A few months ago, I switched to a menstrual cup. While this thing is amazing and I absolutely recommend that all menstruating women make the switch, I will admit that getting the thing in properly has been hit or miss. (That is, for me, at least. It could just be the shape of my vagina … or my laziness, who knows? But not all women will have the same experience. You might get yours in correctly on the first try every time.)

When it’s in properly, you can wear it for 12 hours straight. That means you only have to change it once a day, or five-seven times total during your period. Pretty neat.

Most brands are made from 100% silicone. No bleached cotton. No dioxins. Menstrual cups are not associated with Toxic Shock Syndrome (silicone does not support microbiological growth). Just wash with hot soapy water, and you’re good to go. You can boil them if you think you need to sterilize it. You can use it for “up to” 10 years. Think of all the money you’ll save by not buying tampons.

If you’re still not convinced, do some research on tampons. Whether you use a menstrual cup or pads, anything is better than a tampon! Research dioxins, cotton, and rayon. Even unbleached cotton isn’t going to be that much better.

Ok, that’s a reiteration of my pitch for switching to a menstrual cup. Now to my pitch on cloth pantyliners.

If you need back-up, if you have a heavy flow, if you’re worried about leaks (the menstrual cup does NOT leak — unless you have an abnormally heavy flow and it for some reason overflows, which is rare), if you’re like me and can’t get your menstrual cup in correctly the first time and are too lazy to reinsert it to get it right, or if you just prefer pads instead of intravaginal devices, make the switch to cloth pads/pantyliners!

Like cloth diapers, cloth pantyliners won’t wind up in landfills. (Well, they might wind up in there after several years, but not after four hours.) They are absorbent like cloth diapers (you won’t be sitting in a pool of blood). I don’t do a lot of back handsprings or toe-touches, but mine stay in place pretty well. I will say that I bought the smallest size and plan to buy a “variety pack” with longer and shorter ones. I bought a pack of three to try, and now I’m ready to make the full transition. Again, buying a dozen or so now is going to save me tons of money by not buying disposable liners and pads in the future.

I washed my cloth pantyliners with my regular laundry, but I washed them twice. We don’t have diaper laundry anymore, so I didn’t want to do an extra rinse on the whole load just for the three little liners that were in there. So I put them in with a load of darks. Then I put them in again with a load of lights. I think one wash would have sufficed except that I hadn’t put in fresh soap nuts, so they just didn’t look super clean. If you use bio-kleen or another kind of detergent, yours will be fine with one wash.

Since I have to buy more, I plan to look for unbleached cotton this time. In doing my research on tampons, I learned that:

  • Cotton uses approximately 25% of the world’s insecticides and more than 10% of the pesticides (including herbicides, insecticides, and defoliants) each year. 
  • Cotton covers 2.5% of the world’s cultivated land yet uses 16% of the world’s insecticides, more than any other single major crop;
  • Aldicarb, cotton’s second best selling insecticide and most acutely poisonous to humans, can kill a man with just one drop absorbed through the skin, yet it is still used in 25 countries and the US, where 16 states have reported it in their groundwater.
  • It takes almost 1/3 pound of synthetic fertilizers to grow one pound of raw cotton in the US, and it takes just under one pound of raw cotton to make one t-shirt.
  • The cottonseed hull, where many pesticide residues have been detected, is a secondary crop sold as a food commodity. It is estimated that as much as 65% of cotton production ends up in our food chain, whether directly through food oil or indirectly through the milk and meat of animals.
  • During the conversion of cotton into conventional clothing, many hazardous materials are used and added to the product, including silicone waxes, harsh petroleum scours, softeners, heavy metals, flame and soil retardants, ammonia, and formaldehyde-just to name a few.
  • Fifty-five million pounds of pesticides were sprayed on the 12.8 million acres of conventional cotton grown in the U.S. in 2003 (4.3 pounds/ acre), ranking cotton third behind corn and soybeans in total amount of pesticides sprayed.
  • Over 2.03 billion pounds of synthetic fertilizers were applied to conventional cotton in 2000 (142 pounds/acre), making cotton the fourth most heavily fertilized crop behind corn, winter wheat, and soybeans. 

More statistics here.

The good news? Internationally, Turkey and the United States are the largest organic cotton producers. Demand is being driven by apparel and textile companies that are expanding their 100% organic cotton program and developing programs that blend small percentages of organic cotton with their conventional cotton products.

I’ve joked with my parents that even though I get onto them about feeding my son non-organic food, at least I’m not as bad as those parents who refuse gifts and hand-me-downs of non-organic clothing. Sorry to say it, Mimi, but maybe don’t go Christmas shopping early this year because I’m starting to drink the latest flavor of hippie Kool-Aid…

Which is actually a testament to the power of ignorance AND the power of education. Taking the time to find out what products are made from and how they are made, having the humility to recognize that there might be a better way, being willing to take a small step to make an impact, these are good things. Who cares about the cute little matching outfit on sale at [insert giant retailer here]? 

As always, don’t throw away your entire wardrobe and go out and spend, spend, spend on new, new, new. Just become more aware of what you already have. Reduce, reuse, recycle. When it’s time to buy something new, spend a little bit more now on a higher quality product that won’t be “out of fashion” by next spring.

Live with less. Life is not about clothes.

  1. crunchyintraining posted this