THE FIVE MAIN REASONS TO SWITCH– Cost, Waste Reduction, Health, Convenience, Women’s Empowerment.
We have been talking to a lot of people about sustainable menstrual products, and have found the conversations surprisingly easy to have. Most people resonate with one reason-to-switch enough to get behind this movement; not just menstruating women, but also post-menopausal women, men, fathers, friends, brothers, boyfriends. We realized that our target audience was open and inclusive, because everyone knows someone who menstruates.
1. Cost. Over a lifetime the average woman spends about $2,000 on single use pads and tampons. Pads and tampons are an economic burden on all women, but prove especially difficult for low-income women, since they are not covered by food stamps. $35 seems like a lot up front, but a given that women spend about $4 a month on throw-away products, they pay for themselves quickly. One menstrual cup will save you $445 over its 10 year life span– quite a bargain!
2. Waste reduction. Pads and tampons are made of trees (in the form of “wood pulp”) and synthetic chemicals. These disposable products are not easily biodegradable, which is why they often clog septic systems, and long outstay their welcome in our oceans and landfills. For every woman who leaves behind single-use disposable pads and tampons, you can imagine a truckload of trash not going into the landfills, the decreased carbon footprint from production and shipping of these products, the trees saved, and all of the environmental toxins not going into our air, water, and bodies.
3. Health. Conventional pads and tampons are made of chlorine-bleached wood pulp, with some cotton (generally grown with pesticides), rayon, plastic, and glue mixed in. They also contain bleach and dioxins– carcinogenic chemicals that are harmful to your body and to the environment. The vagina – wet, warm, and porous – seems like the last place you’d want those chemicals. Tampons, especially the super absorbent kinds, can create a perfect breeding ground for Toxic Shock Syndrome, caused by the deadly bacteria known as Staph (Staphylococcus aureus). Tampons can dry out and irritate sensitive skin. Menstrual cups are made of hypoallergenic materials that do not absorb or emit anything into the body. They are safe to leave in for 12 hours at a time without drying you out or risking TSS.
4. Convenience. A menstrual cup hold about an ounce of blood (the average woman’s entire flow is 2-4 ounces). This means that women have to empty the cup less frequently than they would change a tampon. Since the cup is non-absorbent, it is easy to clean with soap and water. You can travel overseas without worrying about where to buy or throw away your menstrual products. You can go camping without carrying the extra bulk, and packing it out. You save time and energy by not having to remember to buy or carry pads and tampons, and by changing your product less frequently.
5. Women’s Empowerment. Using a menstrual cup puts a woman in more intimate contact with her body: she needs to figure out the mechanics of inserting and removing the cup, and sees the color and consistency of her menstrual fluid each time she empties the cup. Once you get over the learning curve, cups seems easier, more hygienic, and believe it or not, less gross than pads and tampons. Many users come to value the increased knowledge of their body and cycle that they get from their cup. The mere act of breaking the silence around menstruation is empowering. We encourage cup users to make sure all their friends and family know the facts.
Why doesn’t everyone already use a menstrual cup if they are so great?
Great question! With a fairly simple answer: capitalism, and shame.
Q: You are a multinational corporation that makes menstrual products. Would you rather make pads and tampons, or menstrual cups? A: “Obviously pads and tampons – I won’t make any money selling something that costs $35 and you only buy once every 10 years. I’m here to make a profit!”
Q: You are the owner of a chain grocery store. Would you rather stock pads and tampons, or menstrual cups? A: “Obviously pads and tampons – I won’t make any money selling something that costs $35 and you only buy once every 10 years. I’m here to make a profit!”
The companies that make pads and tampons are huge multinational corporations with huge advertising budgets. Menstrual cup companies, by the nature of their product, are not very big and do not make a lot of money. They cannot afford to advertise on the same scale. They do their work as a labor of love to serve women and help the environment.
Initially, many people are turned off by the subject of menstual cups because of the cultural taboo against talking about periods. If you add it up, women spend six entire years of their lives menstruating. Why is it that we are embarrassed to buy pads and tampons at the store, or for anyone to know we are on our period? Why is this such a hard thing to talk about? We think it is disgusting, but actually menstruation is an indicator that we are healthy, not pregnant, fertile, and in the prime of our life. What a great thing!
The taboo also separates women from their bodies. Using a menstrual cup takes a bit more poking, prodding, and exploration than the disposable options. Many women have never explored their bodies in this way, and feel disgusted, afraid, or ashamed to try. Once they figure it out, they are happy with their new confidence and knowledge of their body.
How are we ever supposed to manage our personal health, enjoy sex, or give birth without this basic comfort with our body? Ladies, it’s time to let the shame go!