While explaining how the compost pot works at our store. I convince many people on the importance of segregation. The majority 60 percent of our waste at home can be composted and the remaining plastic and paper waste can be sent for recycling. There is a sense of achievement when we feel that we have contributed very little to the landfill. But what about used sanitary pads or diapers? Where do they go?
Once a month even the most eco sensitive, khambha-using, plastic recycling women, contribute at least 6-8 (mostly gel-based) disposable sanitary pads to the land fill. A single sanitary pad takes close to 500-800 years to decompose. Worse still, maybe your favorite street dog that you feed biscuits to everyday might be biting into a disposed pad or a rag picker that you notice everyday down your street might be handling it with his bare hands.
While visiting Kerala where every household has to manage their own waste, the reality hits you hard because you are not throwing them in a street dustbin, believing it is somebody else’s problem to dispose it. I saw most women burying their sanitary pads or worse burning them. Both these methods affect our environment as disposable sanitary pads are a byproduct of the petroleum industry proving it to be extremely harmful to the environment.
Being a teen of the 90’s and having been used to disposable pads from my first period I felt for a long time that I had no other option. I have heard stories from my mother about the inconvenience of their generation of using cloth, drying them and staining of clothes. The arrival of disposable options gave them a sense of freedom.
Images in my head of cloth napkins being dirty rags and stains or the stories (myths) of possible infection, prevented me from switching to cloth for a long time.
But, I continued my search and realized that if I need to make a positive difference to my environment. I had only two options. One was the menstrual cup and the other the washable modern day cloth pad. While figuring out a choice between inserting a silicon cup or washing my blood off a cotton pad I chose the latter and this is how I went about it:
Changing the Pad
Like most people the thought of washing blood felt unclean to me. I also had the fear that the cloth might not be able to hold too much blood leading to staining. I came across the brand Eco Femme that had an option of panty liners. I ordered a pack online. When my package arrived I was mentally preparing myself to see a rag of cloth. But when I opened it, I saw this beautifully shaped blue soft panty liners with wings and a button. I was immediately impressed. I was extremely comfortable when I used it during the last few days of spotting. In fact I had less staining accidents than my regular disposable panty liner which didn’t come with wings. Washing the panty liner was easy as it felt like washing a stained panty as I was only dealing with very little blood.
The next step was using a day pad for the next cycle on a day when I knew I was bleeding less and on a day I was at home. I realized it was no different from using my regular pads but in fact more comfortable. By now I got used to dealing with little more blood I finally made the switch to Eco Femme during my next cycle even on the heavy days. The Eco Femme pads come in various sizes and through experience I was able to choose the right pad for the right day.
Now for the last 3 years I am a proud user of Eco Femme. And I have been 100 percent accident free.
I must confess I do use the disposable pads occasionally when I travel. To be honest I really don’t look forward to those days. Having used the comfortable cotton pads for 3 years now I visibly feel the difference of the synthetic pads. They are very uncomfortable and I have had some embarrassing accidents as well. But I’m hoping I could find a solution for that soon or turn to the menstrual cup.
Washing is yuck!
As a woman who doesn’t have kids I always found it amazing when parents wash their child’s poop with no disgust. When my one month pup puked on me I was amazed how I didn’t feel disgusted. It is the same feeling when you wash your own menstrual blood. That is the reason I ask people to start with the panty liner so that it is not a drastic jump to handle a pad used on a heavy day. Over time you actually feel more connected to yourself. A feeling that I find it difficult to explain in words.
The process is relatively simple. You can soak the pad for just half hour (I sometimes do it longer based on my spare time. If it is more than 8 hours I advise you to change the water and if needed add essential oil) . A plastic mug in my bathroom is used just for this purpose. Flush down the water and rinse the mug after use.
Once soaked it is easy to wash it with natural or synthetic soap (based on your convenience and eco sensitivity) and it comes out clean. Line dry it where there is ventilation and good sunlight. Once dry you can put it into your washing machine with the other clothes for one more round (I do not do this as I find my pads clean enough with just hand washing them)
Is it hygienic?
The scary hygiene stories usually comes from people from low income groups who have to use rags and do not have a clean environment to wash and dry their cloth.
As long as the blood is fully washed out from the pads, sun dried and stored hygienically only after they are completely dry then there will be no reason to worry. In these 3 years I have no complaints of any sorts. In fact some of my friends who use disposable pads have had complaints of rashes and infection.
I don’t have the time!
I am a film maker, I run a business, I love to spend time with family and friends, love to act on stage plays and nothing stops me from washing my pads. And I have the same freedom of doing anything I want that I did with disposable pads than with the washable. I’m a proud modern independent Indian woman and I don’t need those multinational company ads to tell me that I am one only if I use a gel based disposable pad.
I feel like I’m wearing a padded panty and sometime forget I am having a period!
Saving money while I save the planet!
The washable pads are a onetime investment and right now it’s affordable. They last for years based on how well they are maintained. No more adding disposable pads to your monthly expenses!
PS: Eco Femme is one of the many brands of washable menstrual pads available in the market.