By Liz Langley
When “reduce, reuse, recycle” has become the norm, throwing away all the trash associated with a 21st century period can feel as bad as the cramps.
Slate magazines’ Nina Shen Rastogi writes in Greening the Crimson Tide that in our disposable culture all those periods amount to 300 pounds of garbage per woman, about .5% of the 62,415 pounds of trash she’ll generate in a lifetime which might not seem like a lot but is certainly noticeable when it’s one of the few things that doesn’t have a recycle bin to call home.
There are certainly greener alternatives like all-cotton tampons that Rastogi details in her story along with way to really minimuze your contribution to the landfill: reusable options that are sanitary, comparatively inexpensive and earth-friendly.
“There’s definitely a spectrum,” says Emily Ruff, Education Director at the Florida School of Holistic Living who shared her experience with a few of the trash-free menstrual alternatives with MyPleasure. “I’m a fan of the Lunapads,” washable, reusable pads made of either organic or regular cotton which I personally like a lot.
“I’m also a fan of The Keeper, The Moon Cup and the Diva Cup,” Emily says. These are menstrual cups, a decades-old method of collecting menstrual fluid via a small cup inserted into the vagina which you simply empty out, rinse and reinsert (The Keeper is natural gum rubber, aka latex; the Moon Cup and Diva Cup are both medical grade silicone, the same material used in many sex toys).
There are also sea sponge tampons which, like the cup, can just be rinsed out an re-used but, Emily says, if a lot of fluid collects it’s easier to have leaks “plus I’m not sure we should be harvesting a lot of sponges from the oceans,” but that’s a different environmental matter.
In addition, MyPleasure’s Dr. Sandor Gardos notes that menstrual sea sponges have also been linked to pelvic inflammatory disease; it’s always a good idea to consult with your doctor and make sure you educate yourself about the how-to’s and relative risks of any new product (especially something you’re inserting).
A drawback for some women is the process of cleaning them when you’re out in public – the rinsing and reinserting of sponges or cups when you’re at a concert or bar might be a bit socially awkward.
“There are a lot of amazing feminists out there who use that as a teaching experience, who have had really funny, positive experiences.”
(And you know – I’m just dying to run into one. It has to be quite the little ice-breaker.)
Cotton pads sometimes need a presoak before being thrown in the washer, which could be tough on the squeamish, but squeamishness around menstruation, Emily says, is just so much social white noise.
“We’re raised in a culture where we’re taught that it’s unclean,” she says: just look at terms like “feminine hygiene” and “sanitary napkins.” Society has “created a real stigma around it when it’s this beautiful, creative, natural part of being a woman,” and that stigma creates a disharmony. Dealing with menstruation in a more natural way helps us “reclaim our relationship with nature, outer and inner.”
About Liz Langley
Liz Langley is a freelance writer whose work has appeared in about 20 publications – to see more go to www.lizlangley.com