Updated: Jan 9
Exploring How Sustainable Menstrual Practices Go Far Beyond Just Saving The Planet
We are fortunate to live in a time when countless individuals are passionately giving voice to a plethora of facets encompassing the period. From organisations like Green the Red pushing for sustainable menstrual practices to an increasing number of activists advocating for periods beyond gender, we see an evident pattern of hope and growth.
Today, we know that one sanitary pad takes around 800 years to decompose, due to its non-biodegradable plastic components. Sustainable menstruation refers to the use of environmentally responsible period products. In India, 36% of the 355 million menstruators use sanitary napkins. The impact this has is detrimental to the environment.
While an emphasis for eco-considerate products is laid on cloth napkins and menstrual cups, it is crucial to note that pushing for greener routines to bleed, goes far beyond its sustainability factor. Whenever we look to change age-old practices, specifically those hitherto stigmatised, we carry the burden of transcending narratives. Whether it is feminism or eco-consciousness, the focal point of their goals comes down to intention and not performance.
Intending to question, intending to feel. This is then succeeded by action, primarily driven by the grief upon visualising the worst-case scenario- intending to act.
What, then, is responsible for instilling a collective intention?
The narratives we use in describing what we want and why.
While contemplating menstruation under environmental waste management, we seldom acknowledge the fine line between awareness and aggravation. This narrative, which seeks to rightfully highlight its impact on pollution and human rights grievances, such as the dignity of manual scavengers who hand-pick period waste, also brings home a pressing concern. That of further stigmatising menstruation and menstruators when making them the focus in discussions of toxic waste. Thus, when not done right, promoting sustainable practices within tabooed subjects thus carries the risk of adding fuel to the fire.
In light of that, how do we transcend the existing narrative in a way that’s sensitive, responsible, and action-prompting at the same time?
By spotlighting menstruators, before the statistics. By humanising the period in a way that it invariably humanises sustainability along with it.
Using greener products empowers menstruators. While patriarchal ideals have instilled shame in a process not in their control- choosing to save the planet, learning how they can be part of a bigger cause, and shifting focus from their otherwise tabooed ‘monthly burden to that of a powerful tool that has a direct impact on prolonging the life of a planet, re-instils in menstruators a sense of control and power.
By using biodegradable pads, they gain a strong voice over their silenced period. By using menstrual cups, they rise over the misogynistic construct and centuries-long obsession around the preservation of hymen. They not only gain the rightful control of their own bodies but are actively able to exercise it as well. Sustainable period practices are to menstruators, as contraception is to feminism.
This is the narrative that needs a bigger voice. This is the narrative that will instil a collective intention. This is the narrative that will edify the taboo, as well as an issue often met with indifference.
A conscious effort to do so is imperative, not only because we owe it to the individuals who bleed in silence and shame- but also because we owe it to the environment.
Turn to greener ways of menstruating because you deserve it, as much as the planet does.