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!


    1. I tried the Diva cup and found it a bit uncomfortable because it was too long. If you check around there are lots of different sized cups available. Check here for info:

    2. Thanks for the great information about the alternatives for women today! Looking forward to reading your second post.

      Best wishes,

      Stacey and The DivaCup Team

    3. Krysta, great blog! Love the topic! It has got me thinking about what goes on in my own pants! I really appreciate the resources and the honest review of the alternatives out there! I anxiously await part 2!

    4. Super cool! I love it - Thank you so much for doing this :D