Guest blogger bio: Caroline Bond, known more publicly as Kittiekipper, is an artist and activist from Seaford, East Sussex. She uses her Instagram to share her ghost net fibre art sculptures and designs with her followers, as well as offering tips and solutions when it comes to all things plastic.
Beach cleaning has changed me. The way I eat, the way I shop, the way I dress, the way I consume, and even the way I tackle my periods.
Before daily beach cleaning, I hadn’t really considered the implications of my consumer habits in such an in-depth way. I hadn’t realised that I was contributing to a problem I was so passionately fighting. It seems silly now, how long it took for me to make the connection between what was going into my shopping bag compared to what was going into my beach clean bag.
I find plastic tampon applicators regularly. Possibly even daily. And I’m not alone in that… Cruising through the beach clean hashtags on social media you’ll find them colourfully lighting up the shoreline in all the colours of the rainbow, on all the beaches of the globe. That’s right, period product waste has become a global issue. And when you think about it, how long is a tampon applicator actually used for? It has to be one of the speediest uses of single use plastic out there, making it a big offender in the single use plastic rouges gallery.
Somehow I still didn’t twig that I was part of the pollution problem, even though I’d never flushed one. The thing is – if you’re buying your own period products – you can choose what product and what company to invest your money in. By opting for tampons with an applicator (that I’m sure had been cardboard when I started my period and had somehow morphed into plastic!) I had been generating single-use plastic waste without making the connection to what I was finding on beaches. I was part of the problem, and once I realised this I knew it was time to change.
I’d heard about menstrual cups and reusable pads, but had been a little timid in trying them out. I had been really unlucky with tampons in general – my flow somehow seemed to miss the product and leak – so why was I so scared of trying something new? Probably just the unknown.
Monetarily the menstrual cup and reusable pads make a hell of a lot of sense. In the fight against single use plastic I’ve learnt the great value of reusable products over single-use products, that you pay out for regularly only to dispose of them quickly as a waste product. Ownership makes a lot more sense to your wallet than consumption.
This is also true from an environmental perspective. Producing something that you buy once, look after, reuse, and store until your next period, instead of using up resources and creating huge amounts of landfill waste from single use products, can only benefit the environment. Menstrual cups can last up to 10 years which not only saves money but packaging, energy, materials and resources too!
Washable pads are so comfortable to wear at night that you can sleep with confidence without having all that plastic against your sensitive skin while you are sleeping. Purchasing a little pack of three or four washable pads that are designed for your flow, means you can pop the used ones in the wash the next morning and have one ready for the next night. Imagine the amount of landfill waste that could be avoided if women used reusable washable pads JUST for the night time part of their cycles.
making the switch
I will be coming into my second year of plastic free periods this March. When I first got my menstrual cup (mine’s a Mooncup) I read through the instructions, popped it on to boil and after I’d snipped the tail to the length that was right for my body, and I was off. I won’t pretend I got the hang of it first time, but Tampons took me a few tries all those years ago too, and honestly I wasn’t expecting it to be totally simple. But I got there probably by day three of my first period using it. I learnt pretty quickly that if you can feel the cup at all then it’s not in quite right.
I’ve road tested my cup in all sorts of ways from cycling to surfing. If you like to be in the water or being active, the cup is a game changer. Prancing around in a swimming costume, knickers, tiny shorts or a skirt can be done! You can also opt for jogging bottoms, a box of biscuits and a hot water bottle, but for those of you that have been held back by your periods, I seriously recommend the cup.
I’ll be transparent – reusable products don’t agree with everyone. With cups, some experience more frequent UTI’s and some people just don’t like them, how they feel, changing them, etc. Handling a used pad before washing might go against your beliefs, weird you out or make you squeamish. Nothing to be ashamed of, or shamed for, after all we are all fabulously different.
BUT if you are in a position where you can choose which products you purchase, maybe it’s time you took a look at the plastic free options out there. Disposable plastic-free tampons and pads do exist too, benefitting your health as well as the planet.
money, money, money
Ruby cup operate on a ‘buy one donate one’ scheme so when you buy a cup they donate one to a girl or woman who would benefit from it.
When you shop for reusable pads check out what some companies and individuals are offering women in need too. Mine were from Velvet Moon Pads where the maker uses the profit from selling pads to reinvest in pad for people that can’t afford them. I love that ethos!
Alternatively, if you are buying single use pads or tampons from the shops, then maybe check this idea out… The Red Box Project is spreading across the UK, the idea being that when you buy your period products you buy one extra to donate to a sister in need. It’s a wonderful program reaching far and wide so do check them out if you are in a position to do so.
I’ll keep trying out new Plastic-Free Period ideas as I go, if I stumble across anything extra special, I’ll be sure to pop back and let you know!