Menstrual cycle and menstrual waste is a really sensitive topic, and some might even view it as a taboo topic for conversations. Nevertheless, it is relevant and one conversation that should not be avoided. Instead, the awareness should be raised regarding sustainable menstrual cycles, and sustainable alternatives to tampons and single use sanitary pads.
Before diving into period talk, let’s rewind a bit and look at the history. Menstrual cups go as far back as the end of 19th century. In the U.S. the first patents of menstrual cups or catamenial sacks were patented in 1870’s, however these designs didn’t make it into the market. Only in 1937 the modern menstrual cup was invented by American actress Leona Chalmers; this menstrual cup was made from latex rubber. Re-usable menstrual cup was certainly not an easy thing to advertise or introduce in the society. At a time the idea of using a reusable internal period protection seemed scandalous. Only in 1980’s with the creation of The Keeper, made from latex rubber, were menstrual cups once again reintroduced in the society as an alternative to tampons and sanitary pads. Following that, at the beginning of 21st century a new material was introduced for menstrual cups – medical grade silicon – which made menstrual cups even more hygienic and safe to use also for those women with latex allergies.
The average woman has around 500 menstrual cycles in her lifetime. According to The National Centre for Health and Research a woman who uses tampons monthly will use around 12,000 tampons in her life. In the U.S. alone around 43 million women use tampons; and around 3 billion dollars are spent each year on sanitary protection. To add the numbers up, every year over 45 billion feminine hygiene products are disposed of globally. In addition, tampons are not only bad for our environment; they also can become a threat to woman’s health. Tampons can cause vaginal dryness or ulcerations, when too absorbent tampon is used for the menstrual flow. And one of the most serious illnesses linked to the high absorbency and prolonged use of tampons is Toxic Shock Syndrome (TSS):
“TSS is caused by the common bacteria – Staphylococcus aureus – which normally live harmlessly on the skin and in the nose, armpit, groin or vagina of one in every three people. In rare cases certain strains of these bacteria can produce toxins (poisons) that cause TSS.”
One of the most popular sustainable alternatives to tampons and single use sanitary pads is a menstrual cup. A menstrual cup is a bell shaped cup, usually made out of medical grade silicon, and it sits low in the vaginal canal; rather than absorbing the menstrual flow, a menstrual cup collects it. There are many different menstrual cups in the market, they vary in sizes, colours, whether they are animal tested or not and how long they last. On average in one lifetime you will only need two menstrual cups, one before the age of 30 or giving a vaginal birth and one after the age of 30 or giving a vaginal birth. However, it might take some time to find your “Goldilocks” menstrual cup, which feels good and fits perfectly, so if you don’t know what to do with the cups that didn’t make the cut, you can find some menstrual cup recycling ideas here. On average a menstrual cup will hold 3 times more than a regular tampon; and you only need to change your menstrual cup every 8 or 12 hours, depending on the menstrual flow.
As mentioned above, there are several companies in the market that sell menstrual cups. I have been using a menstrual cup for around 4 years, and I highly doubt that I will go back to tampons or sanitary pads. I first heard about a menstrual cup in a workshop organised by a local vegetarian society, at a time I was late in my teens, and it was around 12 years ago. Back then a menstrual cup was not as widely accessible as it is now in the most parts of the world, so due to the lack of accessibility I forgot about it, until 8 years later I received it as a Christmas gift from my sisters. I was lucky enough, that with the first try I had found my “Goldilocks” menstrual cup – Ruby Cup. Read below about some of my favourite menstrual cup companies, that are all vegan and none of these cups or their materials are tested on animals; and all the menstrual cups in the list are made from medical grade silicon. On each site you will find instructional pictures or videos on how to use the menstrual cup, how to clean it and a lot more information regarding the menstrual cup, menstrual cycle and the environment. So read on and turn your period green with the menstrual cup. Psst, don’t worry, your menstrual cup can’t get lost inside you.
The list is organised alphabetically.
“Lunette is all about liberation. We’re advocates of individuality without selfishness, community without conformity and of course equality for all.”
Lunette Cup is a Finnish menstrual cup company, and all their cups are made locally in Finland.
“The first sanitary protection manufacturer in the world to be awarded Ethical Business status for its people- and environmentally-friendly practices.”
Mooncup Ltd is a British company, their story started as early as 1999, with the first cups becoming commercially available on 2002.
“Ruby Cup is a high quality menstrual cup, also known as a period cup. It is reusable for up to 10 years, making it the most eco-friendly alternative menstrual product there is. For every Ruby Cup purchased we donate another one to a girl in Africa.”
Ruby Cup not only is a great menstrual cup that comes in two sizes and 5 colours, with every cup they sell, they donate one to a girl in Africa. So by buying Ruby Cup you will not only reduce your waste footprint on our planet, but you will also help a girl.
“Drawing on over 20 years of experience in menstrual care, Diva International Inc. is committed to providing women with excellence.”
Diva International Inc is a Canadian company that works closely with several organisations that work to provide women with feminine hygiene products.
If you are still not convinced on the menstrual cups or simply prefer pads, opt out of single use pads and make your own or invest into reusable pads, that can be used for up to 5 years, like these LunaPads.