PANDORAS BOXS OF LADIES STUFF - WITH BEENote for Men and squeamish Women. You need to read this article! You, your sister, wife, mother, daughter, niece, friend or bed buddy may need to know some of this essential information about their monthly period and voila! You can now assist. If you aren’t comfortable loudly announcing your new found knowledge over dinner you can always share this post via email. :)
In this post:
- Real Feminine Health. What it looks like and it calls for celebration!
- The hidden dangers of 'sanitary' items. Seriously Ladies, you need to know this.
- Awesome (and some weird) alternatives to disposable pads and tampons.
- Cork-pons...look for them.
What does real feminine health looks like?
Taboos that have and still exist around freely discussing a womans monthly bleeding cycle send the message to most women that this perfectly natural feminine process is gross, annoying and best dealt with quickly with minimal attention and effort. Products available to ‘sanitise, deodorise and sterilise’ all aspects of your period all contribute to the myth that bleeding every month is a 'curse'. According to science and common sense this should actually be a time of celebrating good health, fertility and life!
Educating ourselves about healthy habits for women’s bleeding cycles is a must for the long term health of both our bodies and our planet. I am still amazed at how few men and women realise that disposable pads and tampons can be packed full of chlorine, bleach, dioxins and scented chemicals that can affect the delicate internal PH of a woman’s squishy bits. If you want to scare yourself silly, have a read of the Endocrine Society Scientific Statement a comprehensive article on the effects of nasty chemicals present in some of your lady items.
Yep. Nasty, illness producing chemicals in your super delicate, absorbent temple of lady love. If you don't want to go into the scary science, just read on to find out what to do :)
Real feminine health includes:
- A positive, celebratory attitude toward your body including ALL it's parts and bodily functions.
- Practices that support and honour feminine health eg. avoid long term exposure to unnecessary, potentially dangerous chemicals.
"Do I really never need to pay for pads and tampons again?"
There is currently a long running gripe across first world countries that pads and tampons are considered a ‘luxury item’ and are taxed as such. However, this problem becomes much less infuriating when you realise that the actual need to pay good $$ every month is almost NON-EXISTENT! You never need to buy a disposable pad or tampon ever again. How is this possible you may ask? Read on...
To top this all off, on a waste free note, the billions of pads and tampons that go to landfill every year can be easily avoided.
Pads and tampons as we currently know them are a relatively recent invention, (in the history of women existing that is) with disposable options only available since World War 1.(1930's) In the 10’s of thousands of years before boxes of pads and tampons were available on supermarket shelves, women have had all manner of period management options. From soft absorbent moss, sea sponges, papyrus pads to homemade woolen or cotton pads. Apparently ancient Greek women managed to rig up tampons out of small sticks wrapped tightly with lint! Hmm, perhaps that particular method will not be seen on any DIY websites anytime soon eh.
Anyhoo, despite countless women in the history of woman-kind effectively dealing with the monthly red tide, our current modern world has decided that the convenience of single use disposable products (some laced with bleach, chlorine and many other chemicals) for mopping up the monthly mess is the best way to go. On average, a woman will use between 11,000 and 17,000 disposable pads and tampons during her lifetime. That translates to LONG TERM EXPOSURE to a bunch of chemicals that build up in your cells over time. Plus, the 'disposable' part means most will end up in landfill.
Read about the environmental impacts of pads and tampons here.
"Ok, that is all kinda scary, but what do I do now?"
Instead of shying away from an ‘icky’ problem, let’s fall in love with our precious planet, learn to love our lady cycles and commit to better bloody habits!
Righto. So now you are committed to better monthly habits, or at least willing to give some new things a go. Congratulations! Where do we begin...
There are a few good options for the modern eco-woman when it comes to menstrual products.
Option A – A Menstrual Cup. This is a squidgy silicone, latex or rubber cup that catches your daily delivery during your bleeding cycle. Exactly like a tampon but with zero nasty chemicals, no danger of toxic shock syndrome (!!) and nothing to throw away after use!
To change it, you pull out via the stem, like a tampon, tip the blood collection into the loo, squeeze some clean water over it to rinse (from a handily placed water bottle) and pop it back in. If you have no water on hand, you can wipe with some toilet tissue but be sure not to leave fibres all over it. It can take a month or two to get used to the cup but there are many tutorials to assist you. My first month was a bit awkward until I figured out how to get a perfect ‘seal’. You can play sports and swim with it easily but remember this HOT TIP: Be sure to empty it just before you begin your physical activity!
There are numerous brands available, see a comprehensive comparison chart here, but generally, they are all the same thing and do the same job very effectively. I have used a menstrual cup for years and found it especially useful in my time as an outdoor instructor. It meant I had zero waste products to carry with me and dispose of when out hiking for weeks at a time. It was easy to keep sanitary, even out in the middle of the wilderness, with the use of water and some (very) diluted tea tree solution to wash up with. I have just retired my first one, a clear Mooncup, after 10 years and the new one is a much prettier purple Lunette .
Click below for a great Q & A style blog post to answer a bunch of common questions about using a cup.
A cup is small, transportable, easy to keep clean. Boil for 10 mins after you finish your monthly cycle. (I have a dedicated mini pot just for this) and this leaves ZERO waste. Winner. Winner!
Option B – Cloth Pads.
Long gone are the ‘rags’ days where women folded old cloth into pads. Beautiful, well designed modern cloth options are available from a number of sites. The choice of smart fabrics means a good one will wick away moisture but prevent leaks. If you are super keen you can even make your own! Check out great step by step instructions here. Just scroll deep in to the article to find the English instructions - they are there I promise!
The draw backs of these are: increased washing and water use, carrying used pads around when out and about and of course, the surfboard like size compared to modern ultra thin pads.
For ease of use I recommend using cloth pads for light flow days, so you aren't worried about changing it every hour and a menstrual cup for your heavier flow days. If you have been gifted with a lots of bleeding each month, never fear! Read about Erin, The Rouge Ginger, here to get the low down on her experiences with heavy periods and switching to cup + cloth pads.
Option C – Organic pads and tampons.
These are regular pads and tampons minus the chemical cocktail and some are totally compostable. These are the best option if you want to stick with the methods you are currently used to and are available easily at many supermarkets or over the internet. Just please be aware of false 'eco' advertising and remember disposal is KEY to making sure you are not contributing to polluting landfill.
More worms and composting anyone? Some councils in Australia accept Eenee brand pads and nappies in green waste bins. If you aren’t lucky enough to have this available then worms will make quick work of compostable pads and tampons. Yes, there is a bit of 'ICK' factor using this method but hey... Regular no-worm composting will also do the job but you will need to treat the pad/tampon as ‘meat’ in your compost bin and make sure it is quickly broken down in the hottest part of your compost. You still pay for the products every month and it’s a bit fiddly to ensure the compost/worms are getting the job done properly.
Option D, The Wild Card – Natural Sea Sponges!
This one I have not tried but thought they were worth mentioning. You buy a set of sea sponges, moisten a little and then use as you would a tampon. Apparently they will withstand 6 months of use and you rinse and boil in between uses. Reviews say they are comfortable and don’t leak at all. Check out these beauties from the Sea Sponge Company.
A few drawbacks seems to be mentioned though:
- No way to extract unless you are comfortable going fishing in your own little lady-pool.
- The need to rinse and boil between each use.
- Carrying little bags of sopping red sponges around until you can gethome and get a pot on the boil. Not so exciting, especially if you travel a lot or are clumsy like me. (Likelihood of me having a handbag spill at an inopportune moment is HIGH.)
If you have used these please let us know your experience!
All said and done, please experiment with what works for you.
Buy now you have probably worked out I am a huge fan of menstrual cups and the odd cloth pad for light flow days. But. Just because a cup works wonders for me doesn't mean you will love it and become a cup advocate, subjecting all your friends to menstrual cup parties and serving bloody marys... (ok sorry I got a little carried away there...)
If you want more info, you can read another great blog perspective on this issue at Eco Femme.
If nothing else, find ways to see your monthly bleeding as a blessing of health and femininity.
Give yourself a treat or gift each month instead of groaning and cursing while you run for the pain killers. One of my friends keeps a small 'bleeding basket' at her home with tiny presents for women who visit while bleeding. We all contribute to the basket by bringing something from time to time.
However you do it - love and honor your monthly gift of fertility.
Much love, Bee
OK BACK TO WASTE FREE NEWS!
Total household waste recorded this month was 18.4 kgs with 15.6 kg saved from going into landfill.
- 4.7 kg food waste (2.35kg /fortnight). We are getting better at managing our food to the point where we had to pay a visit to the farmers market to get more waste from them to feed our worms and chooks!
- 2.8 kg Recycling (1.4kgs /fortnight) Much of this is paper packaging. Perhaps we should compost this to reduce it further...?
- 1.6 kg Soft plastic (0.8kg /fortnight) A change of kitty litter brand meant plastic packaging that bumped up our total :( We have found yet another brand with paper packaging for next month.
- 9.3 kg Kitty litter (4.65 /fortnight) Will be better next month with the new brand of lighter pellets.
The 'Too Hard' Basket
Only two items landed in the basket this month.
- A sneaky mix of plastic and paper in a chip packet. That plastic window should have been a total give away. We will try scraping this apart.
- Icky used band-aids. Nic had some not-so-skilled with a knife moments :( See a post soon for the contents of the waste free first aid kit we are compiling :)
Please remember to comment, like and share (email, facebook etc) this post below!
Until next time, take care of yourselves and your surrounds,
Nic and Bee