Joint Collaboration of Laura Menendez and Heather Dalgleish
Period Products are one of the biggest contributors to waste in the world, with an estimated 1.5-2 billion tonnes of period waste each year. So, let’s bring the sustainability series into the new year than with ways of making your period sustainable. We’ll be talking you through both Menstrual cups and reusable sanitary pads, so you’ll have two ideas in place for making your period that bit more sustainable.
M E N S T R U A L C U P S
I would like you to think how much a box of tampons costs. I would like you to think of the first time you used a tampon. How many times have you left your house and forgotten to bring some with you? I actually can’t remember how much a box of tampons costs. I haven’t used one in more than two years. Perhaps in sporadic situations when I didn’t expect my period to come and my cup was in a land far far away. Just the thought of it gives me goosebumps.
Now, why the first time you used a tampon? Because I’m sure most of you don’t remember it as a pleasant experience, but you ended up getting used to them. With the cup it’s a little bit the same. The first time it’s weird, but eventually you get used to it. And I can assure you if you do give it enough time to get used to it you will never go back. It not only offers a cheaper, more sustainable and more comfortable way of living your period, it also helps you build a healthy relationship with your period and your body.
Cups might seem a little bit expensive, most of them withing a more or less £20 range. But if you think about it, £20 is a ridiculous amount of money for something that is necessary once a month and that you will be able to use for multiple years. Up to four years it can last if you take proper care of it. Now, don’t be scared. Taking care of a menstrual cup is really not a big thing. You just need to boil it for 5-7 minutes after your period is done and store it in the bag it came in when you bought it. Your everyday saucepan is perfectly fine, you don’t need to have a saucepan specifically for the cup.
The cup is really easy, and really convenient. I really don’t feel it’s there at all, and I’ve been surfing, bouncing on a trampoline and doing all sorts of things while I had the cup in. Really, don’t be scared. It’s a lot more reliable than it looks. And a lot easier. The only tricky part is that you have to make your peace with seeing your period blood; in the end, it’s you who takes it in and out. Taking it in and out might be slightly awkward at the beginning, but after a couple of times it becomes a habit, a very easy habit. To me it’s not only a convenient option, but it also helped me acknowledge and understand my own body. Through seeing my period blood and having to be a lot more in contact with my own skin in the process I built a much healthier relationship with my own body and with my period.
No more bloody tampons in public bathroom bins. The cup comes with you and leaves with you. Now public toilets can be complicated, since there’s not private sink in most of them. Experience has taught me to bring a water bottle with me. Rinse it in the toilet, put it back in, nobody will ever know. Think about it this way: anywhere you can pee, you can change your cup. No need to worry about what to do with the packaging on the tampon or where to bin the used one. A little bit of water is all you need.
There are many many different cups you can choose from. Some are made of more flexible silicon than others, but essentially, they are all the same. I’ve tried two brands so far, and the differences are merely aesthetic. If you’ve never used a cup before and you’re scared, I would suggest you look for a more flexible one. Not that there’s a massive difference, but I’ve been told they are easier to take in and out. You can find them in most pharmacies, and they’re usually dark pink.
Now a lot of people struggle with seeing their cup turn slightly brownish or reddish. Don’t worry about it, it’s normal, there’s no need to bin it. But if you want your cup to be colourless again, do a quick google search, and all your answers will be there. I would advise, as always, to look for reliable sources and ask in case of doubt. Please don’t bleach your cup you know.
Other than that, there’s not much more to say. Making your period sustainable is not only very easy but also very cheap and very convenient if you decide to use the cup. I regret not starting to use it earlier than I did because it completely changed my perspective of my period and it overall made my life a lot easier. If you’ve tried and it turns out the cup is not for you, or you simply think it’s nor for you, don’t worry, there’s plenty more options!
R E U S A B L E S A N I T A R Y P A D S
Now, I like to think that these purchases were made an investment, rather than focus on the cost because to buy these flat out is an expensive business. 5 top quality pads will set you back £30 quid, but you obviously need more than 5 pads to last you for your whole period.
It’s also important to note that reusable sanitary pads are leak proof, but they are maybe not as comfortable to wear as there plastic alternatives. I really don’t notice, but some people have said that with clots, super heavy flow, the excess wetness sits on the top of the pad. So if you are someone ultra-sensitive to that, maybe these aren’t for you. You can find a whole range of disposable alternatives that don’t use plastic in your local health stores.
I tested out 3 different kinds of sanitary towels, all ranging in price from those that were more expensive, to least expensive to see whether you could get away with charging less and get the same quality.
- Most expensive: Floating Lotus 6 Pack: Medium to heavy flow. £25.00 on their website
You could get more expensive pads, but on a student budget where I knew I would have to get more, the £20.00 price tag enticed me more than the £40.00 alternatives. These are a really good pad, and the quality is incredibly high. With a thick layer of support, these will last you the four hours and stay pretty close to your skin for flexible comfort.
One downside is that they can move a little bit when you first try them out as if you are like me and used to sticky pads which don’t tend to slip and slide, then it’ll take some getting used to. But I have not leaked as of yet, they are very absorbent even on those heavy flow days, but I did have to order the xl versions of these for night time use, as overnight they don’t work quite as well due to them not being quite long enough, but for everyday use, couldn’t go wrong. They are also a little frumpy, as they are so thick, but for a pad that doesn’t leak, it’s a sacrifice I am willing to make.
- Medium expensive: Rovtop 4 pcs 35cm Sanitary Pads £12.99 Plastic Free Shopper
These were the middle ground, and you do get a pack of 4. These are huge, which is excellent for those days where you really don’t want to leak. And are a lot less frumpy/thick then their more expensive alternative.
These pads, due to their colossal size are a bit harder to store. They are large, and making them fit so that they clasp in the usual square that most pads form is really quite challenging, so I tend to avoid them when I am leaving the house, as after absorbing I think I would be left with a mess where I couldn’t close them efficiently.
These conform to the contours of your body, sit really flat and work a dream, without that hefty price tag attached. I am yet to try out their regular sized pads but if they work as well as their larger counterparts, I’m sure they would work wonderfully.
- Cheapest: 5pc Reusable Cloth Menstrual Pads Bamboo £6.99 eBay
I really hoped I could be little bit positive about these pads, and for the price you can’t really complain too much, but the quality really isn’t up to standard. You could use these ones for super light period days, or even those days when you want discharge support. But overall these just don’t work for me.
They are difficult to use. Essentially, I think you are meant to keep the original, back pad on and use the inserts to swap out, but this doesn’t take into account the strip of ribbon that will get coated in blood, that is in place to keep the inserts in place. I’m not sure how sanitary that process is, and as you only get a couple of the back pieces, you would only be able to use it twice before having to wash, so you are essentially paying £3.50 for two low quality pads.
But that being said, they are usable, I did leak in these, so I would for sure say that you should use these pads on extra light days. They aren’t the worst in the universe but compared to others you could simply invest a little bit more and get some better pads for your buck.