Yet I still wore them on my heavy days as well as tampons “just in case”. This is a super common behaviour as most of us hate leaks. Swapping out just one of these products can have a huge impact. Either cutting the pad out entirely or swapping it to use a reusable pad or reusable underwear to catch leaks can be a great first step and also makes reusable porducts slightly less scary.
Small steps make all the difference. Even if it is just swapping from applicator tampons to non-applicator you are cutting so much waste. Or if you are able to, buying organic cotton tampons instead. These contain less chemicals and are easier to degrade. We have to celebrate these small wins! Not all changes are for everyone or accessible to everyon and so remember to not feel bad if you might not be using the most sustainable products, every little change makes a difference!
Cut out the washes, wipes and other extras
Special period washes, wipes or sprays are not needed. Ideally, just water is all that your vulva and vagina need- it is naturally cleaning how impressive! If you feel you need a soap, an unscented bar soap can be fine. Or if you feel the need to use wipes start using reusable cloths or just wet tissue paper instead!
To wrap up, I want to make it clear that having a period can be tough! Adding a new sustainability pressure is not the aim of this article. It is about sharing the facts and sharing some of the solutions about sustainable periods. Finding what works best for you is key. Hopefully with added pressure and awareness sustainable products will become much more accessible and widespread. For now, dream big, celebrate your wins and be kind to yourself and others- we are all trying our best!
Interested in reusable products? Check out our own range of comfy reusable pads and liners and find out what one will work best for you.