"Green" Periods Take Planning
Not all period products are made equal. Some are more convenient, some are more comfortable, and some are more eco-friendly. Ever since I learned about the impacts of disposable period products, I try to prioritize eco-friendly products and go from there.
I have been using "sustainable" period products for the last four or five years, and experimented with them for even longer. Through experience, I have learned that it takes some serious planning.
I find it pretty easy to use reusable period products at home. Generally, I wear period panties all day, rinse them in cold water, and hang them in my bathtub to go in my next wash cycle. If I'm using a period cup, I generally boil it in water for 10-15 minutes before and after my period, and rinse in between uses.
But when I'm not at home, things get more complicated. Complicated enough that I often opt for disposables. I've subdivided the uncomfortable things I've come across using reusable period products into four categories - Privacy, Cleanliness, Emergencies, and Personal Preference.
Will you have access to a stall? Or a bathroom with a door that closes? Will you have somewhere to clean your products?
For example, when I was in the navy, "heads," or washrooms, were not gendered. Even though I already used a Diva cup religiously, I wasn't comfortable using it in that context. Since so many people were in and out, I couldn't manage to rinse it out discreetly.
Traveling, I've encountered all kinds of bloody situations (Pun intended). Will you have access to clean running water to rinse out a cup? Will you have access to laundry detergent, water, and somewhere to hang up undies for at least long enough to dry?
My personal reference - last summer, I went on a road trip from Toronto to St. John's, Newfoundland. I had (and still have) a Mirena IUD, and have way reduced flow because of it (No reduction in cramps though, sigh). Because of this, I had been using reusable pads and period panties.
We thought that there would be laundry in one of the hotels; and there was not. I'm generally fine with this on trips - I do the ol' inside out undies and wash them in the sink in a pinch. I couldn't do the inside/out magic trick. And washing them in the sink with hotel soap just didn't cut it - I needed actual laundry detergent. There was a pungent iron smell that just wouldn't go away.
In fact, I ended up leaving several pairs of period underwear for my friend to wash and send back to me. He didn't care, but to be honest - I kind of did.
Do you have backup? Aka, will you have access to sufficient reusable products, or the ability to clean them and prepare them for use again before running out of the next ones? Is a toilet paper wad a sufficient backup? Will there be toilet paper where you go?
Once upon a time, I was traveling in Thailand and had brought period panties with me. It was very hot out. Too hot. It was so hot that my crotch sweat alone filled up the two tampons worth of blood my panties could handle. I went to the bathroom and rinsed, and couldn't find toilet paper for the life of me. So by the time I got back to the hostel, my crotch region was a delectable combination of sweaty, bloody, and drippy. I wasn't a fan.
Despite being a pretty loud supporter of reusable period products, I don't always have the time OR energy to explain my choices to others. In fact, if I am out and about travelling, I likely won't have said time or energy.
All in all, there is a lot to consider when we choose period products. When I choose mine every month, I think about context. If I won't have easy access to laundry and/or boiling water, I often opt for organic disposable products. So, ultimately, for me, it is a balance. I really prefer reusable period products. But sometimes, for the sake of cleanliness and ease, I do opt for single use products. This usually happens when I travel.