Giving up the plastic straw? Great.
Don't stop there.
Giving up the plastic straw? Great.
Don't stop there.
Giving up the plastic straw? Great. Don't stop there. While bans on plastic straws are helpful, they often make life difficult for disabled folks. What can work is considering how much plastic we use, thinking about ways to cut down waste, and acknowledging our addiction to plastic. Our guest blogger Mika Doyle digs into the problems presented by small, single use plastics (like straws...and tampon applicators).
If you’re just one person out of the billions of people on this planet, would it really make that big of a difference to the environment if you switched to reusable menstrual products?
Well, let’s look at something that seems even less significant than pads and tampons: plastic drinking straws.
This year, environmental groups are working to completely halt the use of disposable plastic straws, and they’ve succeeded to get lawmakers and restaurant chains in both the U.S. and the U.K. on board. Why? According to USA Today, Inc., and StrawFree.org, the stats on plastic pollution are downright alarming:
And plastic drinking straws are a major contributor to the problem. In the U.S. alone, more than 5 million plastic straws are thrown away every day. That’s 175 billion per year. Although plastic straws are technically recyclable, they are so light-weight that they typically get missed by the sorting machines, and it takes 500 hundred years for a single straw to decompose. During that time, those plastic straws can leak pollutants into the soil and water and break into microplastics that animals confuse as food. Plastic straws can be essential for disabled folks. However, using plastic that you don't need is toxic to the earth.
Source: USA Today
The movement to ban plastic straws is growing across the U.S. and Canada. According to NBC News, lawmakers have already passed ordinances to limit or prohibit restaurants from using plastic straws in several cities across California, Florida and in Seattle. Fort Myers Beach, Fla., has banned the commercial use of plastic straws, and Malibu, Calif., is adding a ban in June on plastic straws, stirrers and cutlery to its ban on the commercial use of plastic shopping bags and polystyrene food containers.
And fast food behemoth McDonald’s is making a major move by replacing plastic straws with environmentally friendly paper straws in all 1,361 U.K. and Ireland locations starting in September. The chain says its U.S., France and Norway locations will follow soon, but there are no specific details as to when that’s going to happen. Their decision to get eco-friendly is on the heels of other fast food chains in the U.K. like JD Wetherspoon, Burger King and Costa Coffee, who all stopped using plastic straws in the past year.
The movement has even reached my hometown of Rockford, Ill., a small city located 90 minutes outside of Chicago. When I sat down to eat at Baker Street Burger, one of my favorite burger restaurants, I noticed they switched to paper straws. They weren’t the most comfortable to drink out of because they did start to get a bit soft and mushy the more I drank out of them, but the gesture was appreciated. And recently one of my friends posted this image on Instagram. It reads:
If skinny little plastic straws cause so much damage to the environment, how much damage do plastic tampon applicators and disposable pads do?
The environmental impact of disposable menstrual products doesn’t start when we throw them away; it starts when they’re made. The Royal Institute of Technology in Stockholm found that the largest global warming impact is caused by the processing of the plastics in the tampon applicators and the plastic back-strips in pads. That means when companies are making pads and tampons, they’re producing a heavy carbon footprint that contributes to the global warming problem.
Then those disposable menstrual products land in our hands, we use them, and then we throw them away. When more than 50 percent of the world’s population menstruates, that means an average person uses around 11,000 tampons in their lifetime. In North America alone, nearly 20 billion pads, tampons and applicators are dumped into landfills every year.
If you were alarmed by the damage those little plastic straws are doing to the environment, imagine the damage the plastics in those 20 billion menstrual products are doing.
So I ask again: can one person really make that big of a difference for the environment by switching to reusable menstrual products? If a skinny little straw makes a difference, your menstrual products can make a major impact.
Here’s the thing about plastic - it’s essential to many aspects of our modern life. Durable, waterproof, and moldable, plastics make possible many advancements in medicine, technology and communication. It’s in everything - from clothes to coffee cups, It also comes with one big problem - it won’t decay.
As long as we’ve had plastics, we’ve been dealing with more and more garbage generated from plastic, and a lot of this garbage is ending up in our oceans. As a biologically inert substance (meaning it doesn’t react chemically with the majority of other substances), it’s impervious to many of the functions that break organic materials down. This means we have landfill waste, harm to animal life, and a large floating island of plastic floating around the Pacific.
Not so ideal.
Even as we’re waking up to the damage caused by our overdependence on plastic, plastic consumption is increasing exponentinally. A search of plastic waste found in the ocean found that the majority of the plastic pulled from our water are proportionally more likely to be from after the year 2000. Plastic may be unavoidable, but we don’t have to make it inevitable. Here’s three simple ways you can make your plastic consumption more sustainable.
Advocate For Recycling Facilities
Tell the communities that you live in that having adequate recycling facilities is important. Although you can head down to city hall, feel free to check in with local businesses and organizations about having recycling facilities. The politics of waste management are real, and too often, not having a blue box is seen as okay. It’s not.
While you’re at it, encourage them to replace single use plastic containers with compostable alternatives, or even better, offer discounts for bringing your own containers.
Ditch Single Use Plastics
One of the major motivators of making the switch to reusable pads is to ditch the single use plastic that comes with pads and tampons. Besides being horrifyingly uncomfortable, plastic menstrual products don’t decompose. Same goes for straws, single-use water bottles and plastic bags.
Spend a little time and money picking up reusable alternatives to these products - like a foldable shopping tote or a reusable coffee cup. Even better - go one step further and organize a clothing swap, source a zero waste grocery store and start composting.
Educate Yourself About Your Products
Feel like you’re drowning in plastic? Don’t purge it all in favour of glass jars and fabric bags. Use up your containers and sustainably dispose of them. Consider how you take care of things - even using cold water washes improve microfiber shedding. Also, feel free to follow up on the environmental claims of new products - we’re improving our manufacturing and supply chain processes all the time, but sometimes it’s not green, it’s just greenwashing.
Lunapads, as a company, is always critiquing our own systems - over the past few years, we’ve increased our use of organic cotton, reduced our carbon footprint by over 60% and moved more of our production to a zero waste model. Making greener choices is a lifetime process - we learn more about how we can improve, and we gain greater access to resources to make it happen.
Plastic might be unavoidable, but it is manageable. Making smarter choices can help you harness plastic’s benefits in a way that is sustainable for our planet.
By now, most folks are aware of The Pink Tax that unfairly targets products marketed towards women. Products we want and depend on, from clothes to menstrual care, cost more when marketed to women than for men. However, there’s another threat that’s been lurking in these products beyond just their price points: unsafe ingredients and materials.
According to reports issued over the last two decades, makeup, shampoo, skin lotion, nail polish, and other personal care products have been found to contain chemical ingredients that lack sufficient data to declare them safe for topical use. Even worse, an Environmental Working Group report found that beauty and hair products marketed to black women are even more likely to contain potentially harmful chemicals and ingredients.
Some ingredients have been linked to cause harmful birth defects, hormonal disruptions, skin allergies, and other serious health effects in animal studies. Perhaps the most recent and notorious example is talc, which may be linked to incidents of ovarian cancer. Talc can be found in baby powder, face powders, deodorant, lotion, bath bombs, and other cosmetics.
Then, of course, are the toxic chemicals and synthetic ingredients used in the products we literally put inside ourselves. Menstrual products can contain dioxins, furans and pesticide residues, which then sit next to some of the most sensitive and absorbent skin in the human body. Many users report rashes, infections and other side effects, making their period a problem.
Here is a non-comprehensive list of other ingredients to be aware and highly cautious of:
Many of these ingredients and materials also come with destructive environmental consequences, both in their use and their manufacture. Many have the tendency to bioaccumulate and find their way into our oceans and water supplies, destroying marine life.
Additionally, materials used in disposable pads and tampons, along with “fast fashion” clothing, have a horrific impact on our landfills. In fact, an estimated 20 billion pads, tampons, and applicators are sent to North American landfills every year. And according to the Environmental Protection Agency, each American disposes of an average 70 pounds of clothing and other textiles annually.
To learn more about the kinds of ingredients that have been linked to adverse health and environmental effects along with the products they’re found in, use the Campaign for Safe Cosmetics Chemicals of Concern search tool and their Health & Science resource center.
The good news is, consumer demand incites progress, and entrepreneurs are listening and creating companies that harbor an unwavering compassion for human and environmental health, and their products are proof.
Some of our favorite, most-trusted non-toxic and environmentally-friendly products and retailers include:
We know that learning about the consequences of our consumer choices can be quite overwhelming. It’s easy for it to feel like no matter what we do, it won’t make a difference. But that’s just not true.
Here are a few tips for how to start making healthier choices for yourself and the environment.
Conventional menstrual products are wasteful, toxic, expensive, and chained to an industrial system that is not good for our bodies or the earth. People will spend thousands of dollars, create hundreds of pounds of trash and expose their vaginas to harmful chemicals throughout their lifetimes while using them. We get it--reusables are not for everyone, but the simple and healthy alternatives are not advertised widely. We have to do it ourselves.
Likewise, while motor vehicles can be valuable tools for transportation and logistics, there are too many cars on the road! Daily rush hour gridlock soils local air quality, increases dependence on fossil fuel, and renders the combustion engine useless but for producing noxious fumes traveling at a pedestrian pace. Sustainable Cycles is a part of a 501(c)3 non-profit called Sustainable Streets; we believe that municipalities must offer cyclists and pedestrians just as much safety and convenience as they offer motorists in the public roadway. After all, the Good Roads Movement of the late 1800s was initiated by cyclists!
Since 2011, Sustainable Cycles has sponsored 10 cyclists to ride over 16,000 in more than 30 states in the US, all the while smashing menstruation taboos and promoting reusable products. 2017’s tour will be our second pilgrimage to the SMCR conference and our first time riding internationally. Along with our allies #HappyPeriod, The Fifth Vital Sign, and several bicycle communities along the route, our workshops will be full of people learning from each other to achieve gender equality and environmental justice.
#HappyPeriod and Sustainable Cycles made and distributed 200 menstrual health kits for people experiencing homelessness in 2016.
Biking thousands of miles literally makes our bodies stronger, and by connecting with locals along the routes we travel, we have conversations that strengthen the women’s health movement, too. Current US politics are galvanizing people to gain more body literacy and reproductive autonomy as access to contraceptives and abortion becomes uncertain. While there is a lot of work to be done, we are inspired by the efforts of many individuals, organizations, and businesses on the right track.
We thank Lunapads for supporting our cause! Our trips lead us through very diverse political landscapes, and through their support, we are able to distribute options that most locals have never heard of before. To this day, dominant culture demands that menstruation remains unspoken, wrapped up, and thrown out. Sustainable Cycles allows us to start conversations about menstruation by starting with bicycling! It has been an incredible tool for our cause, and we are honored to be period activists.
Donate to help us provide travel scholarships to our riders! And join us at our upcoming events. We will celebrate Menstrual Hygiene Day on May 28th in Austin, Texas before departing for the SMCR conference. Visit www.sustainablecycles.org to follow along!
It won't come as news to most people reading this blog that our business philosophy is firmly grounded in the belief that capitalism can be a powerful force for positive social change. You just don't often get to see these types of values expressed every day, let alone as a documentary film with you in it.
As some background, Institute B is a Vancouver-based social impact business think tank/incubation/education and venture capital firm. Suzanne and I have participated in their highly regarded Changemakers series, and are proud and excited about the work they're doing and community they're building. They are massive champions of the Benefit Corporation (B Corp) movement, a group of almost 1,000 companies worldwide who participate in a rigorous evaluation process of their impact, then go a step further to amend their legal articles of incorporation to enshrine a commitment that pursuit of profit will never come at the expense of social or environmental considerations.
When we were approached to be interviewed for the video, naturally we agreed to share our story. What we didn't know was that the "video" was actually destined to become an hour-long documentary about the evolution and future of capitalism. Several of our favourite friend/colleagues/B Corporations (hello Fairware, Junxion Strategy, Save On Meats, Potluck Cafe, Renewal Partners) were also interviewed, and the result is pure inspiration. We were also delighted to see our sister company AFRIpads featured too!
Following the screening, Suzanne was invited to join a panel of fellow entrepreneurs for a discussion, moderated by Kevin Lee Royes, a serial "soulcial-preneur" who successfully closed a deal on Dragons Den (the Canadian version of reality TV entrepreneurial pitching) and parlayed that into a guest hosting gig on future shows. His first question to the panel was "Is it too late to save the world?" In response Suzanne retold the story of the Little Hummingbird & the Forest Fire and said that "we (ie: Lunapads & AFRIpads) are simply doing what we can." And so thanks to all our customers and supporters: you are helping make that happen!
The "Pirates and "Disruption" in the title of this post are references to a couple of particularly cheeky lines of my and Suzanne's. There's not much more to say other than thank you to the IB team for this incredible opportunity to be part of such a powerful and innovative movement. We're not stopping anytime soon ;-)
What if you could take something that was going to be either burnt, landfilled or made into plastic pellets, and make it into something highly useful that could have a major social impact for very little money? Cool, right? We call it Transformation Textiles (TT), it rocks, and this is how it works.
Major sporting goods companies and mass market retailers make bathrobes, tank tops, track pants etc by the millions in factories located primarily in developing nations. You knew that. What you may not know is what that actually looks like. Consumers typically focus on things like worker safety, fair wages and factory conditions in these transactions: fair enough - they are super-important issues. What you may not have thought about, though, is the waste that it generates. Imagine rolling out dough and cutting cookies from it - the pattern pieces for making clothes are the same as the cookie cutters, and the fact that they're not square means that there will be leftover dough - or fabric in this case. Normally this waste, called "offcuts", is thrown away.
While most offcuts aren't big enough to make anything large, there is ample opportunity to place patterns for small things (say for example menstrual pads, or parts of a pair of underwear), or things that could be pieced together, in the master marker - all it takes is willingness on behalf of the manufacturer. Rachel Starkey is a longtime friend, colleague and Pads4Girls supporter who is pioneering this thought-leading movement.
In her own words: "Transformation Textiles (TT) is a Social Business Strategy where everyone profits. By the simple pre-planning of utilizing the off-cuts spaces in master mass-garment pattern plans, "pro-poor products" are made in a very cost-effective and efficient manner. Pro-Poor Products are by nature items needed, desired & affordable to the world's poor.
Washable Menstrual Kits are a prime example & one of the easiest TT products to fit into any mass-garment pattern. We have found that whenever pro-poor products run in our production lines, our staff are happier. They are not just making another garment; they know that TT products are going to people that need them most. For our staff that means not just another paycheck - they are a part of something much bigger. It is about creating opportunity & hope in the lives of others. Happy employees are usually more productive employees. We have seen an explosion of innovation amongst our production team with many thinking, "How can I use this or that in a useful way?".
With extremely low actual costs for manufacturing pro-poor products, the poor are able to afford them and even resell them to others! TT places a whole new dimension to the "re-cycle/carbon footprint" question: a different question might be what is your "life-giving print"? TT not only saves the environment, it creates an environment for some to have a chance to live. It beckons us with the strong message, "Keep girls in school! Create jobs for vulnerable women!" Pro-poor products are better served not as hand-outs, but foot-holds to help people climb out of the circumstances keeping them enslaved in poverty."
Please post below your favourite finds for socially responsible, handmade, local or upcycled gifts!
Ah Christmas! A love/hate relationship for me. There are quaint pieces of it that I adore but a flip side of greed, stress and commercialization I do not enjoy one bit.
This year I have been looking for alternative gifts that give back in bigger ways, and unique upcycled or recycled products too. I also have a soft spot for artisans and crafters as I do have an artsy side myself. It has been so much fun researching ideas and there are a ton of really neat ones. Here are some of my favourites:
Blend Creations has really neat stainless steel jewelry, including bracelets, necklaces, earrings, rings, and more! My personal favourites are the customizable Twitter @ symbol and QR code charms. As it turns out one of the owners is a BIG Lunapads fan and has been using our products for years! As many people tell me, Canada does come up with some pretty innovative products. (Lisa likes their ultra-functional honeycomb wrench necklace shown on the left.)
Socially conscious and charitable gifts are my favourite. One year, for my Dad (who is super hard to buy for). we sponsored a whale. He loved it! Here are a few other suggestions of unique and socially responsible gifts from me, and the Lunapads team:
Karen: There are tons of fantastic donation gifts to choose from. Shanti Uganda has unique recycled paper beaded jewelry and bags, made by the 25 women in the Shanti Uganda Women’s Income Generating Group, a program that provides Ugandan women with business training and continuous health education workshops.
I have also had the good fortune to be able to share with others through the Surrey Christmas Bureau, donating my time to help families in hard times have a Christmas. Having been in the same position myself, I am proud and grateful to be able to give back. There are many ways that you can give your time to help if you don't have the spare money to donate.
Sara: Check out The Teal Cat Project! They take old cat figurines and give them new life with a coat of teal paint. The proceeds from the sale of Teal Cats goes towards rescuing abandoned kitties!
Each Teal Cat is numbered and when the “litter” is gone you have to wait for the next one! There won’t be a new “litter” until January but for cat lovers this is a neat project to help feral cats.
Suzanne: I'm giving a big shout out to our friends at Reuseit: an award winning company that is the leading source for information and products that empower people to be part of the solution to problems caused by society's mindless consumption of use & toss items. .
One of my faves on their top 10 list is Vancouver based Libre Tea glass - an all-in-one tea infuser and travel mug. Not only do I totally LOVE these mugs (I've had one for 2 years, it never leaks, it travels well, and looks gorgeous) but the founder is a long time friend of mine from my previous career. How wonderful that we've both found ourselves in the similar careers again!
Lisa: Support independent feminist media and shop Bitch Media's BitchMart this year! Get your lil' sister a subscription the magazine, or pick up a reusable water bottle or tote bag for your bestie.
On my wishlist? Gay Genius, an anthology of comics and graphic storytelling, and Feminism for Real, edited by Jessica Yee (founder of Native Youth Sexual Health Network).
Need more gift ideas for the festive feminist in your life? Check out Bitch in a Box: Feminist Holiday Gift Guide for tons of fantastic gift ideas from the Bitch Media team, including Feminist Gifts for Teens!
Thanks, everyone! Don't forget to post a comment below, and happy holidays from the whole gang at Lunapads!