Periods are a natural and normal part of life for half the population, but they remain shrouded in taboo and stigma. This is especially true when it comes to talking about menstrual products. From tampons to pads to menstrual cups, there are many different ways to deal with your period, but most people only know one or two. And that's not surprising, because the advertising and marketing around these products is usually geared towards cisgender women. This leaves transgender and gender non-conforming people out of the conversation entirely, which only perpetuates the shame and stigma around periods.
This shame and stigma is particularly true when it comes to sustainable period products. Though it's a natural process, menstruation can have a negative environmental and social impact. On average, a woman will use 11,000 tampons in her lifetime. That's a lot of waste! And because tampons are often made with materials like plastic and rayon, they can take centuries to decompose in landfills. What's more, the production of tampons and other menstrual products consumes large amounts of resources and creates toxic emissions. For example, the manufacturing of pads and tampons requires the use of cotton and other fabrics, which often come from crops that are treated with pesticides and other harmful chemicals.
Thankfully, people are starting to talk more openly about periods and sustainable menstrual products. There are now dozens of brands that make more environmentally conscious products, from reusable cotton pads to organic tampons. So if you're looking for a way to deal with your period without generating significant amount of waste and pollution, or ways to support other people through their cycles, here are some of our favourite initiatives you should consider:
- City to Sea - environmental organisation campaigning to stop plastic pollution at source. Working with businesses, communities and activists to provide practical solutions to the plastic problem. Plastic Free Periods campaign to:
- Raise awareness about the hidden plastic in period products.
- Let people know that flushing period products creates plastic pollution, and changing this behaviour.
- Promote reusable and plastic-free period care, and empower people to make informed choices about the products they use and how they dispose of them.
- Increase accessibility of reusable & plastic-free period products.
- Encourage brands, manufacturers and retailers to remove plastic in their own brand products.
- Zero Waste Europe - along with #BreakFreefromPlastic movement, engaging with awareness-raising and advocacy activities about period poverty by connecting the social, health and environmental angle of periods in #PeriodPovertyWeek in May. Zero Waste Lviv: collection of reusable menstrual hygiene products for internally displaced people in Ukraine.
- Anglian Water - Periodic Table - calculate your ‘environmenstrual’ impact, as well as the cost and see how much you could save by switching to reusables.
- Binti - the first period charity registered in the UK and India, with a mission to provide menstrual dignity to all girls, all over the world. This means facilitating access to pads to ensure menstrual health, educating girls about what menstruation is and what they can expect from it, and dispelling stigma, taboos, myths and negative perceptions around menstruation. Headquartered in the UK, and currently running projects in India, Kenya, The Gambia and the U.S., as well as at home in the UK.
- The Cup Effect - empowering women and girls and protecting the environment by raising awareness about menstrual cups and making them more widely available. Working with a range of organisations across the UK to educate about and demystify menstruation, break down period shame and stigma. In low-income countries, providing information and awareness training about cups, and building capacity with partner organisations to spread the word. Also distributing cups to those who can’t afford but want to try them.
- Bloody Good Period
- Providing pads and menstrual supplies to people who really need them.
- Providing sexual and reproductive education for those who can’t otherwise access it.
- Fighting to eradicate shame and stigma around periods and menstruation through conversation.
- Demanding fair treatment for people who bleed.
Period care brands doing something a little different:
- Nora - Reusable period products, ethically made & designed to outperform disposable products. They donate 1% turnover to YoungMinds charity.
- DAME - Award-winning period care, free from toxins and single-use plastic. Awarded the Women in Innovation award by the UK government innovation body, Innovate UK. Also partnered with Innovate UK and Universify to host the DAMEchangers Innovation Camp, a five-day, all-expenses paid camp in late August to inspire teenage girls with innovative design and kickstart their change-making journeys.
- Earthwise Girls - An Oxford-based company started by a mum-of-four, focusing on reusable period products and plastic-free products for the home, stocking products from other UK-based small businesses and work-at-home mums.
- TOTM - B-Corp on a mission to shake up the period care industry for good. Using their platform to “create taboo-bursting conversations, drive change and build a period-powerful future”, while supplying organic and cruelty free period products.
- Intimina - Swedish brand offering the “first and only range of products dedicated exclusively to all aspects of women’s intimate health”. Their mission is to provide a comprehensive collection of products and information for women at every stage of life, from the first menstruation to beyond menopause, with initiatives like Greentimina (environmenstrual calculator) and Wonder Girls - podcasts to help young girls learn about the changes puberty brings.
- Ecofemme - Supplying cloth pads as part of a global movement of individuals cultivating a healthy and dignified relationship with their menstrual cycle. Ecofemme is a social enterprise where business and social responsibility go hand in hand. Pads are stitched by women’s collectives, enabling them to earn a living wage. Sales support outreach programmes which provide menstrual health education and free or subsidised pads to economically challenged adolescent girls and women throughout India.
- Organic Mondays- Plastic-free period products for individual users, as well as businesses. They also provide dispensers of these products for schools, workplaces, stadiums, events etc.
- Here We Flo - Organic, vegan, plant-based period care, bladder care and sexual wellness products. Not only do they donate products each month to those who need them and 5% of their profits to people and planet, they’ve also teamed up with Beam, so that 1% of every customer’s order is donated to charity, and the customer can select which charity at checkout.
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