Sustainable Periods: Progress not Perfection
Updated: Jul 11, 2022
We caught up with Joy, author of Simplify Sustainable Living, a blog addressing all things sustainable to talk about eco-friendly menstruation. How do I make my period more sustainable? Whether you choose reusable period underwear or organic, bamboo pads, a focus on progress, not perfection, makes for sustainable periods for you as well as the planet. Read on!
Why is an eco-blogger like me always talking about periods?
Well, I bleed. And every person who bleeds has their own period history and experiences. It’s simultaneously a personal and shared experience. And it’s only through coming together as a community of bleeders that we can tackle issues like pink tax, period poverty, and accessible, affordable, sustainable periods.
The knowledge that standard period care products are made with harmful chemicals is not new. Yet a healthy, accessible alternative hasn’t immediately become mainstream. Thankfully that’s changing! I’m thrilled to see how many Canadian companies are making sustainable periods a priority.
Eco brands are magnificently tackling industry issues. They’re providing sustainable options in low-waste packaging. Even better, many companies, like joni, are making period poverty a priority too! So sustainable products are not only good for the environment, they’re better for your health, and our community too!
Not sure where to start?
The first step is to pick a product with the least amount of packaging or most cardboard over plastic. No more plastic tampon applicators, please!
There are so many options these days if you’d like to take your sustainable periods one step further. From organic cotton tampons with cardboard applicators to biodegradable pads and liners (like joni offers) to reusable pads, period underwear, menstrual discs, menstrual cups—you name it. Each product has its time and place, pros and cons.
Why doesn’t everyone make the switch?
Many factors go into our period care choices, including:
Finances: This is the most common reason people don’t use the most sustainable products. Period Poverty (which is inadequate access to period care and education, including period products, washing facilities, and waste management) is not just a reality in impoverished countries, it exists in Canada, the U.S., and Europe. Items like menstrual cups and period underwear have a larger upfront cost, which is a barrier for some but is more cost-effective in the long run.
Convenience and Accessibility: The extra effort of having to do research, ordering online, searching multiple stores, or waiting for products to ship can all be barriers to entry. This is why I’m so happy to see more menstrual cup varieties in local drug stores.
Uncertainty: This I understand all too well. People worry about whether they’ll be able to figure out the product, whether it will be comfortable, whether it will actually work. My first attempt with a menstrual cup was jarring. I was desperate to manage my cramps so I did a silly thing and tried it out on a workday (I may have even worn a skirt). Despite having another layer of protection on, the uncertainty gave me such anxiety that I actually worsened my cramps and had cold sweats all day hoping I hadn’t made a huge mistake. I share this experience not to discourage others from trying but to encourage others to try it from home and to watch a YouTube video on how to insert it properly so you don't experience the difficulties I had. In the end, I found that it did work and I really needn't be so worried.
Function: We want our products to work, but we also want them to work with us. The period panties I like to use for full-day coverage don’t look nice under my dress pants—so on heavy days in the office, I have to find an alternative. This is where less bulky compostable options like joni organic pads come in for the win!
Comfort: Comfort is a high priority for me, as I’m sure it is for others. Our physiology is different, which can have an impact on what products work best for us. Inserted items such as tampons and menstrual cups just aren’t for everyone despite their convenience. The more options that become available, the easier it is for everyone to find a sustainable period option that work for them!
So what’s the next step?
Honestly, I like to celebrate all successes—even the small wins. If you’ve ditched your tampon applicator, that’s a win! If you finally found a menstrual cup you like, share that brand with your friends and family! We’ve all got different vaginas and flows so every bit of encouragement will help another bleeding human out! Through sharing our struggles and successes, we may just make trustworthy, sustainable, and comfortable period care accessible to the new generation of bleeders and for all of us who continue to bleed.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Joy is the author of Simplify Sustainable Living, a blog addressing all things sustainable. On the blog, you’ll find everything from simple switches to product reviews with some vegan recipes mixed in. Through event consulting, Joy has worked with a variety of non-profit organizations supporting the homeless, underprivileged youth, and crisis relief. Joy is passionate about providing accessible and accurate information on environmentally conscious lifestyle changes.