This post was last updated on August 12, 2021 by Preethi Sukumaran
I had a careful order of articles planned when we started this month’s series of Re-usables with the series on reusable sanitary napkins. I was going to start by talking about the dangers of disposable sanitary napkins, introduce 3 companies that were creating reusable sanitary options in India and end with a piece on how you should care for and maintain your reusable sanitary napkin to make sure they work well for you.
But I was surprised and gratified to see the comments, questions and positivity around this series when we started sharing the facts on Facebook and our blog.
And this response is in no small measure due to the large environmental impact of using disposable sanitary products.
The two facts that affected me most about disposable napkins:
- Every time a woman decides to use a disposable “gel” based napkin which is based on an SAAP derivative, every pad she uses has plastic that is equivalent to 4 plastic carry bags.
- In India, wood pulp based napkins continue to occupy a large part of our stores (and our landfills) – they are cheaper, and are usually the first napkin many young girls shift to before moving on to the thinner gel based “Ultra” napkins. Every woman using wood pulp based disposable menstrual napkins in her lifetime would have used up the wood pulp from one whole tree.
Clearly these facts spoke to many more people apart from me, which explained the number of comments, questions and concerns expressed on these posts.
But the decision to shift to a reusable is not an easy one. It comes with a nightmarish vision of the work involved, especially if the work involves disposing of a whole lot of menstrual blood and getting that out of the cloth pads.
So I kept on hearing one question over and over about reusable pads:
And it revolved around the “ick” factor associated with menstruation. Was it going to be easy to switch? Were the benefits outweighed by the perceived messiness of cleaning the pads? And most importantly was it hygienic and as comfortable as we said it would be?
Sometimes the only way to dispel these fears is to let an actual user write about her experience with cloth pads. And here I have a lovely piece written by Anita Balasubramaniam who has used reusable cloth pads for close to 10 years now.
About Anita: a reusable cloth pad user, mom, life schooler, kitchen gardener and organic enthusiast
My introduction to Anita came on a hot summer afternoon in May 2011, when I received an email from her asking about the Krya detergent. We had beta launched our product but our website was not ready so there was no easy way to pay and get our products then. Anita was one of our earliest consumers and braved her way through our technological challenges to adopt the Krya detergent into her home.
Since then, we’ve exchanged detergents, books recipes, ideas on parenting and have met several times recognising in each other a kindred spirit.
Anita is a life schooling Mum to 2 gorgeous girls (just look at their smiles below!). She is an environmentalist, and went vegan a few years back. She is a kitchen gardener and makes amazing cups of herbal tea with lemongrass and mint grown in her kitchen garden for those fortunate enough to visit her.
Here is Anita’s story of the Switch.
How I shifted to cloth pads: the beginning:
I got to know of menstrual cloth pads in 2002 when I was living in the US. I saw them displayed at a community organic store and was excited to see this option as I was quite intensely exploring ways of living a more sustainable life in any and every way possible. To see menstrual cloth pads was very exciting. If this option worked, I felt I was bringing sustainability in a very personal way into my life. Little did I know how this shift itself would bring deeper perspectives and changes in my life.
I found cloth pads very exciting:
I was thrilled about cloth pads as it meant I would not have to repeatedly buy menstrual pads that were disposable (even if made from recycled paper, or bio-degradable material), that were made at a factory or a manufacturing facility, from materials that were either unsustainable, heavily treated, and that would add to the landfill. Just to be out of the consumer mindset with respect to my menstrual cycle felt very empowering. I felt very hopeful and powerful about making this shift that would also be caring for myself and the earth.
My experiment began:
I bought a couple of cloth pads to sample and see if I could begin this shift. And I felt wonderful using them. For one, I never got rashes again. They felt softer and more absorbent. As I used the cloth pads, I began to find that there were many other things that happened. I began to feel a sense of caring and intimacy with my body, my blood, my menstrual cycle. I was more tuned to when I was about to menstruate.
I would keep the cloth pads handy instead of assuming that I could always run down to the shop to get a pack of disposable pads. My sense of responsibility and care towards myself increased as the months went by. I noticed that many negative beliefs faded and washed away as I washed these pads every month.
I began to see that there was really nothing very dirty about this, that this was part of a life giving cycle, just like all cycles in nature are. In death there is birth. In peeling away there is regeneration. As belief systems in one area give way and are replaced by newer more life giving ones, they also influence other areas in life (like handling children’s poop and pee)
Why reusables and handling our waste scares us :
We have been disconnected from our bodies, our blood, our poop, our pee. This disconnect creates fear, false beliefs, and lack of experiential knowing. As we begin to get familiar with what we are disconnected from many layers begin to unravel within ourselves. Beliefs change and we develop experiential knowing about what comes out of our body and also what we put into our body. I am now at a place where I see my menstrual blood and my body as sacred, am patient with myself, am comfortable with handling my menstrual blood which once used to be considered dirty.
My transition into reusable pads
Over time, I made the shift to using cloth pads entirely and have been doing so the last 5 years. I also considered the menstrual cup and tried it, but that did not work out too well for me. All along the journey, I worked with challenges that came up and beliefs that I had taken on that would stop me from persisting with this shift. Questions related to comfort, washing and drying, safety and cleanliness, etc. As I begin to enquire into them they began to give way and I came up with strategies to overcome these challenges.
Find your path
Each of us need to work through these challenges and find strategies that work for us from a place of care, love, and commitment to ourselves and our earth. There is really no one way that works for everyone, but we have to persist to find solutions that are personalized and work for our individual contexts while being sustainable.
Thank you Anita !
Begin your quest here:
If you would like to make this switch, you can begin your quest here:
- Here’s an introduction to the world of reusables
- Here’s where you can find out more about the dangers presented by disposable sanitary products
- Here’s a piece chronicling a Man’s perspective on Reusables and Disposable products
- And here’s the first part of our Interview series giving you companies that create reusable menstrual products in India: this is an interview of Lakshmi Murthy of Uger Pads, Udaipur.
We also have a giveaway on right now on the Krya facebook page, where we are giving away 3 starter kits of reusable pads –one each by the 3 companies we are featuring in our interview series. If you would like to win our giveaway, please head over to the Krya facebook page and enter our giveaway.