Considering I spent most of 2015 writing about, collecting and posting thousands of towels and tampons, it feels a bit strange to be talking about sustainable menstrual protection.
The reality of disposable products is frightening – one website estimates that it takes up to 800 years for them to biodegrade, while tampons are widely associated with the (albeit very small) risk of Toxic Shock Syndrome, and 40% of what they absorb is your body’s moisture. A lot of people use these facts as a reason to shame others for using them, and force upon them other more environmentally products. However, people use disposable products for hundreds of very understandable reasons – everything from price and convenience to a lack of access to washing facilities.
Nobody should be shamed because of their menstrual hygiene choices, but if you are in a position to think about sustainability, and are interested in making some more eco-friendly choices, there are loads of options to consider.
What can I use instead of towels and tampons?
It’s no secret that team Verbal Remedy is a huge advocate of the Mooncup. Made from silicon, the Mooncup works in a similar way to a tampon in that it sits inside your vagina, but it collects the blood rather than absorbs it. This means that they aren’t associated with TSS, they don’t upset the amount of moisture you’ve got down there, and you can use them every single day of your period without issues. You can even try out inserting when you’re not on at all.
If Mooncups aren’t for you, there are hundreds of reusable sanitary towels you can choose from. Etsy do a great range of fabric towels that attach to your pants with poppers, and you just wash them after each use. You can even make your own – there are plenty of fabric patterns online!
If you’ve got a fair whack to spend, Thinx underwear are magical pants that allow you to be totally protection free – they are the protection. I don’t know how, but they just absorb everything, and look exactly like normal underwear. Thinx are a fantastic forward thinking brand who are totally upfront about periods and have even featured trans men among their models.
What else can we do?
One of the easiest ways to be a bit more environmentally friendly is to manage the amount of waste you produce, even with disposables – not by limiting the amount of them you use, but by buying ones that you like, and keeping some in your bag (hands up if you’ve bought a whole new packet of tampons in Superdrug because you came on in town, even when you’re practically drowning in your own personal pool of tampons at home). If you do end up with any leftover towels or packets that you aren’t going to use, don’t simply throw them away – donate them to your local women’s refuge, give them to a flatmate or even leave them in a nice little bowl in your favourite pub or the library loos.
Last but by no means least, washing. I’ll let you in on a secret – one time I bled all over my university bed. Goodbye security deposit, right? Wrong! In the same way that you can get red wine out of things if you act fast enough, I doused the entire area in salt, and let it soak it up. I know that’s disgusting, but honestly, after that it was relatively easy to actually get the rest of it off with soap and water (and a sponge I threw out immediately). Most fabric detergents and some home remedies like this one will get rid of even the scariest of stains, meaning more clothes are spared the bin. The same goes for duvet covers, bed linen, cushions, etc.
Periods are a great leveller – we all get them whether we’re rich or poor, short or tall, fat or skinny. They shouldn’t be a source of shame, not least in how we choose to deal with them – be that by free bleeding whilst eating chocolate mousse or popping in a tampon and going for a good swim. The ultimate aim of that time of the month is to feel comfortable, but if you can genuinely afford to spend some money and time on greener period alternatives, then I have no doubt Mother Nature will thank you.