What is zero waste ?

Definitions vary, but in general, zero waste doesn’t really mean “zero.” It goes beyond what we send to landfill, including recycling, energy, water, and food waste. Typically, zero waste is an industrial term for a consumer movement encouraging manufacturers to eliminate single use items and non-biodegradable materials. The aim is to push towards a circular economy and increase demand for package-free products or reclaimable packaging. People blog and post about it to heighten awareness about unsustainable consumption and affect change.

– Ariana, Paris To Go.

Its been two years since I made the switch. There is no going back.

I impulse bought it. When it arrived, I was terrified to try it. I threw in the back of my bathroom cabinet and vowed to rectify my impulse buying habit.

A resolve to go Zero Waste made me pick it up again.

This is one of the best things ever made for women, on matters related to menstruating. I have said these words multiple times. I started off with using a cloth rag at age 14. It was very uncomfortable. Then came those bulky pads you buy in stores. They were uncomfortable but a big step up. Then came the thin pads. The words ‘this is the best thing ever made for women’ were first uttered. Moving to America introduced me to a lot of choice on products. Tampons were one of em. I called all my Indian girl friends and told them : ‘this is the best thing ever made for women’. But a menstrual cup is better.

Pros :

Cost effective. Buy once and use for a long long time. I always took the expenditure incurred from buying tampons/pads as a given cost – cost of being born female. Not anymore. I am a fan of great design and sustainable solutions. This is one. No more buying pads/tampons on repeat.

Comfortable. I can forget that I have a foreign body inside me.

I can quantize my menstrual flow. I knew I have a terrible day-one that drains me. It helps to know that I am not imagining it. I have to empty my cup multiple times on day 1 of my period. It works for women with a heavy flow.

You get to learn a little about your own anatomy.

Was told that its a revolutionary product for women in some under-developed countries. Girls in certain regions of the world skip school when they have their period because of social stigma/lack of access to bathrooms in schools. Now, its a quiet personal affair and nobody needs to know.

India needs this product. I talk about it to ALL the women I know. I talk about it to all the doctors I know. I want to spread the awareness.

I have gone swimming, camping, running, … wearing it. I do yoga wearing it.

If you go backcountry hiking/camping, you can not dispose your tampons in the wild. You have to carry it out in a plastic bag. But you can dig a hole, empty your cup and cover it up. It’s allowed.

You no longer send these products to the landfills every month. Tampons and pads have chemicals that may be harmless to us, but might be harmful to other organisms once they reach the soil. They take a while to decompose. Cotton used in pads/tampons has a carbon footprint, an appetite for pesticides and depletes the soil. Silicone used for the cup is not exactly a green product but ranks way better.

Cons :

I understand that it looks scary. Thousands of women wear it and they are in no way anatomically special or braver. It’s a matter of trying it out. But there are cases where it doesn’t fit or with extremely long learning curve. If it doesn’t work out, its alright too. Atleast we tried. I quite twice before I figured it out.

The first few times of wearing it, gave me some anxiety. I wore panty liners for the first month. After you get it right, you don’t need any more disposables.

I can’t figure out why it leaks when I bike wearing it. I had this problem with tampons too. I can’t figure out why.

At the end of the month, you have to sterilize it in boiling water. If I forget, the cup retains it’s stains and discolors. That’s 10 minutes of overhead. I wash mine with my regular bar soap between wears.

Using public restrooms : Walking out of the booth with bloody hands raises eye brows and earns me looks of disgust. Common women, get over it. The Bay Area has gender neutral bathrooms in a few places which make me uncomfortable. Common men, get over it. I wet some toilet paper and take it into the booth. I use it to wipe my hands before I come out to wash my hands. Not a big deal. These are not real problems but a minor inconvenience.

There are a few cup sizes available. There is no one size that fits all. There could be some trial and error involved. Maybe in the future, the gynecologists can do a scan and recommend one that fits given a unique anatomy. Maybe we can 3D print our own based on a scan…  I imagine it will get easier in the future to choose one.

It’s 20$ to be spent upfront. 20$ spread over a decade is much cheaper than buying tampons on repeat. But I think once it becomes a more mainstream product, the cost might come down when there is enough competition in the market. I see a few generic no brand versions of the cup on eBay for 2$.

Silicone is a man made polymer that is not biodegradable. But it is recyclable.

Menstrual-cup-how-to

The one I use : Diva Cup.


 

Heard of it ? Tried it ? Scared of it ? Use it ? Love it ? Hate it ? Fine with it ? Intrigued by it ?

( Please note that cups don’t work for everyone. I don’t mean to guilt you about using tampons in the name of environment. The intent of this post is : there is a contraption out there that might help. If it didn’t work for you, please share your experience. I suspect that would be as helpful as what I have to say. )