Thinking Long-term: Periods and Sustainability
Menstruation and Menstrual Cycle
You may identify this process by one of the gazillion euphemisms associated with it—Shark week, Crimson Wave, Aunt Flo et cetera. Regardless of how eccentric some of these code names may sound, all boil down to the same meaning. (Let us know the most eccentric code-name for menstruation you have come across in the comments below.)
Menstruation, by definition, is the process by which the uterus sheds blood and tissue through the vagina. It usually lasts between 2-5 days, however, the duration varies between different menstruators. The menstrual cycle is the duration between the first day of periods and the day before the next period. Typically, this lasts for about 28 days, however, this too varies between different menstruators.
The Greek tampons
Menstruation was experienced even before humans fully evolved as a species, however, there is a disproportionately scarce amount of documentation around it. Whatever little we do have is also infuriatingly incorrect and stereotypical with some rather horrifying and disgusting stories around the atrocities inflicted on menstruators. Nonetheless, these scribes do shed light on the multitude of menstrual products used back in the day.
For example, the Ancient Egyptians used tampons made of softened papyrus while the Ancient Greeks used primitive tampons made of wooden sticks wrapped with soft lint, invented by Hippocrates of Kos, also known as the Father of Medicine. Absorbent cotton pads, menstruation rags, belted girdles are among the few other creative menstrual products found to be used by menstruators over the years. It’s notable that all these products, perhaps compromising on comfort, were made up of sustainable, environment-friendly material. It’s important to remember that back then, women likely experienced a much lighter menstrual cycle and fewer periods than we do today, the former because of malnourishment and the latter due to the higher number of pregnancies every woman had and the early offset of menopause.
Periods and Plastics
It’s hard to pinpoint a specific time when pads came into use, however, the first disposable pads are said to have hit the market in 1896 while the first menstrual cup most commonly used in the twenty-first century was invented in 1931. According to National Geographic, a combination of technology and social pressure drove us toward sanitary products shot through with plastic. Disposability became the new marketing weapon. Sharra Vostral, a historian at Purdue University says, “From the beginning, the companies pushed this idea that the way to be modern was to use these new disposable products,”
Around the 1960s, the technological leap gave way to the synthesis of a variety of sophisticated plastics. This surplus found its way to the menstrual product market. It’s increasingly difficult to measure the amount of plastic waste generated from the use and production of menstrual products because it is labeled as medical waste and does not need to be tracked. However, the rough estimates of the same are alarming.
The Plastic Period Problem
Summing up the intensity and amount of issues caused by the usage of plastics in menstrual products is beyond the scope of this blog. Ella Daish tells the World Economic Forum that the period products made out of plastic can take over 500 years to break down. They also contribute to oceanic plastic pollution and over time break down to form micro plastics and fibers. Ella also warns “Mainstream tampons and pads can contain up to 90% plastic, as well as other synthetic materials such as rayon, artificial fragrances, and toxic chemicals, like phthalates and petrochemical additives. These ingredients are known to cause endocrine disruption that is linked to diseases such as infertility and cancer.”
What can you do?
While understanding the gravity of the issue is the first step towards tackling the problem, we must not stop at that. The most important, plausible solution to this issue is to stop using plastics in our menstrual products. This can be achieved by switching to sustainable, harmless alternatives. It is also our moral obligation as menstruators and as citizens of the world to raise awareness about the same. The hush around periods and its complications have left many people blissfully unaware. It is of prime importance that menstruators around the globe are educated not only about how periods affect their body but also about the common stakeholder in all of this: the environment.
SOQO to the rescue!
SOQO is working relentlessly to do its part and more. Besides providing sustainable, eco-friendly, home-grown period underwear, we also aim to disseminate accurate and important information to as many people as possible to nudge them towards a better and evolved menstrual life. For far too long menstruation has been looked at as a limitation, a hindrance of sorts, sometimes in social terms, sometimes in financial terms, and now, in environmental terms. However, it need not be a hindrance of any sort. We can ensure that through conscious effort. Switch to better products.
One such product is SOQO’s Caviar High Waist Leak-proof Underwear.
True to its name, SOQO, which means “to absorb” in Hindi, these underwear are made out of drip-proof technology. It is made using GOTS-certified fabrics to produce underwear free of any toxic substances. SOQO aims to demystify periods for all regardless of their gender, shape, size, and age, thus our underwear is designed for all bodies. Head to our official website to learn more and to get your hands on this sustainable AND comfortable alternative as early as possible.