For many of us ladies, dealing with our periods is a huge annoyance, expense, and literal pain. Most of us can relate to the fear of getting our periods during our long-awaited beach vacation, or the panic when we realize we’ve gotten our period and don’t have the necessary supplies on us. For swimmers and water-lovers there are additional complications and considerations. And now we’re hearing more about how many menstrual products are either unhealthy for our bodies or for our planet.
Suitcase Six is all about sustainable travel for working women specifically, and yet I’d hardly considered menstruation as an issue in which sustainability plays a role. That’s why I was so curious when Emma told me she wanted to share her perspective as a scuba instructor on her switch from tampons to a more sustainable menstrual cup. So without further ado, here’s Emma to discuss her switch to a menstrual cup instead of tampons and why you might consider doing making the switch yourself.
(*Personal photos of mine from my first trip to Belize, not our guest author, Emma’s*).
I stumbled into scuba diving by chance. Or more accurately, I was guilt-tripped into trying it out while on a backpacking trip with my boyfriend. Ended up loving it to the point of becoming an underwater videographer and becoming a scuba instructor so that was a positive outcome, and I didn’t chuck the boyfriend!
It’s such a dream to work and live on such a beautiful island, but every day you are reminded of how destructive us humans can be. We frequently have clean up days on the island where you pick up plastic straws that fall from the beach bars, find cigarette butts hidden in the sand, and collect the hundreds of broken up plastic waste that ends up washed ashore. It’s sad.
But even worse is when you see the plastic rubbish floating in the water.
As a videographer filming underwater, I frequently chased what I thought was a majestic jellyfish to film, before realising it was just a plastic bag. This happened so often that I thought I was going crazy; not being able to differentiate between a man-made bag and a beautiful creature. Turns out I’m not the only one though. Turtles frequently nibble on jellyfish as a source of food, and many times, turtles would make the same mistake I did. Except they would eat the bag, which would then suffocate them, or get stuck in their stomachs.
Seeing the amount of plastic washing up on the island and going on clean-up dives underwater really led me to change the way I consume and dispose of things. And one of the biggest changes I’ve made recently is how I manage my period.
Scuba Diving On Your Period
Firstly, as a scuba diver, you can’t exactly wear sanitary pads that soak up the water and become bulky diapers in your tiny little bikini. Secondly, tampons are fine, but you do need to change it constantly, especially due to the chlorine in the pools, or the bacteria in the ocean. Not to mention having to dispose of them properly on a boat.
I realised then exactly how much waste we created every time we used single-use tampons and pads. Use a tampon for a few hours, then throw it out. Easy. But when you add up the few that you use every month, and multiple that by the decades you have your period, it really adds up. Then you figure out that millions of women are doing the same thing.
We’re all trying to cut down on plastic waste; from using reusable eco-shopping bags, to bamboo straws and toothbrushes, but why not switch from tampons to a menstrual cup?
Menstrual Cups: An Alternative to Tampons and Pads
I had heard of menstrual cups a few years ago, just briefly, but when I found this ultimate guide to menstrual cups it intrigued me. It was an interesting concept; where the cup would collect your blood, rather than absorb it like a tampon or pad. To use it, you would insert it into your vagina, then remove it when it was full where you could empty it into the toilet, rinse it off a bit, then re-insert again. Sounded easy enough!
Knowing that finding the right menstrual cup can be tricky, I did my research and figured out how to measure my cervix and then which cup was best for my body. I ended up with the JuJu menstrual cup, an Australian made brand, but there are loads of well-known brands out there such as The DivaCup, Lunette cup, Lena cup etc. There are so many on the market, and while finding a menstrual cup that fits you can be a bit of a struggle, once you do, it’s almost like the stars have aligned and the heavens have opened up.
Yep, it’s that amazing.
It’s been so beneficial to me now that I’ve had it for a few cycles; from being able to wear it for up to 12 hours, emptying and rinsing it off in the comfort of my shower, never running out of tampons while traveling, saving money in the long-term and of course, the environmental factor!
Living on a tropical island is everything it’s cracked up to be, but you do become more aware of the amount of rubbish that ends up in our oceans everyday. For me, switching to a menstrual cup was a no-brainer. I couldn’t exactly discourage my students from using plastic water bottles and straws, but still advocate using disposable feminine hygiene products. So my main motivation was the environment.
But in doing so, I realised so many other benefits that can be applied to all women. Just check them out below, and if you need any additional information on how or why to make the switch, check out menstrualcupaholic.com.
About The Author:
In 2013, Emma quit her advertising career in Australia to embark on a quick stopover in South-east Asia before heading to London for work. But she never made it! Instead she became a scuba instructor in Thailand (not bad for a girl who could barely doggy-paddle a few years ago!), and writes about her on land and underwater experiences in her budget travel blog at twogreenbackpacks.com.
THANKS FOR READING! LOOKING FOR MORE ADVICE ON SUSTAINABLE TRAVEL?
Read these next:
8 Environmentally Adventures to Discover Around the World
Fair Trade: What’s It Got to Do With Travel?
Green Singapore: A City for the Eco-Conscious
Then head to the sustainability archives for more posts on responsible tourism and eco-friendly travel.
Join the Suitcase Six mailing list and get your free checklist for sustainable travel to help you stay eco-friendly on your next adventure.