Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Adventure in my pants: Part 2

It's been two anxiety-filled days of waiting for the amazing conclusion.

Five days to test four different feminine hygiene products and figure out if full-time sustainability is practical enough for a period.

Day 1: Diva Cup

I figured I'd better start serious and break out the Diva Cup. Getting it in is a little tricky, and even though the instructions tell you to only use this product when you're on your period, I'm going to recommend you practice getting it in and out before your cycle starts. You'll be glad you did. Figuring out the logistics of my body while on my period was annoying, to say the least.
Anyway I did finally get it. It was quite comfortable. I had to trim the stem a little, but apparently that's normal.

The packaging says that the Diva Cup does not leak and only needs to be emptied every 12 hours. This wasn't exactly the case for me and I needed to empty it several times in the first 24 hours and I went through two liners. Luckily it was my day off, so it wasn't an issue. I'd like to give this product another test run next month before I give my full recommendation.

Day 2: Tampons and Liners
I paired up the tampons with the liners, just to be safe. I had already used two of the liners on day one, which was stupid of me, so I was a little worried. When my period finally started I was so excited to use my new stuff that I didn't really plan ahead at all. I was so used to having boxes upon boxes of pads and tampons that I just went ahead and used whatever, without thinking.

This made me especially nervous because I didn't know how well the tampons would work. I packed an extra liner and all the tampons into my wet bag and also shoved a few disposable tampons into my backpack, just in case. I knew that using them would mean that I failed my own sustainable challenge, but I didn't want any embarrassing issues at work.

The day was a success. The reusable tampons worked just as well as my disposable, organic ones, if not better. They're easy to roll up and put in and I had no leak problems that one little pantiliner couldn't handle. The bonus to the reusable method that I didn't foresee was that because there was no packaging, there wasn't any of the embarrassing noises associated with ripping open tampon packages in the bathroom. I don't mind blogging about my period, but I'm not about to broadcast news of my cycle at work.

Day 3: Tampons and Liners
Much the same as day 2.

Day 4: Reusable Pad
Well, here's where I panic a bit. I was out of liners and tampons. I had to suck it up and use one of the full sized pads, which I had only been using for evenings (in case you were wondering what I did at night). When I removed the inserts the pad was undetectable with slightly baggy pants. Really, these pads are great, it's just that they are longer than I need and they make me paranoid. Still, the day was fine. I pulled the pad forward a little and I don't think it ever became visible from behind. Phew.

Days 5 and 6: Pad Insert
There is maybe a bit of spotting by day 5 and 6, but as I said, I was out of liners. I decided to use an insert from the pads, even though they don't have wings and snaps to keep them in place. Amazingly I discovered that you don't really need the wings and snaps to keep pads in place. They just stay. No shifting at all, even after walking around all night at the bookstore.

Care and cleaning:
After using pads or tampons I rinsed them and tossed them into a small bucket of cold water with a lid sitting under my bathroom sink. I changed the water daily, and on my heaviest day I put a little detergent in there. If you change the water daily, it won't smell. By the last day the water will be clear. I dump the water and throw everything into the wash with my clothes. In the months since I started using the cloth pads overnight, this is what I have always done. I have never gotten a stain on my clothes and there aren't even stains on the pads themselves. Don't believe me? All of the pictures in the previous post were taken the day I wrote this, meaning they had all been used at least once and washed with my clothes using all natural powder detergent.

Tampons: Rinse them as soon as you can after use. They store just fine in the wet bag, but I really don't think you'll want them sitting in there for any longer than necessary.

Pads: Can usually be thrown right into the bucket without rinsing. Use your judgment.

Diva Cup: Follow the directions that come with it. They are detailed and easy. I used Dr. Bronner's unscented body wash instead of the Diva Wash, because I don't need to order yet another overpriced product from the internet.

Wet bag: Wipe it out daily and wash it with everything else at the end of your cycle.

Even though I carried disposable tampons around in my pocket all 6 days of my period, I never used them. Not one.

I splurged on my period, but I'm happy I did. I can honestly say I'm not going to be buying reusable pads or tampons any time soon and it'll save me so much money. The convenience of always having them here, ready for use is enough to sell me, but the environmental and safety issues are the greatest bonuses.

Monday, February 22, 2010

Adventure in my pants: Part 1

I'm going to start this post with a Disclaimer. This post is about periods. Yep, it's about that perfectly normal thing that most women on this planet deal with every month. Before all of you boys run off, I'm going to ask you to -try- and be mature about this. While you're obviously not my target audience, if you're eco-minded, or just plain thrifty, it's good information to have. Plus, it's about time men got over the whole fear of periods thing. And any ladies out there who are squeamish about their monthly cycles... suck it up and hear what I have to say. Maybe you'll learn something that will make your monthly visits a little easier to deal with. No, there won't be any gross pictures. What the hell kind of blogger do you take me for? Ok, now that we've lost all the big babies out there, let's get started!

A few years ago, while I was still in college, a friend of mine made a passing comment that kind of stuck with me. She was annoyed that women have to spend so much money on their damn periods. Everyone needs food and water and those subsidized by the government. Systems for getting these things to people have been put into place so that the things we need most are available to us for a pretty low cost. But what about women? We have periods every month and we need to buy products to help us deal with them so we can leave our houses and function as though we're not completely inconvenienced and feeling like shit. That stuff is expensive and wasteful and actually quite bad for us.

I'm going to start with a quick list of facts you might find interesting about disposable pads and tampons:
  • Tampons and pads are made of bleached cotton and rayon and contain dioxin, a chemical linked to infertility, immune system suppression and hormone abnormalities. Do you really want to put those inside your body?
  • The average woman will use 12,000 tampons or pads in her life. That doesn't take into account the applicators and the packaging. This is basically a mountain of bloody waste per woman. That's quite a lifetime achievement!
  • Tampons and pads are not sterile. Yes they are individually wrapped (more waste), but they are not sterile.
  • For more scary statistics and sources click here and here.

  • When I first learned about dioxins a few years ago I made the obvious switch to organic. The organic brands out there offer pads and tampons made of unbleached cotton, with little to no plastic packaging. I also ditched applicators, because they are so unnecessary. You should be washing your hands before and after dealing with tampons anyway.

    Last year I discovered Heather. At the time she was still Holistically Heather, but has since branched out and created a new Etsy shop called Aunt Flos Pads, dedicated to offering women a sustainable solution to their monthly cycles. Her blog post about reusable pads really got me thinking and I decided to try it out. Heather's pads come with two inserts: one for light days, one for medium and then you can pair them up for heavier days. I've found that the pads work so well that I never need more than one insert at a time at night. Sometimes I wear them without the insert at all. A disclaimer: Heather's usual pads are far more attractive than the ones I asked her to make for me. These were the first reusable pads I had ever seen or purchased and I was really worried about staining. I'm stupid.

    I'll admit that I didn't embrace it fully at first. The reusable pads are a bit bulky for me and can't be worn under just anything. However, her pads promptly replaced all of my nighttime and sitting-on-my-butt-at-home pads. The purchase of just these three pads has saved me a bundle of money and there hasn't been a leak to speak of.

    Last month I realized I needed to get a little more serious about it. I have less and less time to go shopping these days because I work all the time, and I was constantly running out of tampons and liners and not being able to go to the store. I also had a lot of eco-guilt associated with all of the waste. However, I didn't want to give up tampons. They're so damn convenient I can't even deal with it. In a moment of desperation, I turned once again to Etsy. I did a quick search and found the answer to all of my problems.

    For liners I found Brittany, who was willing to deal with all of my picky requests. Brittany agreed to make me a shorter liner than usual, leave out any stitching down the center of the pads (I've heard that can cause leaks) and line it with PUL, a waterproof liner that blocks leaks. I made sure my pads were cute this time. The pads also fold up and snap for easy storage, as you can see above.

    I then found Barb. How unexpected. It seemed to good to be true! A reusable tampon? I was worried, so I sent her a message asking her if she really used these things. How does she deal with changing them when she's out? Do they really come clean? Do they smell? All of her answers were satisfactory and her prices were even better. So I told her what kind I wanted, what the wet bag should look like and I made my purchase.

    There was just one more thing. As I was reading Sleeping Naked is Green, I rediscovered The Diva Cup. My friends and I used to make fun of The Diva Cup. I mean, the title alone is ridiculous enough, but come on, a cup? In your vagina? Not so sure about that. But Vanessa loved it, and she talked about other women who loved it. That got me reading blogs about the serious love of Diva Cups. Women swear by them. After checking out their website I decided to give it a shot and I ordered one.

    I figured I'd better make something of all this crazy spending and write up a nice blog post about it. The thing that sold me the most on all of these products was hearing about them from another woman, even if I didn't know her. The kind ladies I purchased from on Etsy use their own products and the bloggers who wrote about Diva Cup are not paid for it, so it added a very human touch. In an attempt to add yet another human touch, I tested all of these products the best way I could think of, on myself.

    This ends part 1. For the results of the Sustainable Period challenge, check out part 2!

    Saturday, February 20, 2010

    A post about Stuff

    I know you are all waiting on the edges of your seats for the extra special post I promised for this weekend, but this is not it. The extra special post involves some things that are currently wet and I would like to have them dry before I take pictures. You'll have to wait until Monday, which is when I've scheduled it to appear (magic!).

    Right now I would like to take some time to talk a little about Stuff. We all have it, lots and lots of it. Even those of us who do our best to keep it minimal have more stuff than we actually need. I get endlessly annoyed with all of the Stuff out there in the world, begging to be purchased. All of these things that are supposed to make our lives better, easier, more complete. I talk to some of my co-workers about this and they tend to agree. But then, booksellers are a thousand times smarter than everyone else and have no faults whatsoever. Ahem.

    The product that always jumps first into my mind and annoys me more than any other product out there is The Swiffer. Can a product possibly get any more needless than a Swiffer? You replace a broom and a mop (perfectly sustainable and long-lasting, cheap tools) with something plastic, disposable, and expensive. Yeah, ok, the refills are cheap (I'm guessing here, I've never bought any), but holy crap! you don't need it! And you have to keep buying them. Over and over and over again.

    I recently saw some products on Etsy for reusable Swiffer heads. A step in the right direction? I almost bought some for my mother. Maybe I will.

    So basically, when people talk to me about the problems with American Culture, the first thing I think of is a Swiffer. I know there are worse things, but this a pretty good metaphor for what's wrong with the developed world.

    This brings me to an important point. The point, actually, of this post. I'm going to be writing a few posts about the wasteful everyday items we use, well, everyday. The Logger was complaining about the lack of paper towels in this house the other day when I reminded him that I don't use anything disposable (except toilet paper), so we don't have any. Sorry. You'll have to use those cleaning rags after all. And to kick off this little series of posts, I'll start with the Super, Extra-Special, Weekend post I promised you. Monday is the new Sunday, so look or it then!

    I end this little post with my favorite green tip:
    Not all modern inventions are bad. Washing machines are awesome (cold water people, cold water). But seriously, who needs a dryer when you live in the most beautiful, green place all summer...

    and you've got a rockin wood stove all winter.

    PS- I started a new book! Check it out in the left hand column!

    Friday, February 19, 2010

    Wicked Plants - Amy Stewart

    What a charming and interesting book. I had no idea that so many common plants were so freaking bad for me and might possibly be able to kill me or my cat (this is imagining that I have a cat of course). For instance, did you know that tulip bulbs can cause blisters on the hands of people who package them because they are slightly poisonous? I mean, I always knew that tulips could inspire murder and ruin economies, but blisters? Now that's crazy!

    The book isn't all poison though. It also highlights plants that are destructive, and illegal, intoxicating, unpleasant, and dangerous. Apparently Stewart's opinion is that tobacco is the most dangerous plant of all. I'd have to say I agree with her on that one, though the Australian Stinging Tree sounds excruciating.

    There were so many little tid bits about the plants I see every day or even keep in my house. The book isn't set up in a way that is meant to be shocking or scary; it's interesting and fun. The author includes fun little facts and stories about most of the plants, which makes it more fun to read. It's also such a nice size and comes with a ribbons attached to use as a book mark. Why don't all hardcover book come with ribbons damn it?

    I had mixed feelings about the art in the book. The etchings, done by Briony Morrow-Cribbs, were very well done and interesting. They were beautiful and eerie at the same time, very much in the spirit of the book as a whole. They also remind me of the art my friend Lisa does, which helps. However, the little illustrations, done by Jonathon Rosen, were so poor that they actually annoyed me. They look like hasty doodles. I actually checked out his website because his bio in the book had some impressive commissions. His work varies from the doodly things seen in this book, to some impressive illustrations for newspapers and magazines. Go figure.

    Basically, when I was done reading this book, I wished there was a poison garden somewhere around here to visit. I have such a new appreciation for the scary power of the plant world. I always knew dangerous plants existed, but I guess I didn't realize just how common they were, and just how dangerous they could be.

    Wednesday, February 17, 2010

    I live in a Dorset horror flick

    Driving home at night from the bookstore is a little freaky. The roads are dark and twisty and trees crowd in from both sides. They're the kind of roads where, if my life were cheap thriller movie, a ghost would suddenly appear in front of my car, or an ax murderer would pop out of the backseat (I guess it doesn't help that I never lock my car), or some psycho would start stalking me with his car and flashing his brights and maybe even run into me. Have I mentioned there's no police station in Dorset and no 24 hour businesses and basically no one around by the time I get home?

    These are the kinds of things I was thinking about tonight while some asshole with NY plates insisted on tailgating me all the way through town all because I'm not going to speed. Sorry. Even if the roads weren't slippery, I probably wouldn't be speeding. What I don't need is a ticket, a deer plastered to the front of my car, or to slide off the road. And come to think of it, I bet that guy didn't any of those things either. Thus, I am a cautious driver. I also hate tailgating so much it's reason enough for me to just stop driving.

    So I slowed down. He didn't get it. I brake checked him like nobody's business. No effect. If he had been any closer he would have been in the back seat of my car. Finally he passed me as we got into Dorset, 30mph speed limit, double yellow line. Good riddance.

    The point of this post? Public service announcement. DON'T TAILGATE. It's annoying and dangerous and it will make people who don't even know you, hate you.

    I know, I know, this isn't even a real blog post. But worry not! I have something special in mind for the weekend. Also I started a new book so amazing I want to memorize it and start reciting it on the streets like those crazy people in NY that are always yelling about the bible while everyone rolls their eyes and tries to ignore them. Yep, someday that nutcase you cross the street to avoid will be me. My parents will be so proud.

    Ta ta for now faithful readers!

    That green tidbit I promised to keep up with: So this one is stolen directly from the book Sleeping Naked is Green. It's just such a damn good idea that I had to take it up. During my morning showers, I do not turn on the bathroom light. There's enough sunlight coming in the window to see with, plus I love the calm and quiet feeling associated with darkness. Somehow it makes my shower feel more hushed. Yeah, I've been spending too much time around lighting designers. Anyway it's just one more little thing that can be done to reduce energy consumption in a daily routine. If I actually showered daily that is.

    Saturday, February 13, 2010

    The dark side of the farm

    I haven't posted in a while. I've been busy and that lead to me being tired. Anyway I stumbled across this star wars parody and it's basically the bst thing ever. So just shut up and watch it.

    Monday, February 1, 2010

    Book Review - Generation A by Douglas Coupland

    Douglas Coupland's writing is a little Chuck Palahniuk, without trying as hard to be clever, and a little Kurt Vonnegut, though not so cynical. This book is not his first novel, but it almost reads like one. It doesn't make me interested to read his other books anytime soon, which is a bummer because I had high hopes for this book.

    The story is about the foreseeable future when bees have gone extinct. No one has seen them for at least five years. Suddenly 5 different and seemingly unrelated people get stung. The book is told from their individual perspectives. Coupland does a good job of giving them all different personalities, though the writing style for each voice is basically identical. I found myself having trouble believing that the perceptive introvert was perceptive at all in certain chapters. At times he told his story like an ignorant fool.

    I had bigger problem with the pacing. The story was all beginning and end, with no middle to speak of. We start out with the 5 people getting stung and they are whisked away to underground labs to be studied for a month, without explanation as to why. Then they go home, but before anything can happen there, they are whisked away yet again to a remote island where they find out why they were stung and what the results of being locked away underground were. Why even have them go home at all? Coupland seemed to be in a rush, but nothing gets me into a book like a writer who savors the story.

    But I don't want to be misleading, it's a fun book and Coupland has a smart writing style. It was an easy read and an enjoyable one. It simply wasn't my favorite and I won't be rushing to re-read this book. I still stand by it being an interesting story idea, I just wish there could have been more to it. In a way that's a compliment. It's not like I didn't finish the book; I liked it enough to want more from it.