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A Sustainable Time of the Month

By Sustainability Office on April 24, 2017

-Anna McHugh ’17

This week marks my one year anniversary in switching to a menstrual cup instead of using disposable tampons and pads during my period. While I have been hesitant to publicly talk about periods due to various societal structures that hide and mark this phenomenon as secret and disgusting, my experience with a menstrual cup has opened my eyes and compelled me to share it with anyone who will listen.

Why do I need to read this?

If you do not menstruate, this information still very much can relate to you. You will interact with people who do use these products and it’s important to have some information on how they work and how they relate to sustainability.

For those who do menstruate, this could be an eye opener. These products are sustainable and financially practical. They are comfortable and approachable. And after reading this, I hope they make more sense.

So what is a menstrual cup?

A menstrual cup is a small, flexible cup made of silicon or latex rubber. Instead of absorbing your flow, like tampons and pads, it catches and collects it. It forms a seal to prevent any leaks and can remain in place for 12 hours at a time. And it’s reusable for up to 10 years.

The general idea of a reusable menstrual cups has been around in the United States since the 1860s. In 1937, actress Leona Chalmers created a design most similar to what we see today (pictured to the left). The public was less than enthused by this idea and Chalmers’ company, Tassette, disappeared in 1963. Menstrual cups were reintroduced in the late 1980’s but their popularity has spiked in the 21st century. The biggest evolution yet came in 2014 with a collapsible cup bringing menstrual cups into the mainstream.

How does this relate to sustainability?

There are many pros to switching to reusable menstrual products, many of which relate to the idea of reduction.

1. Less work

As mentioned before, you can keep a menstrual cup in for up to 12 hours. It’s much less work only changing it once or twice a day, whereas tampons can really only stay in 4-6 hours.

2. Less waste

20 billion menstrual products end up in North American landfills each year. On average, a menstruator uses 12,000 disposable sanitary products in their lifetime. Using a menstrual cup reduces this personal waste substantially.

3. Less money

When you purchase a menstrual cup, you only have to shop for period products once a year and save an average of 75%.

4. Fewer toxins

Tampons have been found to contain traces of pesticides, bleach, and carcinogenic dioxin. Replacing tampons with menstrual cups reduces both your exposure to toxins and their release into the environment.

Are there other options?

I want to note that while I do talk only about menstrual cups, there are many different kinds of reusable menstrual products out there for those who need them! These products vary in prices, and some options are more financially accessible than others. For more information about these products, which include reusable tampons and pads, period panties, and organic cotton pads and tampons, visit Bustle’s 5 Ways to Make Your Period More Sustainable. If you decide to make the switch to a menstrual cup, you can buy one online or locally from Hamilton Whole Foods. There are a lot of resources out there, so do your research and consider making the switch to more sustainable period products.


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