Period product accessibility is at the heart of TDO’s mission as we strive to decrease menstrual inequities across the University of Michigan and Washtenaw county. Some of our largest projects in this realm include our period product subscription, collaborating with Central Student Government at UM to get period products into all bathrooms on campus, and our OrganiCup campaign in the Fall of 2020. The OrganiCup x TDO collaboration added yet another lens to our period product mission as the words “sustainability” and “reusable” continued to come up in our conversations with menstrual cup recipients.
Environmentally-friendly period products have only come to the forefront of menstrual equity campaigns in the past few decades. The main goal of menstrual equity, including TDO’s own mission, is to provide people with access to the products they need during their period. However, many of these movements have now pivoted to acknowledge the waste generated by menstruators across the world as they use disposable products. Many of these products are packaged in colorful plastic wrappers and liners, which take centuries to degrade when thrown away in landfills1. According to Global Citizen1, the average menstruator will use between 5000-15000 period products in their lifetime, which would create about 400 pounds of period package waste, which is about the same weight as a large lion or tiger. The premise of period products is to safely collect and dispose of blood, but with about half of the world’s population generating hundreds of pounds of waste, there has to be an alternative solution. In my own experience, I have definitely stopped to consider how much waste I am contributing to the environment every time I finish another box of tampons or pads.
Fortunately, in the era of modern technology and innovation, there are several alternatives to pads and tampons for those seeking a more eco-friendly approach to their period. OrganiCup, who have recently rebranded as Allmatters,
(https://www.allmatters.com/) opened TDO up to exploring the sustainable period product world. Through their passion for sustainable period products, our organization began discussing menstruation in terms of waste generation and reusable products. On my own time, I have taken this conversation one step further and looked into other alternatives to traditional pads and tampons. In fact, all types of similar products exist including the Flex menstrual disc2, Saalt Wear Leakproof Underwear3, Aisle reusable pads and liners4, and many others. While sustainable periods may seem intimidating, developers and companies really try to make a product that could fit anyone's needs. The rising diversity of the sustainable product market in conjunction with increased accessibility to these items suggest that periods might continue to become more "green."
The quick innovation of these companies and the rising plethora of options for such products shows that menstrual equity is turning a new leaf. Soon enough, these products could make their way into homeless shelters, nonprofit kits, and donations taken to impoverished countries. Offering reusable menstrual products not only would help the waste crisis our planet is facing, but it would help provide more permanent solutions to those who struggle to access period products. There are still several obstacles, such as clean water and soap, that limit the extent of success in such plans, but these are still glimmers of hope showing that reusable period products are here to stay and benefit more than the savvy, modern environmentalist.