Disclaimer: I’m a reusable menstrual product enthusiast and educator, but I understand that reusables aren’t for everyone (also I’m not a medical professional in any way). When I say reusable menstrual products, I’m referring to menstrual cups, cloth pads, and period undies.
When I first bought a menstrual cup in 2013, I thought it was awesome, but it took me another two years to think it was life-changing. In the beginning, it was only minor things like saving $200 a year, never wincing from pulling out a semi-dry tampon, and saving myself emergency trips to the drugstore. These things were great, sure, but not life-changing. However, in January 2015, I read about the number of homeless and low-income women in the United States who lack access to menstrual products. I was ashamed and angry that in all of the food and clothing, and even hygiene items like shampoo and toothpaste that I had donated, I had never thought to donate menstrual products. A few nights later I couldn’t stop thinking about this problem, and how to solve it. In one of those sit-up-straight-in-bed-at-2-AM moments, I realized that many of the benefits I was experiencing from my menstrual cup like saving money and always having the product with me could help these women with no other options. This was the moment that my menstrual cup became life-changing, and I conceptualized UnTabooed.
Here are three ways that reusable menstrual products can change your life!
You’ll save (so much!) money
This is the number one reason to switch no matter your financial situation. The average menstruator (because not all women menstruate and not all menstruators are women) spends between $3,000 and $5,000 on disposable menstrual products in their menstruating lifetime (and that’s just referring to pads, tampons, and liners, but not taking into account Midol, chocolate, and heating pads…) If you were to only use reusable products, the cost would drop down to about $500 total.
There is, of course, a larger initial investment with reusable products. Menstrual cups average around $35, and cycle sets (enough to get you through your period) of cloth pads and period undies go for about $100 and $200 respectively. BUT once you’ve made this initial investment, you don’t have to spend any more for five to ten years! If you’re ready to make the switch, but aren’t ready to pay all upfront you can also make the transition slowly and buy a few products a month or every few months.
Your period is going green
Disposable products often include chemicals which harm the environment during production. Their packaging is also extremely wasteful. We know disposable menstrual products are not easily biodegradable because they often clog septic systems. On average, a menstruator uses 12,000 to 16,000 disposable pads and/or tampons in their menstruating lifetime. This produces an estimated 150 pounds of trash. Switching to reusables decreases waste from production, shipping, and monthly use. Reusable products are made of natural materials, cotton and silicone, so when it is time to dispose of them, they will biodegrade much faster.
You’ll free up a bunch of time!
One of the greatest things about reusable products is that I spend a lot less time both in the bathroom and in the drugstore. Reusable pads should be changed about as often as a disposable pad, but a menstrual cup can be left in for up to 12 hours (depending on your flow). For me, this means emptying it in the morning before work, and the evening when I get home. All regular bathroom activities can occur with your cup in place, and you don’t have to worry about a dangling string.
You’ll also be cutting out trips (both planned and emergency) to the drug store. Reusable products are so small, they easily fit in your bag (and I carry a reusable pantyliner around 24/7 just in case). This means you’re never caught without a product when you need one. Packing for a trip and you know you’ll be getting your period? Suddenly your suitcase will be free for an extra pair of shoes!
There are many more benefits to switching to reusable products including health reasons and learning more about your body. If you’re interested and want to get a group of other awesome ladies (or anyone!) together, we can bring UnTabooed’s workshop and product selection to you with a special Lady Project discount! These workshops help us provide free workshops to homeless and low-income girls and women.
Diandra Kalish is the Founder and Executive Director of UnTabooed, a NYC based nonprofit committed to breaking the taboo surrounding menstruation by providing menstrual health education and sustainable menstrual products to women in need, and promoting conversation among people everywhere. Originally from Vermont, she studied Child Development Psychology at Bard College in upstate New York and lived and taught English in Quito, Ecuador for nine months before moving to Brooklyn. Diandra also coaches Middle School Debate in NYC.