Reusable Pads — Better for the Planet, and For You

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Our bodies have always menstruated, but we haven't always created so much waste with our cycle. Prior to disposable pads and tampons, women used cloth rags to catch their menses and then washed and reused them. While modern menstruation has brought with it plenty of convenience, unfortunately, disposable pads and tampons create an incredible amount of waste.

In 2015, after reading The Zero Waste Home by Bea Johnson, I made the switch to using cloth menstrual pads. Johnson opened my eyes to the horrors of garbage, and with how much vigor Americans produce it — about 4.5lbs of trash per person per day. The trash we produce simply can’t be ignored, even though we may try. It clogs up our landfills and leaks methane gas and carbon into the atmosphere, increasing the greenhouse gas effect that causes climate change. Equipped with this knowledge, I have chosen to make small adjustments in my life that I know make a difference.

I want to take a moment to acknowledge that disposable options aren’t always been a bad thing. In many communities or cultures in which there is a lack of access to pads and tampons, women may miss out on vital education or social activities while they menstruate. In this case, certainly the use of disposable pads is vital to women thriving. Knowing this, I certainly don’t admonish disposable pads. However, in the United States and other western nations, many women have access to additional options — options that both support our health health and decrease environmental harm. I recognized the privilege I have to choose something different and feel a sense of duty when making that choice.

I began by using Gladrags pads a few years ago, and it was an enlightening journey. My friends and roommates were foreign to the idea that a woman could use reusable pads, and so I had a lot of explaining, and educating, to do.

Here are the main questions I received about reusable pads:

Q: Is it gross to wash your own pads?

A: Nope! It’s just a matter of getting used to it. I hand rinse my pads at the end of the day and soak them in water. When I have gathered enough to run a small load in the washing machine I do so. You can also just hand wash them after each use, then hang them to dry. I’ve actually found that it feels good to have a deeper involvement with my cycle by having to wash my pads. It makes me feel more connected to my body and my cycle.

Q: How do you change your disposable pads while you’re out in public?

A: I was so used to throwing things away (pads especially) after one use, and breaking that status quo felt quite odd for a while. It was an adjustment to carry them with me after use. I usually take a small brown paper bag from the public restroom — you can grab one out of most bathrooms sanitary napkin disposal area, as they often have extras. I keep that in my bag throughout the day and put my used pad in there. I also find that because the cloth is thicker I usually only need to change it twice on my heavy days, so it’s really not a big deal.

Q: How do you explain to other people why you use reusable pads?

A: You actually don’t have to explain yourself to anyone if you don’t want to. If you are asked about it or would like to share, choose which value you’d like to speak to. I often talk both about avoiding chemicals on my body and the importance of reducing waste.

If you choose to make the switch, you can start slowly, as I did. Just try incorporating a reusable panty liner every now and again. As you become more used to the idea, you can incorporate more pads and even try other products like period underwear (check out Thinx!), or a menstrual cup. All of these options help reduce trash and help us avoid putting chemicals on our skin, our largest organ.

The most exciting part for me about learning more about reusable pads was the sense of empowerment I feel when I take my menstrual health into my own hands. Using cloth pads makes me feel connected to my cycle, as I have to pay more attention to my body. Over time, I have felt less shame about the choice to use cloth pads, and less shame talking about my menstrual cycle in general. It seems to me the gift of this switch, beyond the environmental impact, is that it allows me to love myself and my body more deeply.

Brooke Lorimer is the founder of A Simple Alternative, a Virtual Assisting company that supports female entrepreneurs in reclaiming their time and bringing their bright ideas to life. She believes in using our values as a guide map for our life work and is passionate about women taking up space in the world.

Discover the Power Of Tracking Your Cycle

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Track your cycle has become a buzzword that is making its rounds on the internet and in sister circles, and for good reason. At first, it may seem inconvenient or even embarrassing to track your cycle, but it’s actually one of best ways we can reconnect to ourselves and the rhythms of nature. Female bodies function in hormonal cycles that range from about 28-32 days, and tapping into your unique cycle helps you understand your body — and work with it, instead of against it.

During the four phases of menstruation, Follicular, Ovulation, Luteal and Menses, our bodies are pumping out different levels of hormones like estrogen and testosterone to ensure we are functioning happily. While each body has unique chemistry, it’s helpful to understand which phase of our cycle we are in so we can best support our wellbeing.

The benefits of tracking your cycle go deeper than just understanding these four rhythms, however. In fact, tracking your cycle has many benefits! Here are the most notable:

Tracking your cycle takes the mystery out of ovulation, your most fertile phase of the month. By knowing when you are ovulating, you hold a primal key to your body. If you’re trying to get pregnant, you should have sex during this time, whereas if you are avoiding pregnancy, be sure not to have unprotected sex during ovulation.

Tracking your cycle also builds intimacy with your body. You’ll notice if your period is late or early and you’ll be able to detect any irregularities or other symptoms sooner. This intimacy of tracking your cycle also helps to defy stigma. Knowledge reduces shame and getting to know our bodies helps us care for them.

As you track your cycle, your ability to support your body is enhanced. Moving through each part of the cycle you’ll learn how to support your body in each phase. While your follicular phase may require that you move your body more, your luteal phase will likely require more rest. Cultivating our ability to listen to your body is a form of power.

Paying attention to your cycle also helps you to plan your yoni steam. If you find that steaming once per month is ideal for you, you might find it’s best to steam the week before you begin bleeding. This way, you support your body to fully cleanse and release what is no longer serving. By tracking your cycle, you can carve out the time you’ll need to spend on yourself.

Along those lines, when you’re in the habit of tracking your cycle you’ll avoid being surprised when you begin to bleed. Before I started tracking my cycle, I remember walking around in terror, always carrying pads, just in case. Tracking my cycle gave me my power back as I began to understand my body and have a closer estimate to when my period was going to start.

For the actual tracking, there are different methods. If you’re just getting started tracking your cycle, I recommend using an app where you input the first and last day of your period, and over time it begins to reflect when your period will start next. Most apps will also show you when you are predicted to ovulate, and when you’ll be moving through the other phases of menstruation as well.    

I’ve tried Flo, P Tracker, and Clue and enjoyed them all, though I love the personal recommendations that Flo gives for each different phase of my menstrual cycle.

If you’ve already been using an app and want to dive deeper, you can try the Fertility Awareness Method or F.A.M. There are three main methods to F.A.M, but the core is tracking when you ovulate, which can be done by tracking your temperature daily, checking your cervical mucus daily, or charting your cycle on a calendar (or app!). I know women who use a combination of those three to great effect. If you’d like to learn more, check out Taking Charge of Your Fertility, by Toni Weschler, as this is one of the most comprehensive resources out there!

I recommend beginning with a method that you can stick to for a couple of months, and notice the benefits of over time. Enjoy getting to know yourself a little better.

Brooke Lorimer is the founder of A Simple Alternative, a Virtual Assisting company that supports female entrepreneurs in reclaiming their time and bringing their bright ideas to life. She believes in using our values as a guide map for our life work and is passionate about women taking up space in the world.

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