Growing up in a developing country of innumerable stigmas and stereotypes, periods is just another topic society has shunned. From listening to our mothers talk about the days of using swatches of cotton fabrics to absorb menstrual blood, to us having the luxury of carrying a pad wherever we go, we have come a long way. At this time and day, we cannot even think of having to wash our own blood under a tap and reusing the same cloth next month.
Indian traditions remind us of how lowly and dirty we consider bleeding women. So much that you are not allowed to sit in religious proceedings during your time of the month. Its unholy, of course, in some customs. The dirty scabs of red cloth ancient Indian women used would barely see daylight. Wear in the dark – dry in the dark – store in the dark. Although the era of using cloth was literally the worst a women should have to tackle during her period, cramps aside, it was one of the most reusable sustainable methods we’ve ever followed.
What happens after we discard the blood soaked pad into a bin? Where does it go, how is it treated? We might just be breathing harmful toxins released from that very pad. The costs of scientifically-managed incineration are risk-prone, with bio-medical waste incineration firms charging as much as Rs 22/kg of sanitary waste. This could cause respiratory harm and skin allergies. Many women flush down disposable sanitary napkins after use, clogging underground drains and manual scavengers bearing the health cost for the same.
India’s menstrual waste is estimated to be 1,13,000 tonnes annually. Around 121 million women and girls in India use disposable sanitary napkins. On average, an Indian woman bleeds 80 ml in one period cycle. A normal commercial pad can hold 5 ml to 7 ml of blood which means that women use at least 10 pads in one cycle.
If not now, then when? At such alarming rates of increase in sanitary waste, we’ll soon be taking medications to stop bleeding altogether, maybe. The idea of sustainable menstruation is still new to India. People who have adapted to this lifestyle often speak of how it has affected their perspective on bleeding. Sustainable menstruation means not letting your monthly cycle be another factor in contributing to the world’s waste. Periods are a part of every woman’s life, not a hindrance or burden. They should not be treated as a problem with consequences affecting mankind as a whole.
Sustainable menstruation refers to the usage of eco-friendly products during your period to contain your bleeding without it affecting the environment. With awareness and health campaigns all across India being active in popularizing the idea of sustainable menstruation, there are healthy ways to utilize menstrual care products without any impact on the environment.
Menstrual blood is said to be a healthy fertilizer for the soil and provides a nutritious environment for plants and shrubs to grow in. The journey of menstruation and environmental health in India still has a long way to go, but the journey starts with us. When we adapt a change, future generations will follow.
Team StreetTrotter lists down five ways you can shift to a smart and sustainable bleeding cycle without any consequences to the environment, also creating a significant impact on overall wellness:
#1: Menstrual Cups
Little silicone cups that fit right into your vaginal opening. These cups are most cost-effective and inexpensive, with a lifetime up to 10 years without any health hazards. Medical grade silicon is utilized to make these cups, with lowest chances to contract any vaginal infections, diseases or itching out of all products are available in the market. They are leak-proof, which ample storage and does not emit an odor.
#2: Cotton Pads
Sanitary pad brands like Whisper and Stayfree already have a range of exclusive cotton pads. Cotton pads are free of irritating materials, so you can avoid unnecessary exposure to the synthetic ingredients in disposable pads and tampons. Women with sensitive skin might benefit from these pads because, unlike regular pads, they’re made of cotton and not plastic and don’t irritate the skin.
#3: Cloth Pads
Like the name suggests, these pads are made of soft cotton cloth. Unlike cotton pads, cloth pads are reusable. Purchase multiple of these for a period and toss them in your washing machine and reuse them on your period. Being completely chemical free, these pads are the least prone to any kind of diseases and absorb all period blood efficiently. Other sustainable options include biodegradable pads like Carmesi, made with bamboo fibre, cornstarch and corn-based bioplastic.
#4: Period Underwear
They’re more expensive than a standard pair of underwear, and depending on your flow, you’ll likely need several pairs per cycle, to make time for washing and drying. They have multiple layers of fabric padding for maximum absorbency. They are usually worn with cloth pads.
#5: Organic Tampons
Organic tampons are free of the dyes, toxins and bleaches that otherwise normal tampons contain. They are typically made from 100 percent organic cotton unlike regular tampons, which are made of rayon or non-organic cotton. Most are devoid of applicators. Being pesticide free, they can be freely disposed off without having to worry about any environmental harm.
About the Author: Niharika Pipariya, student at NIFT Bengaluru, is distinguished by her undeniable love for animals. She loves neutral colours however, has an extreme opinion on everything under the sun. Deleting irrelevant information from her memory is her superpower. Or is it an explanation for being forgetful? Often spotted daydreaming about alternate endings to Bollywood movies. She loves watching psychological thrillers and criminal documentaries. She runs on caffeine and dislikes anything with sugar. Her dream to work in the fashion retail industry keeps her going at college.