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August 01, 2007

The Low Impact Period

I've talked here quite a bit about the things we've done as a family to reduce our impact on the environment, but one thing that I haven't touched on yet is the one thing I've been doing the longest, and the one thing that I think is as important for frugal reasons as environmental ones. This is something you can do on a regular basis (monthly, actually) to eliminate unnecessary waste, and it doesn't require too much effort (and in some cases it's actually easier than the original method).

Yes, that's right, I'm talking about reusable menstrual products. Shall we wait a moment while the male and/or squeamish readers regain their composure? (I'm teasing, I know you're a hearty bunch).

I started using cloth pads almost (ack!) 20 years ago when I was just setting out on my "green" path. Back then they were a little bulky and awkward, and had scratchy velcro closures, but the ones that are out there now are much nicer and more compact (and there's no thigh-chafing velcro!). I've got a set of these super cute ones stashed away for my daughter when the time comes.

Washing them is no big deal. If you've ever used clothed diapers with your kids the system is the same - just keep a small container under the sink with a bit of water and some soap, borax, or oxygen bleach, and line it with a mesh bag for easy removal on laundry day. Be sure to wash them in cold water so the stains don't set. Treat them well and they'll stay looking new for years. My one recommendation would be to get the ones that have some kind of closure to hold them in place - it's really annoying to lose one down the toilet because you're not paying attention.

But what about when it's summer and you want to go swimming? Well, that's where my favorite thing comes in. I used to buy expensive organic cotton tampons for those occasions when a pad wouldn't do (did you know that cotton is the most heavily pesticide sprayed crop, and that when you use conventional tampons you're putting it in the most absorbent part of your body?), but then about 11 years ago I discovered The Keeper. It consists of a latex cup that you wear much like a tampon (similar to those disposable cups they came out with several years ago, but much better). When inserted properly, it creates a seal that keeps it from leaking, and you can go for up to 12 hours between changes.

When it came time to replace my Keeper (they last for about 10 years before the latex starts to degrade), I decided to try out the Diva Cup, which is basically the same idea as the Keeper, but is made of silicone and can be boiled occasionally to sterilize it (the Keeper people are also making a silicone version now called the Moon cup). I sometimes find the Diva Cup a little harder to position than my previous cup (maybe the silicone is a little stiffer than the latex?), but it looks nicer and does a fine job. These things probably sound a little out there if you've never thought of using anything other than the conventional disposable jobbies, but they really aren't. I was stunned to discover while having coffee with a group of friends a few months ago that 4 out of the 5 of us are die-hard users of reusable menstrual cups, and not one of us is named Leaf or Rainbow. ;D

I can honestly say that I would never go back to disposable menstrual products. These are easier to use and more convenient, you can save yourself hundreds of dollars, and just think of all of the pesticides, plastic and paper that won't be used on your behalf.

Lunapads is an excellent source for really nice pads and Diva Cups, and the pads are made right here in Vancouver.


17 comments:

Chelee said...

I too used the keeper until it got lost. It's the weirdest thing. I don't know where the heck it walked off too but I feel sorry for who ever found it. LOL

I then got the diva cup and like it quite well.

The dd is using disposables (natracare) and I'm planning on switching her to cloth this fall. What 14yo doesn't want to open that up on Christmas morning LOL. Don't worry, I was only joking about that last one.(:

:: Suzanne :: said...

EEPS! I had never thought about organic tampons. DUH! OK, I am converted.

Caroline said...

I've been using a Diva cup for about 3 months now. Wow, what a difference! It feels so clean, especially compared to pads! I still need to use a pad the first two days because of heavy flow; I now have the materials to make my own cloth pads and will be constructing some of those for myself and 15 yo DD (who already dies of embarassment because of her uber-geeky parents).

Christy said...

I've used organic cotton pads for the last 2 cycles and love them. Unfortunately after this last cycle I got an infected Bartholin's cyst. I don't know if there is any correlation. I will make sure to wash the pads with bleach before the next cycle just in case there was bacteria in them. The cyst and the treatment were pretty painful!

Howling Hill said...

I've been using Lunapads for about five years now and will never go back. For days when a tampon-esque product is necessary, I use a sea sponge. It can be rinsed out in the sink like a Diva Cup.

I chose the latter product because I'm allergic to latex and the idea of putting silicone into my vagina scares me on a molecular level. I just don't want plastic up there, ya know?

Which brings up a post I'll work on another day: can plastic be organic/natural/green?

Wendy said...

I'm new to the Diva Cup, but so far, so good ;).

Malva said...

I started using a diva cup last year and this is one change I would have been ready for years ago. I wish I had found out about it earlier. I used to be really grossed out by pads so I used tampons exclusively. The diva cup feels as clean as that.

dawn said...

Okay, I feel like an outsider. I had no idea. Thank you so much for posting this and educating those of us that had no clue. Don't get me wrong, I do many other environmental things, but this one I didn't think about.

Tim Appleton (Applehead) said...

You I have not had to use these products over the years, but I will recommend this to my wife who has mentioned in the past that she might switch over to cloth. We use cloth diapers now so it isn't a huge shocker.

Carla said...

Loosing one down the toilet because you're not paying attention...ya, that would be me.

Liz said...

I've been using a Diva Cup for almost three (!) years now, and like Malva, I wish I had known about it years ago. Mostly, I love saving the $$ each month... I would get so MAD at how much "supplies" cost!

Stephanie said...

Funny a friend just switched to reusable pads. It is something I've been thinking about for a while. When I first saw these products I was pregnant, and then I was nursing... let's just say I'm ready for them now! :)

Cheryl said...

Chelee - I can only imagine what someone would think after finding a rogue Keeper. Giant thimble maybe?

Caroline - I agree, it is much cleaner. Good luck with sewing your own! Oh, and I fully expect to be humiliating my daughter within the next few years too. :D

Christy - That sounds so painful, I hope you're feeling better. That's an interesting question, I wonder if it could make some people more prone to problems. Good luck.

Howling Hill - I have a friend who used the sponge and was quite happy with it.
As for the silicone, I knew I liked the Keeper better for a reason!

Wendy - Yay!

Malva - I remember feeling like that when I first started using them too. I agree about them feeling cleaner, I often forget that I'm even wearing it!

Dawn - That's so great! I'd be interested to hear if you decide to go for it!

Tim - You're right, it's really not much of a leap if you're already doing the diaper thing.

Carla - I'm glad I'm not the only one!

Liz - You're not kidding, it costs a small fortune!

Stephanie - I'm guessing the old nursing "bonus" has worn off, I never got much of a reprieve myself.
Good luck if you decide to make the switch!

Faren said...

I love cloth pads, they are so much more comfortable than disposables. And they have so many other benefits too!

Cheryl said...

Suzanne - For some reason your comment wasn't emailed to me, so I only just found it, sorry!
There are lots of organic ones out there, so they shouldn't be too hard to find.

Faren - They are definitely more comfortable, and a lot cuter too!

gtr said...

Horray! I love cloth pads, too, but I've been a bit too shy to post about it on my own blog yet (my Dad reads it, ahem).

I do think it's interesting that people will freely talk about cloth diapers, but cloth pads are a bit hush-hush. But I can't imagine using disposables again; ick!

Midlife Traveller said...

I am a huge Lunapads fan and also love my Diva cup. BTW, to whoever asked silicone is a medical-grade non-reactive substance. It is not the same thing as plastic and it is totally safe. We used to use it in our organic chemistry labs b/c the stuff reacts with *nothing*.

I love my Diva Cup and the idea of using a tampon now gives me the creeps!

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