So the passing of this day usually gets me thinkin as i watch people around me buy CF bulbs, or even organic bamboo material. (soooooooo soft!) There's always a missing suggestion on how to be greener. An important suggestion, but an uncomfortable one.
Yeah, ladies. We need to talk about Auntie Flo. Our monthly visitor. The Banks of the Nile running red. A little ketchup with your steak. (and five million other euphemisms you can see on this link--HILARIOUS! http://www.mum.org/words.html) Yes. I am talking about menstruation.
Ok. If any boys were reading this, they've probably left now. That's good. They might not like what's coming.
I use cloth pads. There. I've said it. I no longer purchase Always or Tampax or any other "disposable" item to handle my monthly flow. There are still a few in the house--I still have a supply from when i did use them, but I only use them in emergencies right now.
I came to this lifestyle choice not because of a "green" decision, but a health one. I cannot use the disposable stuff--my vajayjay won't have it. I haven't been able to use tampons for a few years now--don't know why, but they are painful for me unless my flow is "ohmigod, how can i bleed that much and not die?" And yes, I've tried all the varieties, etc etc. I'm not a pansy. I used them for years having this problem because I thought, as many women do, that this is what women do. You mature, you start using tampons and you deal with it until you hit menopause. But the pain got so intense that i had to go back to the old high school standard, the pad.
God. It just evokes memories, right? Sitting in class, cramps from hell, hoping you're not leaking, or that the outline of the pad is showing because you're wearing tight-ass jeans, or the SOUND of them as you walk that you SWEAR everyone can hear. They aren't fun. period. (no pun intended, i think)
Well, it turns out my vajayjay don't like them either. I mean REALLY doesn't. one word: Rash. Yes, rash. So not only are they just no fun, they are extremely uncomfortable for me--and for days after once my period has ended.
Those were my arguments against--and fairly solid ones too. But for those of you without a sensitive vajayjay, here are a few others that make very good sense.
- Although most women think pads and tampons have been sterilized, they have not. In fact, no feminine hygiene product has been sterilized.
- FDA does not require that the ingredients in tampons and pads be listed anywhere in or on the package.
- Over 12 BILLION pads and tampons are USED ONCE and disposed of annually, adding to environmental pollution.
- In a woman's lifetime, she is likely to use 15,000 sanitary pads or tampons.
- An average woman throws away 250 to 300 pounds of tampons, pads and applicators in her lifetime. The great majority of these end up in landfills, or as something the sewage treatment plants must deal with.
- Plastic tampon applicators from sewage outfalls are one of the most common forms of trash on beaches.
- According to a 1998 article in Vegetarian Times, studies conducted by the sanitary products industry have found that lurking within tampons are trace amounts of dioxin, a chemical deemed a probable carcinogen by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).
- Congresswoman Carolyn Maloney from New York points out that there has been far more testing on the possible health effects of chlorine-bleached coffee filters than on chlorine-bleached tampons and related products.
And let us not forget the beauty of Toxic Shock Syndrome. It can, and does kill. I had a run-in with it once, long ago. Nothing like almost passing out on toilet to make you feel like a woman...
So now we hit alternatives--which in this world usually fall into two categories--cup or cloth.
For many women the cup is a great alternative. There are many brands out on the market that are free of whatever it is that makes your vajayjay unhappy. Just google "menstrual cup" and all sorts of links will pop up. But let me be clear here--this isn't for someone who is not comfortable with knowing the inside of her vajayjay. If you can't get past using an OB tampon because there is no applicator, then you will not like the cup, and you can just skip down to my discussion of cloth pads. If you've ever used a diaphragm, then this will be second nature to you. I recommend the Lunacup--it has a couple different models for women in different stages of life. Yeah--those vaginal muscles are not the same after childbirth, and your body's ability to hold that cup in place is different. (ask me how i know) The makers of the Lunacup understand that, and compensate.
I've tried the cup at various times in my life, but never stuck with it. For me there were a few cons: leaking and discomfort. No matter what brand i used, it never created a tight enough seal for me to not have to wear a pantyliner with it, which defeated the purpose. I also had a discomfort issue upon removal of the cup--but i think it was me and my weird vajayjay and not the cup. So they just aren't for me personally, but i know LOTS of women use them without complaint. You buy 2--one to wear and one that is being washed/sanitized. that's 2 for the year. Think about how many pads and tampons worn in a year. it takes 6 years for a tampon to decompose, and pads? It aint just diapers fillin' those landfills.
You can wear the cup for 12 hours at a time before you need to remove it and wash it. 12 hours. You get up, get ready for work, put in your cup, and have no worries until you come home. nice. Oh, and it makes for not so messy sex at the time too--another plus.
Since the cup wasn't for me, that left me to the more granola stand-by: cloth pads. This was more up my alley anyway since i have all this material--alot of it scraps--and a crafty notion. There are plenty of free patterns out there to make your own, so some women just trace the pad model they currently use so that it is a size they are used to. If you're not crafty, you can buy them. I've seen them in health food stores, and a few Whole Foods, and there are LOTS of women who sell them online or out of their homes. (And before you think this is a plug for me--I still dont' sell them. I'm still working on a design that is more efficient to make for the price i wanna sell, so I only make them for me at present.) Anywho, hit esty, or even google "cloth menstrual pads" and, yup, you guessed it, there is more than one page with sellers. Lots of WAHMs make these--usually the same women who make all-in-one cloth diapers (put it together), and it seems a lucrative business. (thus my other than personal interest) I've seen them called Glad Rags, Mama Cloths, Moon cloths, etc.
Ok, that's all about supply. I know what you're thinkin' though--HOW? Well, it's not as hard as you might imagine. You can also google this (*it's how i learned).
First, cleaning. It's the biggest part of this job. Personally, I have a bucket set aside to soak used pads in soap or Oxiclean solution. Changed daily. I just put the used one in there, let it soak, and then change the water the next day, keeping the soakers in there (unless they are stain-free, then i remove them and dry them on a rack that is hidden away...) once my period is over, I take all the ones soaking and/or drying and throw them in the wash for a good hot wash with soap. Out of the dryer I fold them up and put them in the bathroom to await my next visit from Auntie. Yeah, there's a little work there. But i have a happy vajayjay and I'm not filling the landfill with more plastic. It's less work than cloth diapering a baby. Or just caring for a baby, period.
Second--what about going out in public? Its not much different from using other items. You usually have a "wet bag" which could be anything from a ziploc bag to an embroidered, plastic-lined number. Just something to hold a used one if you need to. Yeah. You have to carry it around with you. That may be the number-one turn off for lots of women. If so, try the cup.
Third: leaking. Some of you may be thinking--but jeez, I bleed like Niagara Falls here--Cotton ain't gonna cut it! Well, you aren't the only one. Cotton pads are made with different parts. There is an absorbent middle (i used flannel, polar fleece, terry or microfiber) and some people make their's with PUL--a plastic lined material. I don't because I don't want plastic anywhere near my vajayjay. It also makes a crinkly noise that i don't want to hear. There are also models that have a place where you can put in another soaker (like for overnight or super heavy flow) to compensate. I can say with great confidence that in all the time I've been doing this--one leak. ONE. And here's a little known fact that i discovered when i was doing my reasearch. It isn't scientifically proven or anything, but when you use cloth or the cup, you begin to bleed less. yes. You read that right. YOU BLEED LESS. Not right off the bat, mind you. But a few cycles in, you begin to notice a difference. (cramps are still there though. sorry) Personally, when i was worried in the beginning, i would just put a pantyliner that i still had under the cloth pad. But now that's not even a necessity.
I know it ain't for everyone. And if the thought of any of this grosses you out, then you have your answer. But if you've thought about it, or any of the facts struck a nerve with you, then it might be time to make a change. And think about this. If you are willing to cloth diaper your kid--what is the difference? It's not as "granola" as you think it might be. Lots of women make this choice. Could be the woman sitting next to you. If you passed Earth day and wondered, how can i make my life "greener", the answer might be in your own drawers.