• Katie Traill

A Zero Waste Cycle: Plastic-Free Periods

As one of the most interesting topics in our workshops as Towards Zero Waste Geelong, Meg and I love to talk minimising waste during your period. It’s a topic that some feel uncomfortable talking about, but not us! Frankly, if a normal physiological cycle occurs in 50% of the population every month, it’s more than worthy of open conversation. And in transitioning towards a zero waste (or close-to) lifestyle, it’s an essential topic to cover.

For the average woman (taking the averages of menstruation onset age and menopause onset age, assuming one period every 28 days) up to 10,500 pads or tampons will be used and $4000 spent. WHAAAT. That’s without the added pill packets for pain killers and contraceptives, packets of snacks (chips anyone?) and chocolate wrappers! Each month, the Earth cops a beating from the way we’ve learned to manage our monthly cycle. I don’t believe in the blame game – we’re only trying to make ourselves as comfortable, functional and clean as we can – but there are things we can do to help ourselves and our environment at the same time. Not all ideas will suit all people, but have a read and see what things you might be able to implement in your life.

Period Undies

Hello, lifechangers! I bought some Modibodi undies (Aussie brand, made in China) last year in preparation for long-term travel overseas (hell no to getting stuck on an 8hr bus without a toilet and needing a tampon change..!). These are game changers any day, though this depends how heavily you bleed. They can be worn for most of the day, and overnight (changing before sleep of course). They are really well fitted and don't at all feel like a nappy or bulky. They're easy to wash out in the shower and at the end of your cycle throw in with your normal laundry load. Amazing.

Reusable pads

Gentle, beautifully patterned, cotton pads are available in so many places. Especially good for nights and the early years, these pads are made to fit the body, absorb fluid and be reused for years. They're as easy as a cold/cool rinse in the shower before a full wash with your next normal laundry load. Pop buttons fasten them in place on your underwear (hooray for no more silly sticky wings!). This is of course a modern take on the old concept of ’rags’ in a life before plastic, but much more comfy and practical. Meg swears they help reduce the intensity of her cramps at the beginning of her cycle too! I love to use mine overnight.

Menstrual Cups

I used to think these were terrifying, huge, painful things invented in the old days and used by almost no one. I was so very wrong! These flexible silicone cups are well designed and from all reports, one you’ve had a couple of practice runs, work like a charm. While I haven't been able to find a fit for my body shape, I have plenty of friends who all swear by these, being practical for travel, use overnight (12 hours!) and reportedly much more comfortable. There are plenty of brands to choose from and all have great in-depth information and videos on their websites, so get googling!

The 'Juju' menstrual cup

Organic Cotton Pads and Tampons

When reusables just aren’t your thing (yet), TOM Organics has your back. This Aussie brand uses organic cotton only, which has many benefits. Less water, pesticides/herbicides, fertilisers and plastics in the product means less in your body! (Plastic and chemicals inside my vagina? No thanks!) If the thought of composting crossed your mind, beware that bodily secretions need to be composted at high temperatures to eliminate risk of disease spread, so DON’T add these to your home compost please! Landfill only (at this point in time).

Plastic-Free Pain Relief

Sometimes, cramping, back pain and aches get hectic for a couple of days. A quick way out (especially if you’re forced to be functional, like having to work) is to take painkillers. I’ve learned from 12 years of chronic pain that this isn’t great for the body and that there are plenty of things to do first before seeking drugs, so IF available to you, here are some ideas:

- Heat packs and hot water bottles are reusable and irreplaceable. They can be amazing help! If you have a microwave or kettle at work, consider bringing one with you. Weird to BYO heatpack? Hell no, better than suffering in silence!

- A hot bath can be a great relief at the end of a long day. Soak as long as you damn like (add herbs and flowers if that’s your thing).

- Exercise improves mood and can distract from pain, and is especially helpful for back pain. A short walk, cycle or of course yoga practice can be amazing.

- If it’s your thing, trying rubs, oils and teas can be lovely alternatives to pain relief (though try to DIY or buy in recyclable packaging where possible).

Homemade Snacks (for those nights on the couch with a hot water bottle and Netflix)

Making your own food nearly always reduces packaging and costs, especially if you have a bulk wholefood store nearby. If you have that salty carb craving (like I get, far out) try these:

- Slice up a couple of potatoes (sweet or normal) into chips, shake in a bowl with olive oil, salt, paprika (and cinnamon if using sweet potato) until coated, then bake for about 35 minutes at 200 degrees Celcius or until golden brown. Top with sauce of your choice and eat the whole bowl to yourself, YUM.

- Make your own sweet + salty popcorn. Cover the base of a large pot with peanut or sunflower oil (oil that will tolerate higher temperatures without burning), add popping corn to cover the base and heat on medium with the lid on. Once all has popped (shake the pot to avoid burning the bottom ones) remove from heat, cover with fine salt and icing sugar to taste, and go lie on the couch. Perfecto.

- Who doesn’t love garlic bread? Find a sourdough loaf or roll from your local bakery (packaging free) and slice thickly. Mix a few Tbsp Nuttelex, 2 cloves garlic, pinch of salt and some parsley or chives in a bowl. Spread between bread layers, heat in the over for 15mins at 180 degrees and devour joyously.

- Got a sweet tooth? Grab some packaging-free chocolate from your bulk store, or a raw slice from your local café in a BYO container. If you like baking, hit up my fav Natural Harry's online recipes to make a few days (or hours) worth of wholefood muffins or biscuits so snacks are always on hand when cravings hit.

- If a fruit you love is in season (I'm thinking summer berries) melt some chocolate in the microwave, pop fruit in a separate bowl, then hang out with a book while you dip each piece in the chocolate like a cheeky fondue. Yasss.

For more tips and inspiration, as well as event info, make sure you're following @seedblog on Instagram and Facebook. I love messages, comments and questions, as well as shares of anything you find helpful! Thanks for taking time from your day to read this, legend.

- Katie