Scotland at the Bleeding Edge
Scotland is famous for many things, some to be proud of, some perhaps not so much.
Recently however the Scottish Parliament achieved a world first in the quest to end period poverty.
In the words of MSP Monica Lennon:
“No one should have to worry about where their next tampon, pad or reusable is coming from.”
“Scotland will not be the last country to consign period poverty to history, but we have the chance to be the first.” (emphasis mine)
This is laudable, especially from a small nation.
Let’s talk about switching to reusables.
I must admit I was quite shocked when I started doing some research into just how much waste is generated and, worse, just how toxic for the environment menstrual product waste generates.
The impact on the environment cannot be under-estimated. Every person who menstruates will throughout their lifetime create over ONE TONNE of waste that takes 450 years or more to biodegrade, as well as adding around 50 chemicals that leech out of landfill sites.
Disposables are typically made with a combination of plastics, cotton, synthetic fibres, and wood pulp. Conventionally produced cotton is one of the most toxic crops grown, using 16 percent of the world's insecticides. These materials are then bleached with chlorine dioxide, creating polluting, harmful and bio-accumulative by-products like dioxin, which not only end up in the environment but also remain in our bodies for decades. Add other synthetic chemicals and artificial fragrances to the mix, and you've got a recipe for side effects like allergic reactions, hormone disruption, and reproductive and gynaecological disorders like endometriosis.
As if that weren’t enough, you will save money (unless you live in Scotland where they are free). On average it will take 8 cycles for reusables to have paid for themselves.
A common question, or variations of it, is: are they sanitary and aren’t they difficult to clean?
Reusables are sanitary, they don’t leak, and they are actually quite easy to clean. With the right maintenance, reusable products are just as sanitary, and certainly healthier. For cloth pads, they are machine washable. Just toss them in the wash for a hot water cycle at 40 degrees with the occasional 60 degree For menstrual cups, it's even easier. Tip and rinse. There are some cool videos that demonstrate this.
Are they as easy as disposables? Probably not. Think about this though: why did single use plastics take over the world to the extent they did? Ease of use. That’s it.
There is no doubt plastic is easier than paper or glass or stainless steel. Use then dump. But look at the consequences that we are realizing now. The horrendous pollution that we are passing to future generations. Was 50 years of easier packaging really worth it?
On top of that, they are pretty and they are empowering. Time to dump (or rather stop dumping) those boring, bleached white synthetic products - reusable options are bursting with color, patterns, and unique designs. Each product tells a story. They are crafted. They are verging on art! They have personality. Vibrant, bright colors can help brighten any day.
Lest we forget, reusables are nothing new. It is only in very recent history that these disposable products have been foisted on us for the sake of “convenience”. But at what cost? Sea sponges and washable rags have been used forever.
There are some interesting gender politics behind the modern menstrual industry making perception of a natural process as "dirty".
However, it ultimately comes down to the fact that it is about our bodies, our minds, and our choices to make. Whatever you decide, it has to be your conscious choice. That, in the end, is the most important thing of all.
Having said that, even if we can encourage people to use reusables for one day a week, or in conjunction with a tampon instead of a disposable pad, we are talking about a 20% reduction in waste.
This is why Rainbow Life has taken up the mantle. A short while ago we started selling reusables from a company called ApiAfrique.
ApiAfrique products tick ALL the right boxes. No plastic; fully reusable for years; easy to clean; no chemical products used; and they foster women's empowerment in Senegal. They really are genuinely fantastic and are priced at much the same sort of price-point as those from big commercial outfits jumping on the bandwagon.
We have selected more reusables from companies (Organicup and bFree) that share our ethics. We very carefully curate everything we sell to ensure they meet our values. We are expecting to have these in stock in the next couple of weeks.
Using these products, or a combination of these products is easy, clean and ethically and environmentally sound.
There is no reason to feel the need to jump feet first into this concept. Mix and match is perfectly acceptable.
For example, continue using a tampon but use a reusable liner instead of a pad for any unexpected leaks. Or just use the night-time pad in the privacy of your own home. Or just use the reusable panty liners any time you would normally use a regular panty liner.
One day of reusables per cycle is perfectly acceptable. You are still doing good. When you find out just how easy these are, maybe you’ll go two days. Maybe more?
This blog is not intended to be preachy or holier than thou. Like veganuary or sometimes using beeswax wraps instead of cling-film, a little, occasionally is so much better than not at all. Even then, as mentioned before, as long as you make an "informed” choice, the fact it is your choice is what matters most.
The point is, it is your body. Do what is good for you.
As reusables become ever more popular, this is our final recommendation:
--go with the flow 😊
For the sake of transparency, I do not personally menstruate, and I identify as male. I have spent my life around those that do, however. From my mother, daughters, lovers and friends. For me it has always been a natural process to be celebrated if anything (despite the extreme difficulties some experience). Despite the lack of direct personal experience, or perhaps because of it, in some ways it may make me more objective. I have no other choice really. Over the years, more than once, I have heard uttered from women’s lips that they think bad period experiences are not real. I have never heard that from a man. I believe my daughter when she tells me exactly how bad it can get.
Having said that, please feel free to comment, or email if you feel like I have missed the mark somewhere. Accuracy is important, and I can always go back and edit this blog.