What is Sustainable Menstruation? What’s this movement about?
- Sustainable menstruation refers to the use of alternative products during one’s menstrual cycle for the benefit of the body and earth.
- Sustainable menstruation is being mindful of the negative effects disposable sanitary products have on our environment in efforts to reduce the plastic waste ending up in our oceans or landfills.
- This movement also focuses on the access to sustainable menstruation products all people who menstruate should have. Many who have a difficult time purchasing healthy menstrual products look at sustainable menstrual products as a healthier and cheaper product to use.
- CSUSM Sustainable Menstruation Initiative
How it all started:
The original initiative was put in place by student, Marina Flowers (Graduated Spring 2020) through a grant proposal funded by the ASI Sustainability Projects Funding. This project developed a workshop that focused on destigmatizing sustainable menstruation products as well as periods as a whole. This project provided a space to discuss these stigmas and how they affect all people who menstruate. Not only did this project provide that space but also provided free reusable menstruation products that students were interested in trying.
What are we doing now?
Following the SPF project CSUSM collaborated with the company OrganiCup and its Campus Cup program where we offered over 350 sustainable menstruation items to students this fall (2020).
Between the two projects we have recieved over 400 reusable menstruation products to distribute. There are still some cups left over! If you are interested in receiving a FREE menstruation cup, please reach out to email@example.com.
To learn more about our campus's Sustainable Menstruation efforts check out this article.
- Benefits of Reusable Menstrual Products
What’s so wrong with disposable products?
- Plastic Menstrual products generate more than 200,000 tonnes of waste per year.
- Most menstrual hygiene products are made up of plastic and are non-biodegradable, taking approximately 500 to 800 years to decompose.
- Menstrual hygiene products such as pads and tampons usually contain dangerous chemicals, like pesticide residues, bleach, and phthalates that cause harm to the body.
Here's what you can do about it:
To have a more eco-friendly period, you don’t have to eliminate pads and tampons from your period routine; you can mix and match your menstrual products. Use what feels right for your unique body. For now, here are some of your options to reduce your sanitary waste! These are some of the sustainable menstruation products to pick from:
- Menstrual Cup: Usually made of silicone, menstrual cups can last up to 12 years. They are safe and easy to use: dump, rinse, and reinsert a cup.
- Reusable Pads: These are thin and flexible, but can absorb more than a regular disposable pad. They can also last up to three-five years.y are safe and easy to use: dump, rinse, and reinsert a cup.
- Period Underwear: Many affordable period underwear brands out there can hold three to five teaspoons of menstrual blood. These underwear are absorbent and washable.
- Plastic-Free Applicators If you want to start by cutting out plastic applicators, this may be your best bet! These work just like tampons, but without the plastic.
Money saved with reusables
- A person who menstruates spends an average of $12,800 on menstrual care products and disposes of over 10,000 products into landfills during their lifetime. You can save money and the environment just by switching to reusable menstrual care products!
- Tips and tricks for using cups? Take this quiz to find the cup for your body!
- Menstrual Cup FAQs
What is a Menstrual Cup?
- Stated simply, a menstrual cup is a reusable tampon alternative worn inside the vagina that collects flow rather than absorbing it. Cups come in all sizes and shapes to fit the wearer best and are most often made from medical grade silicone (but not always.) They are a safer, healthier, and more comfortable way to manage your period.
Is wearing a cup messy?
- Not at all! Even when removing the cup you should have little to no blood on your hands- remove while over the toilet or in the shower.
Can you feel the cup while wearing it?
- When you have a cup that fits your needs (that’s where a quiz comes in) it should be entirely undetectable (or at least very close!) If you do notice the cup, it is most commonly that the cup is not inserted properly (remove and try again) or the stem that you are feeling (which can be easily trimmed or removed). If neither of these things helps, you may have a cup that will work (catch your flow) but isn’t the best for your shape. If it doesn’t bother you, you can keep on using it. If it does, we recommend trying another cup that is softer than your current cup.
Can a cup get lost inside me?
No. At the end of your vaginal canal is the cervix (the opening to the uterus) and it won’t allow anything past it… except sperm.
If your cup is “lost” and you can’t reach it, again, remember it’s not going anywhere. Use your muscles to work the cup down low enough to reach by bearing down, the same strain you use to poop. Once you can reach it pinch the base to break the seal and remove.
Can the cup get stuck?
- No. The cup has no where to go but “out” and can’t possibly remain inside you or travel farther than the cervix. If you go to remove your cup and it feels stuck the first thing is to remain calm. Panic only worsens removal due to tense vaginal muscles. Be sure you are pinching the base of the cup to break the suction the cup likely has then pull out.
How do I know the cup is inserted correctly?
- When inserted properly, you should be able to feel around the cup and notice no pronounced puckering. The cup can form to your shape a bit, so not being perfectly round is okay. The cup should be comfortable and not protruding from the vagina. If the stem protrudes, it can be trimmed. If the bottom of the cup protrudes, the cup needs to be placed higher, or is too long for you.
- Confused about insertion? Check out this video by Put A Cup In It on the different ways to fold your cup for easy insertion!
How often do I need to empty the cup?
- Every 10-12 hours your cup must be removed. This reflects the experience of someone with an average menstrual cycle (30-60ml total per cycle). If you have a heavier period you will want to remove the cup and empty the contents more frequently. Cups do hold 4-6x more than a single tampon or pad so you will still get to wear it for longer stretches.
How will I know when the cup is full?
- It will make a sloshing noise. JUST kidding. Cups can be worn safely for up to 12 hours but we recommend checking it after 4 or so when you first start using a cup. Within a few cycles you’ll have a better understanding of your flow and how often you need to empty it.
Can I go to the bathroom with a cup in?
- Yes! Cups do not inhibit any normal functions — with exception to sex. If you find that your cup moves down from having a bowel movement, it can be nudged up to be back in place. Cups with a firmer base are great for this.
Can I wear a cup while exercising?
- Yes! Running (and any exercise) is great while wearing a cup. If you are very active you may prefer a firmer cup, as these stay in place better against any muscle contractions made while exercising.
Can cups cause toxic shock syndrome?
- No. You may be familiar with the risk of TSS associated with tampons, which is due to their materials and the environment for bacteria that they can foster. These conditions are not created with cups. TSS is a risk if the bacteria (most commonly Streptococcus pyogenes (group A strep) or Staphylococcus aureus (staph)) can enter the bloodstream. There have been just two reported cases of TSS alongside (not caused by) the use of a cup when a woman scratched the inside of her vagina and the cup was not worn as directed. You can read a lot more about TSS and menstrual cups here.
How and when do I sanitize my cup?
- We recommend sanitizing your cup inbetween cycles. For cleaning while on your period, just rinse with water in between changes. You can also use a vagina friendly soap and water in-between wears.
- To boil your cup, we suggest placing it inside of a metal whisk and resting that in a boiling pot of water for 1-2 minutes. There is no reason you can’t use the same kitchen utensils you use for food.
- If you would like to sanitize the cup without boiling, you can look for collapsible silicone menstrual cup sanitizers or use the microwavable breast pump part bags. Milton Sterilizing Tablets are also safe to use and affordable. Do not place your menstrual cup in the dishwasher.
How do I change my cup in public?
- If you find yourself in a public stall without access to your own personal sink you can remove your cup, dump contents, and wipe the cup rim with toilet paper. Wash as usual when you are back home. There are also portable single use cup wipes available to keep in your purse if you choose. If you do have access to a sink in the public bathroom use only water and not the public soap since you won’t know what ingredients are in it that could potentially be too harsh.
How do I store my cup between periods?
- Most brands include a small cotton pouch to store the cup in. If you are choosing your own bag be sure it’s breathable for long term storage (PUL waterproof bags are ok for short stints in your purse).
- Check out this document that contains additional links and resources to help your transition to a more sustainable period. These resources were put together from a recent presentation between CSUSM & CSUN.