“I go to nature to be soothed and healed and to have my senses put in order,” said John Burroughs. In the last few centuries, instead of living with nature man has tried to conquer it, probably that’s the price we are paying today. Be it a deadly pandemic, devastating cyclones, destructing landslides, volcanoes, earthquakes and what not. The “Earth is bleeding”. It’s time to put the brakes and find ways to live with the nature.
In India with social media coverage, NGOs working towards helping people with the menstrual hygiene, and Bollywood celebrities talking about menstruation there is a lot of awareness generated about menstrual hygiene and its products. With this there is also an increase in the consumption of plastic sanitary pads by almost 8 times.
If we go by facts then between the average woman’s first cycle and menopause you can expect some 450 periods. During those 450 periods the average woman uses between 12000- 15000 pads, tampons and panty liners as per the Rochester institute of technology report. One sanitary pad has plastic equivalent to five plastic bags, so one woman is using menstrual hygiene products equivalent to 60,000 – 75,000 plastic bags. Also one sanitary pad takes up to 500-800 years to decompose. And remember these statistics are excluding the plastic wrapper of the sanitary pads and the tampons and the plastic applicator of tampons.
Taking these statistics into consideration and considering that there are 355 million menstruators in India, out of which two thirds are using tampons and pads, women are disposing of almost 12 billion sanitary pads per year.
If we bury them they will not degrade and will add on to the plastic burden of the earth in the landfills and oceans and if we burn them they release toxic carcinogenic chemicals like furans and dioxins. In this race of achieving better and better we have unknowingly done significant damage to earth. It’s time we start working towards a world where everyone has access to sustainable menstrual hygiene products or I would say “Green menstruation”.
Green menstruation is the term used where women use biodegradable menstrual hygiene products, green because they are environment friendly. The products include menstrual cups, organic cotton based pads, reusable cloth pads, and period panties. These options are not only environment friendly but also pocket friendly and really good for women’s vaginal and reproductive health.
Pocket friendly because instead of 10 sanitary napkins per period they have to buy 1 menstrual cup or 5 reusable cotton or cloth pads for almost 12 periods.
Vaginal and reproductive health friendly because their usage decreases the incidence of rashes, vaginal infections and drastically decreases the incidence of new age problems like endometriosis, adenomyosis, cervical cancer. These problems arise due to harmful chemicals in plastic pads i.e. dioxins and furans. And obviously environment friendly because these sustainable products produce only 0.6 percent of the waste as compared to single use plastic pads.
We need to rethink period education. Thanks to Bollywood and celebrities talking about menstruation there is a perfect storm of cultural change. Women are ready to talk about periods along with a massive environment protection drive.
I think this is the perfect time when along with period education we can make women aware about sustainable menstrual hygiene products and the impact on the environment. The Indian government is taking a lot of efforts to provide menstrual products free of cost to all the menstruators who cannot afford it, in schools and colleges. Instead of providing sanitary pads it would be ideal to give and educate a menstrual cup to a girl, it will not only have a positive environmental impact but will also help in economic growth of the country. All changes start at home, and to help the government, even if we start giving one menstrual cup to our house help and educate her it will fill a huge gap.
Things are changing, with increase in education of women they are making informed choices.
The damage from our throwaways is accumulating somewhere. We can all make a difference. Every step towards sustainability counts.