One of my goals for 2017 is to waste less and take steps to become more environmentally friendly. The biggest step I’ve taken towards this goal so far is using a menstrual cup.
The menstrual cup is a silicone product used during a woman’s period. Rather than soaking it up, like the traditional tampon, the cup collects period waste which can then be easily washed away when the cup is removed.
The cups cost anywhere between £3 and £25 depending on the brand, however, the general shape and functions are all the same. The best bit is, they can be used again and again, for up to 10 years! There’s nothing fun about buying tampons of pads, but, buying a cup was way more fun for me because they come in different colours, even glitter ones!
Up until the end of 2016, I hadn’t needed sanitary products due to the fact the contraception I was using stopped my periods. Due to changing methods, I do now have a period and therefore I have only recently purchased a menstrual cup. I went for a lovely purple ‘Me Luna’ cup which cost just £12.
The cost benefit makes switching definitely worth it, however, more importantly, the environmental benefit is huge. The book ‘Flow: The Cultural History of Menstruation, says that a woman typically throws away up to 300 pounds of feminine hygiene related products in a lifetime. When I started using tampons, the applicator part was cardboard. However, many brands have switched to using plastic applicators so that they can advertise a smoother application process. The plastic applicators take 25 years to break down in the sea and are a potential health hazard to animals that ingest them. 20,000 tampon applicators were collected in 2009 for the Ocean Conservancy’s International Coastal Cleanup project. Twenty thousand!
By switching to a cup that will last me for 10 years, I will be saving money and reducing waste.
I have considered reasons that could prevent women in the UK from wanting to switch from tampons and pads to a cup. So far, I have identified 3 barriers:
1) Cultural reasons
After a conversation in a money-saving Facebook Group, I learnt that the cups can damage the hymen (not that all women have them in the first place/all virgins have them intact- but, hey, that’s a debate/rant for another day), which can be an issue for virgin women of certain cultures.
2) Self-confidence reasons
Another person in the conversation within the Facebook group pointed out that she didn’t think her 15-year-old daughter would be comfortable with the idea of using a cup as it involves ‘poking around down there’. Personally, I believe it’s very important to be comfortable with your own body throughout your life and even more importantly as the body changes through puberty. I promote openness about bodily functions (can you tell from this post?) and feel it’s crucial for a healthy body and mind to feel confident in your own skin. I, therefore, feel that encouraging daughters to use cups will not only help reduce waste, but it is also an opportunity to educate young ladies on the importance and benefits of understanding our own bodies.
3) Health reasons
I’m not familiar with any specific examples, but some women may experience health issues that make using a cup dangerous, uncomfortable or impossible. Such reasons are understandable.
I can’t think of any other barriers to using a cup. If you have an opinion or know of facts that could prevent certain women from using a cup, please leave a comment as I would love to hear your thoughts.
Besides the women who may fall into one of the three categories above, there must be millions of women who can easily switch to using a cup, if they haven’t already done so.
So, what’s stopping them?
If people (men and women and everyone in between) understood the benefits for the environment, maybe more women will choose to use cups. Or, maybe the tax on tampons and pads should be increased to discourage women from using them?
If you’re a woman who has a menstrual cycle, do you use a cup? If you don’t, it would be great to hear your reasons for not using one, whatever they are. Please leave a comment and let me know. I would love to hear your thoughts and start an interesting conversation with people who share similar or different opinions. Thanks!