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Photos courtesy of Thinx, Natracare and Period Aisle

My decision to start buying more sustainable period products

By Rachneet Randhawa, July 22 2020—

Being mindful of our purchasing decisions is more important now than ever. People are quarantined with nothing to do and so shopping can get a bit out of control. That being said, if you are someone who normally buys in bulk, now is perhaps the best time to experiment with interesting and new products while in quarantine and to be a participant in those “haul” YouTube vlogger videos which I know we all secretly love and find soothing at times. 

If there is anything you should make the next transition to, it should be sustainable period products. The initial inspiration for this came from the Eco Period: Exploring the Sustainable Side period event put on as a collaboration between the Sustainability Resource Centre and the Women’s Resource Centre (WRC) around this same time last year. I’m not going to lie, I admit I used to be one of those people who would roll my eyes at most things organic and shrug away the things that, at first glance seemed hipster-ish because I felt too late to the game. But, I realized there are benefits to switching to certain sustainable products in your self-care routine that will do wonders for you in the long run regardless of whether or not you have a sensitive body. 

The event  was eye-opening as it screened a popular Netflix documentary on how women around the world, especially in developing countries, face prejudice and bigotry due to the stigma of menstruation. Essentially, the premise behind the film is that a group of women are social entrepreneurs in that they fundraise to purchase a machine that produces biodegradable pads and in turn use the profits from the sale of those pads to reinvest into their families and communities. By providing women in rural areas with public education and resources, these women were able to make healthier and progressive choices for themselves all the while giving them independence by earning an income. 

In Western society we are indeed privileged, having a plethora of choices in brands of pads and tampons of every cut, size, colour, shape and even scent to choose from. Although we have variety to choose from it does not necessarily mean there is depth in that variety. That is, most of the period products sold at the drug stores and supermarkets come from a handful of corporate conglomerates selling pads. Sometimes these have many additives and toxins that we can barely pronounce and trace to their root source. For instance, I for one was an admirer of Always Infinity pads for years because I was amazed at the FlexFoam technology and super thin super sponge, and not to mention they made the first couple of days of my menstrual cycle a breeze. Low and behold leading up to the event I was becoming aware of the contaminants in many pads with my favorite go-to clocking in with at least four harmful chemicals: styrene, chloromethane, chloroethane and chloroform which are either carcinogens, reproductive toxins, irritants or all of the above.

Honestly, when I first found out I was annoyed, but also peeved. How could I have been using this toxic pad for years? It was as if the government doesn’t even care about product labelling and certifications and as if the mainstream media was conditioning us to accept the poster child popular period brand. Why weren’t women educated more? I used to think buying “natural pads” for those who had severe pre-existing health conditions or were simply being more conscientious about their purchasing decisions and as a young woman would not apply to me. But, at the end of the day it’s our reproductive health in the long term that matters. It may not seem like a big deal now, but over time, it’s said that the accumulation effect will take hold of a vicious cycle in which your body will become more erratic and sensitive thanks to being exposed to industrial toxins for so long. 

It reminds me of when Johnson & Johnson’s famous baby powder was put on trial a couple of years ago when a longtime customer came forward and claimed her regular use of it consistently over many years caused her to get ovarian cancer. due to the exposure of mesothelioma, in the lining of the lungs and chest wall, and asbestos exposure. It goes to show that big brand name companies don’t necessarily have their customers well-being at heart. 

There is still a lot of unconditioning to be done, especially on the part of the consumer who has to continually educate themselves on what is the best for their health and safety. So, what is the best way to avoid these harsh chemicals and additives? Take the leap during your shark week and try sustainable period products.

First off, (from the least to the most popular) we begin with simply using organic pads and tampons like Organic or Natracare. Personally, I went with the second option and never looked back. What shocked me was not only the naturally grainy texture but unlike the Always Infinity ones, they didn’t look like it gave off some fumes if any liquid was poured on it. It was a bit of an adjustment because it didn’t feel as smooth and sleek. But, once I looked past that I came to realize the tremendous benefits gained over my next few cycles. For starters, I have been tracking my period dates in the last year and a half or so for consistency and most of you may know on average how long each cycle for you lasts and when your flow is the heaviest or lightest — there are many apps you can do this on.. For one, by transitioning away from Always Infinity pads to this natural brand, I kid you not, but I think on average my cycle has decreased by 1.5 days and somehow my body feels “lighter.” The heaving experience I used to get with the conventional pads is reduced and my lady parts don’t feel as inflamed. There is slight reduction in irritation and the flow seems more lax and at ease — all from changing to a natural product! 

In terms of cost, the next option is getting a reusable pad such as the Luna Pad, a one time investment in which you can reuse a washable pad with a velcro-backing multiple times. If running shopping errands is not your thing, this saves you time. Another option is reusable panties which albeit I liked more because of their versatility. Thinx are a fan-favourite period underwear which are literally a super-soaker fabric, not to mention a savvy investment for around 50 bucks a pair that every gal should have. Of course they are reusable, but the best part is the peace of mind you receive of not having to double check yourself during busy times such as midterms and back-to-back due dates and the multiple commitments required by a student. No longer sipping that anxie-tea! 

And lastly, there is the best, most sustainable and economically efficient product: the menstrual cup. Basically, they are folded and inserted directly into the vaginal opening upon which they form a suction to stay in place and surprisingly store the flow and prevent the remnants from exiting your body (gravity speaks). Typically, they can be reused multiple times  and sanitized by being rinsed with water and a mild soap. Not to mention saving you hundreds of dollars in the long run They are becoming more common now with the Diva cup doing some great marketing.

I would like to say that menstruation and period products should be a fundamental right and be subsidized similar to food coupons or housing vouchers instead of having to pay a ridiculous mark-up “pink tax” for gendered products. C’mon like we have a choice in having a monthly vampire buffet. But I digress. If you can at least give yourself knowledge on what options are out there, that is an awesome start. 

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