I was recently chatting with Melissa in Massachusetts about all things environmental and somehow the subject of feminine hygiene was raised. We both began talking about former interviews I had done with a couple female Artists who mentioned that one of the ways they were helping to save the planet was through the use of a menstrual cup. I had no idea what that was and Melissa excitedly described its use and function because she too had recently begun using this product and others. I admit that even as a girl it kind of freaked me out to talk about it at first but the longer we discussed it the more Earth friendly information I was ingesting so I decided it was high time to feature Melissa as a pioneer in the fight against landfill increase!
What products are you actually using?
I'm using the Moon Cup, a silicone cup that catches menstrual flow, from GladRags, and Moonpads, reusable maxi pads that are handmade, hand-dyed and made from 100% American-grown organic cotton, from the Etsy shop of epicerma. There are a lot of other options out there, but these are the ones I chose after my research.
What prompted you to give reusables a try?
I live in the 'burbs, in a house heated by oil (we did just buy a more energy-efficient furnace, but that's another kettle of fish), and drive a minivan because I have three kids. So my carbon footprint is starting off kind of sizeable. And these aren't life choices that I a) can or b) am likely to change at this point.
However, I can ferret out the places in my life where I produce waste that can be helped. And as a major contributor of feminine hygiene products to the waste stream since the age of 13, I saw reusables as an opportunity to seriously decrease my output.
Where did you first hear of the Moon Cup and Moonpads?
I read EnviroMom, a blog started by a couple of Oregon moms. It's a great place to grab some fresh ideas for living greener day-to-day. They were recently doing a "One Can a Month Challenge," trying to spur people to reduce their total trash output down to, yes, one can a month for curbside pickup.
To help people meet the challenge, EnviroMom did a series of columns offering room-by-room suggestions of areas to trim waste. And the column they did about bathrooms had a link to another column about one of EnviroMom's founders' experience with reusable feminine hygiene products.
I'd been curious on that subject a while, and the article (called Major TMI Alert) had me laughing out loud, but also seriously considering whether this was something I could try. So I followed her links to GladRags (sellers of the Moon Cup, as well as another brand of reusable pads) and to Moonpads, and read a LOT of customer testimonials before deciding to give it a shot.
What was your initial reaction to it?
I'm far from radical in my approach to greening things up, but this sounded pretty hardcore -- I mean, it's not moving into a 200-square-foot house, but it's definitely something my near-and-dears would consider a little, er, extreme (not that most of them need to know!). And it does have kind of a high ick factor for many people. All the same, I was motivated, and when the products arrived, they didn't appear overly daunting.
The cup, well, is what it is -- it looks exactly like it does on the GladRags Web site. As for the pads, they are actually -- there is no other word -- cute! Moonpads' maker epicerma uses a whole range of really appealing (and did I mention organic!) fabrics and snaps which make a product that could be dull and utilitarian actually kind of fun. Do I look forward to my period just so I can wear them? Get real. But the fabrics at least make them less of a drag than traditional pads.
Did it take some getting used to?
Some of the customer testimonials I'd read talked about people having some initial issues with insertion, but I didn't have any problems there...do make sure you order the right size (based on whether you've given birth and how). And GladRags is candid about saying that the Moon Cup is not for every body: they do have a returns and exchange policy if it just doesn't work for you.
The, um, insertion process, while not really that complicated, does require a little more of an adjustment. Let's just say, if you are squeamish about the amount of physical contact with yourself that's required, OK, this may not be for you. If, on the other hand, you have ever used OB Tampons, or if you can just power through it, you're golden. No big deal.
I will confess that, on heavier days (and sorry, TMI, my heavy days give new meaning to that word), if I have to leave home for more than a brief errand, I either rely on tampons or at least make sure I have some with me in case things get out of hand. But that's not every day or every hour. And for maximum comfort, on those days when things are very light, I'd recommend switching to the pads alone.
The pads do require washing, of course, but all that means is a rinse when you change them and then a spin in the washing machine. I found I needed a few more than the four I initially bought, just so I didn't have to be washing them constantly during my heavier days, but that's about it.
So what do you estimate you save, waste-wise, by using these products?
Again apologizing in advance for TMI, but this is the best way to make this concrete: Over the four heaviest days of my cycle, I was using roughly an 80-count box of the super-size Tampax, plus whatever maxis I needed (maybe eight to 10 per period, loosely) every month -- just for those days (plus whatever I needed to get me through to the end of my period). Now I might use a tenth of that number of Tampax on those days (and only if I'm out, remember), and I have the Moonpads, which cut my disposable pad usage to almost nothing, other than a few liners at the end.
By my reckoning (backed up by the much emptier bathroom waste baskets each month since I started) that's a substantial decrease in cotton and plastic and adhesives and well, other stuff, going to the dump (and being manufactured, and trucked, and you get my drift). And it's adding up every month...or more accurately, it's not!
How about the financial savings from reducing your purchases of disposable feminine products?
The initial investment was around $35 for the cup and about $25 or so for my first four pads. I recently ordered a few more pads, including some for nighttime, for about the same. So total expense: About $85.
I started using the stuff in August, so it's been about three months. One box of 80 Tampax runs about $10 to $15 a whack, so I've more or less broken even on the Moon Cup already. And with probably more than 10 years of menstrual bliss ahead of me still, I have plenty of time to rack up the financial savings. The pads will take a little longer, since the traditional kind aren't that expensive and I didn't use them as much as the tampons (and haven't even run out of what I had leftover before switching), but I'm sure I'll come out ahead in the end.
How many Leaves would you give to the products? What about the companies?
For those women willing to boldly get out there on this particular ledge, I'd give both products and both companies a firm Five Leaves.
Hooray, the first Five Leaf review! Thanks so much to Melissa for going out on this limb and sharing her very personal experiences. Like Melissa said, the life cycle of using disposable feminine hygiene products sure is daunting considering how many women on the planet need them. Please use the hotlinks in this article to do a little research of your own and consider giving it a try!