Sustainable, plastic free, eco-friendly period products. They have become more and more prevalent over the last few years. Now this is great for the planet but with so many more choices it can feel a little daunting. I am not a sustainability expert. I try my best, I try to keep learning and I have been committed to making changes to my lifestyle. One of these changes includes trying sustainable period products.
Today on environmenstrual week,I want to share my journey (or rollercoaster) trying sustainable products for the first time…
I started my period when I was around 12 (I think). As most people I know, I initially used pads. From the very start I remember hating them. Hating the crinkly feeling, the sound in the bathroom and the feeling that you were sitting in a wet nappy all day. Not ideal.
Even very early on, my mum was really open with her hatred of pads too and encouraged me to give tampons a try. There was no pressure, just the option to try them when on my period. I was super keen as I hated pads. It took a few months but I finally managed it, preferring non-applicator tampons, and that was me for the next 7 (ish) years.
The cup revolution
I was in my third year of University when the chat around menstrual cups really entered into my world. Countless friends turned to be explaining that “I had to try the cup” as it would “change your life”. I had heard of the cup prior to this, but was a little apprehensive. I am a fairly lazy person and so any extra effort on my period was not the most appealing. Luckily my life was made a lot easier when my University introduced free mooncups as part of their free period product provisions.
Trying the cup for this first time was not easy. My friend had recommended inserting it in the shower, however my tiny student flat shower with soaps, razors and bottles everywhere was not the most spacious. Getting it inserted was not my main struggle, it was getting it out. Like so many people who try the cup for the first time, I found removing the cup very stressful. After several attempts and several internet searches, I finally managed it. Phew.
Why do I not love the cup?
I remember thinking my life was going to be changed by the menstrual cup. Expecting to not have to change it throughout the day (as I was told by my friends they didn’t have to). Maybe my expectations were too high. But I started thinking why do I not love this product the way everyone else does. Looking back now, I think it is silly. Of course not everyone is going to have the same experience, of course not one product will change the lives of everyone with a period in exactly the same way.
For me, the issue was once again my laziness and frantic lifestyle. I am constantly running out the door grabbing shoes, bags and keys as quickly as possible and speed walking to work just so I can have those extra few minutes in bed. And for me, the cup did not fit into that at all times. I would forget to wash it, I didn’t give myself time to insert it or I was too rushed and stressed to insert it.
As well as time restrictions, my periods are SUPER heavy. I did not have the luxury of leaving it in all day. This meant I had to find a toilet with a sink, or remember a bottle of water to rinse it with. My part-time work toilet was super small and did not always flush well and so I did not want to change it there. As well as that, sometimes the cup doesn’t work (cup advocates please do not be mad). For me, if I had not inserted it properly it would leak, a lot, and I did not need that added stress.
Now to be clear although me and the cup have our differences I still use it- just not all the time. I tend to use it in the middle of my period or on my heaviest days when I am organised or at home.
I still want to be sustainable
So where am I now? As I mentioned I wear the cup at points during my period. I also use reusable pads and liners to back it up. On my lighter days or some nights I use pads alone. I came across reusable pads when I got involved with Lilypads and thought they were great. Reusable pads were great to back up tampons on heavier days or give me extra peace of mind when trying the cup. As well as cups and reusable pads, I still use non-applicator tampons sometimes. I used to feel guilty about this but I am trying to celebrate the fact that I have cut out my waste by using the cup on some days! I have also come across organic non-applicator tampons recently, which have been another great swap.
Periods are unique to the individual and so are our product preferences
This whole journey has provided me with lots of thoughts and questions. The main thought being that periods are tough, we are not all on an equal playing field and pressure around using certain products still exists.
It is so important to recognise that accessibility is the most important aspect of period products. This is not as simple as talking about price. We need to talk about the multitude of factors impacting access to products; education, culture, health to name only a few.
I was privileged to have access to products when I started my period. I had been given the information about periods and had few barriers to trying different products. This is not the case for everyone.
Sustainable period products tips
My tips for trying sustainable products is to be kind to yourself, be kind to others. The whole aim of exploring period products is to find the right product for you and to feel comfortable in your choices. There should be no judgement or pressure. Celebrate small wins, recognise your privilege and fight for making all period products, including sustainable products, more accessible.
Check out our pads here and tips for trying them for the first time.