If you search the Internet, you’ll find a lot of ideas for a variety of sustainable swaps you could make in your life. Some as easy as getting a reusable bottle for your water, or switching to a bamboo toothbrush (both swabs I happily made at the very beginning of my journey and I haven’t looked back ever since).
Other swaps are a little more difficult to make and, more importantly, maintain over the long run.
My brief adventure with a more sustainable diet didn’t last as long as I wanted, though with Spring and Summer bringing more fresh veggies, I might be able to cut meat again for some time.
There’s also one sustainable swap that appears to be more controversial than others:
Reusable period products
For various reasons (patriarchy and shame for the most part), there’s not much discussion around periods. It’s not something that’s talked about. It’s thought of as shameful and disgusting. To the extreme even – with husbands and boyfriends and brothers unwilling to buy period products at the supermarket for fear of emasculation (as if periods are contagious). People unwilling to educate themselves on the topic, perpetuating ridiculous and harmful ideas of what menstruation actually is and what’s necessary for comfort and to make sure menstruators don’t bleed all over everything you love.
What’s the result of such lack of education and unwillingness to discuss a bodily function half of the world’s population has to deal with?
For starters, in some countries, menstrual products are taxed as if they aren’t basic necessities. Because you have to pay extra for the privilege of being able to dispose of your tampons and pads once you’re done with them. To have them be as unobtrusive as possible. God forbid the world knows you’re menstruating.
The Problem (one of many)
From early on, we are taught that menstruation is not something you discuss in the open. We are socialized to think of our periods as time in our lives where we are dirty and undesirable.
Our fathers refused to say the word “menstruation”. Our brothers make loud disgusted remarks if they even catch a glimpse of a clean tampon still in its plastic wrapper. Our boyfriends refuse to step foot in the feminine hygiene aisle in the supermarket – as if their penis was the price of admission added (along with the tax) to the cost of the pads.
We don’t talk about it. We clean up any hint that could suggest to anyone else we’re on our period. We wrap up used pads and tampons in toilet paper or plastic wrappers, just to hide them from sight right before we throw them out.
The idea that we could switch to a more sustainable menstrual product like a menstrual cup, reusable pads, or period underwear is met with extra resistance.
Because reusable period products mean there would be blood we have to deal with while we change them out for a clean one. There would be reusable pads and panties that require washing (sometimes by hand) and which would later need to be dried.
The horror our family might be exposed to when they catch the sight of a washed menstrual pad that’s mixed with the other laundry.
My own journey
I had to overcome a lot of my own misconceptions and doubt when I first started my sustainable journey. I had to work through the idea that bloody tissue from a nosebleed isn’t somehow less dirty and disgusting than a bloodied reusable pad. In fact, I had to actively change my thinking, convincing myself that none of those bloodied items are disgusting.
Once I had that mind-shift, I was able to go looking for reusable period products with the idea of trying them out to see how they worked.
Admittedly, I decided to look at pads mostly because menstrual cups always looked like the next level of commitment – something I wasn’t ready for at all. Though, funnily enough, it’s the opposite for my friend – who recently told me that she’s thinking about switching to a menstrual cup because reusable pads don’t sound like something she’d be comfortable with.
It is a personal journey after all.
I tried out the pads I ordered online during the last two days of my period, wanting to ease myself into it and first see if they actually absorbed the blood, without staining my underwear. And let me tell you: it was a spectacular success. They were comfortable and didn’t smell (which is another thing I was afraid of). And they did the job. Saving me four regular pads in the process.
Next month I’ll try to only use my reusable pads, to see how I like using them when I actually have to leave the house.
Reuse where you can
Sustainability is a journey, not a destination, and I’m not going to lie, I am really happy that I was able to take this particular step towards being more sustainable with my period care.
If it’s something you think you can try out, I’d recommend you do as well. If reusable pads aren’t your thing, you can look into menstrual cups like my friend, or try period panties, like one of the YouTubers I follow.
Any pad that you can wash and reuse instead of sending it to a landfill is a small victory in a much larger war.