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Sustainably Stylish: Prudent Periods

by Niranjana Mittal

Aparna Sharma takes us on a journey into sustainable menstruation.

Let’s begin with the cons of using disposable period products. Did you know that most sanitary napkins available in the market today have high amounts of chemicals Linked with cancer, according to a study done by a Delhi-based environmental NGO?

An average woman starts menstruating at 12 years of age and reaches menopause at around 50 years, and she will use disposable pads for approximately 2,000 days in her Lifetime. In recent years, many studies have shown that synthetic plastic materials have been used as liquid absorbents to improve the functionality and softness of sanitary pads and these are associated with potential health risks. In addition to these risks, disposable pads with chemicals and plastic in them are also associated with environmental hazards. It is difficult to dispose of them because they cannot biodegrade, and burning them or allowing them to stay in landfills causes methane emissions, which further pollute the air and contribute towards climate change.

I met a gynecologist who told me that it is better to start raising girls on sustainable menstruation and that is what we follow in our household. She mentioned that she often meets patients who have rashes from pads, and that most disposable pads increase the risk of cervical and ovarian cancer. She also mentioned that most popular disposable pads are made by big corporations, and it is often difficult to completely expose them because they don’t offer any transparency or traceability. Most countries currently don’t enforce laws that ensure that corporations clearly mention the components which go into making a plastic pad.

Sustainable Solutions

I have two teenagers and they use reusable pads and reusable period underwear. They also occasionally use a compostable Thai sanitary napkin brand called ira (Instagram: @ira _concept) which is not harmful for the environment or their health. You can buy this brand from Tops supermarket. I have been using a menstrual cup for five years, and personally love it. I have started perimenopause symptoms and I am so grateful that I discovered the menstrual cup. It is so comfortable and easy to use. 

The menstrual cup I use is an Indian brand called Shecup (Instagram: @clubshecup). If you live in Bangkok, the best menstrual cup is Cupsofjoie (Instagram: @cupsofjoie). I have met the founder a few times and I love her passion towards sustainable, comfortable and economic menstruation. She has addressed all these concerns in the menstrual cup; it’s high quality and it can be used for up to 10 years. This option will save you money and it will prevent all the potential health risks of using plastic pads. 

The reusable pads we buy are from Ecofemme (Instagram: @ecofemme), a women-led social enterprise based in Auroville, India. They also deliver to Thailand. This is a tried and tested brand, and I have visited them and met the women who make the cloth pads. They are committed to sustainable nenstruation education and changing the perception that cloth pads are difficult to use. My older daughter, who is 17 now, has been using their products for almost four years and she is very happy. You can also buy soap from them, and the pads are easy to wash and made from organic cotton.

My younger daughter uses reusable period underwear, all of which is from Indian brand called Soch Green (Instagram: @sochgreen). I recently came across another period underwear brand called Mahina (Instagram: @my.mahina), and I’m considering buying from them for my younger daughter, as their reviews are good. When you start your child on sustainable menstruation, it also encourages them to be more responsible towards the environment and makes them take responsibility for cleaning their reusable period products from a young age.

As consumers, we have the power to vote with our wallet. When we collectively stop supporting period products which are made from chemicals and synthetic fibres, the corporations will stop producing them and making more sustainable alternatives. You have to be the change you want to see in the world. Together, each one of us can create a planet which is free from landfill pollution by choosing products which are circular and environmentally friendly. Are you ready to begin your plastic free menstruation journey?

Aparna Sharma is a non-conformist who believes that fashion must become a force for good and style must meet sustainability. She breaks down the nuances of slow fashion and how we can stay stylish without being trendy.

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