Going from red to green: how to have an eco-friendly period

Your moment
With increasing concerns surrounding the disposable nature of our sanitary products, we explored some of the more sustainable options that make your time-of-the-month a bit greener.
For those of us who are graced by our periods once a month, it can be a messy, painful and generally unhappy time. Add into the mix the widespread environmental costs of disposable products like tampons and sanitary pads and we have a whole new issue.

In 2015, volunteers from the Ocean Conservancy collected over 27,000 tampons and applicators from beaches all around the world in just one day. This huge number makes sense, considering the average woman uses up to 11,000 disposable sanitary products in a lifetime.

The obvious question is: how can we make our periods more green? An important question, when the word "period" is still considered a social taboo in many parts of the world.

The menstrual cup
Growing in popularity over the past few years is the menstrual cup. A cost-effective option, the menstrual cup is now stocked in 50 countries and used by a wide range of women.

Admittedly, spending the initial €30 on a cup can be daunting. But if you keep in mind that the average woman spends €1,300 on tampons in her lifetime and that a menstrual cup should last you ten years, it suddenly makes a lot more sense.

Using a menstrual cup will not only save you money, it will also drastically cut the amount of waste clogging our sewers and beaches — turning your period a whole lot greener.

Reusable cloth pads 
For those who can't be tempted by a menstrual cup and prefer sanitary pads, a wasteless period is still possible. Rather than purchasing disposable sanitary pads every month, it's possible to stick to reusable ones since there are a variety of brands on the market. 

Reusable sanitary pads function in the exact same way as disposable ones. The only difference: they need a quick wash before using again.

Whilst they definitely require more effort than disposable pads and tampons these reusable sanitary products will save you money in the long run and reduce your waste significantly.

For people who are willing to take the extra step a greener period is possible. Reducing your carbon footprint and helping you save money, these products are a 24-hour chocolate delivery service away from being perfect. 

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    Uttar Pradesh in India is not a great place to be a woman. Quite the opposite in fact. The northern Indian state has high levels of violence against women, who are often failed by the police and the legal system leaving them waiting a long time for a fair trial and justice.

    Tired of the poor justice system, Sampat Pal Devi founded the Gulabi Gang, an organisation that aims to challenge the deeply patriarchal structure of her society.

    As a group that now boasts 400,000 women who wear pink saris and carry large sticks to beat offenders, they have not gone unnoticed and are making a mark in Northern India. 

    "Yes, we fight rapists with lathis [sticks]. If we find the culprit, we thrash him black and blue so he dare not attempt to do wrong to any girl or a woman again."

    However, Gulabi Gang isn’t just about beating local abusers. The group’s main focus is on empowering women, promoting equality and challenging stereotypes. This is carried out through several practices including training women in self-defence, persuading families to educate girls and putting an end to child marriage.

    The Gulabi Gang also hope to empower women by providing them with resources that'll help them gain economic freedom. They organise events with companies where women can be hired. They currently collaborate with a local business, which employs over 500 women and allows them to earn up to 150 rupees a day.

    Considering only 27 percent of Indian women are in the labour force Gulabi Gang's work is quite impressive.

    Pal definitely knows what she wants for the women in India and is not afraid to be considered a controversial figure in order to get it, saying:

    “Society will only change if we eliminate the inherently subordinate role given to women. This is a revolution that has to come from us. Therefore, besides having established self-help and legal counselling groups to address individual cases, we focus on programmes to achieve their emancipation... If we women don't save ourselves, nobody will”

    The Gulabi Gang are really taking women’s rights and empowerment into their own hands and are considered a force to be reckoned with across the globe. Although Sampat Pal Devi’s direct approach might be seen as controversial in some circles, there is no denying she is making an impact. 

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  • This Palestinian engineer is literally rebuilding Gaza from its ashes

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    After graduating from Gaza’s Islamic University with an engineering degree, Majd Mashharawi looked around in her city to see high unemployment rates, war-torn infrastructure and blockades limiting the supply of resources and materials.

    In 2016, Mashharawi and her friend Rawan Abddllaht decided to do something about the state their city was in and invented a new form of brick made from rubble and ash in order to, quite literally, rebuild the city from its ashes.

    Costing just half the price of traditional bricks, Mashharawi’s replaces sand and aggregate with her new formula called "GreenCake" to produce a lightweight brick from materials that would have otherwise been wasted. 

    Not only materials needed to produce GreenCake are easy to find and cheap: GreenCake also has a positive environmental impact. The innovative brick uses ash from local restaurants and factories that would have otherwise been dumped into a landfill, posing environmental threats. 

    Mashharawi and Rawan’s efforts did not go unnoticed and the pair won first place in a local startup incubator, supplying them with funds to create their first 1,000 bricks in 2016. 

    Mashharawi didn't stop with building Gaza from its ashes but also decided to work on saving it from darkness. She and her team are expanding into renewable energy technologies for people in Gaza. The city only receives three to six hours of electricity a day, which affects it's residents severely in many ways, from the quality of life to education, from socialising to economic growth.

    But According to Mashhrawi, "[T]he region has a resource that can be harnessed: an average of 320 days of sunshine a year, making solar energy an ideal source of electricity production."

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    Mashharawi made it to Fast Company's Most Creative People in Business 2018 list, and rightfully so. She is finding sustainable and realistic solutions to her local communities problems that can be extended to many other places in the world, and she's doing all of this while sticking it to the patriarchy.

    Listen to Majd talk more about her projects here and follow GreenCake on Facebook to stay up to date with their work. 

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    Yes, thanks to the efforts of some brilliant minds in biotechnology and meat production, cultured meat is finally on its way towards becoming a commercial reality.

    Mosa Meat, a Dutch startup, recently announced that it had raised 7.5 million euros to commercialise cultured meat — meat produced from animal cells rather than slaughter — and bring it to the market by 2021. In this initiative, the startup collaborated with Bell Food Group, a Swiss meat producer, and M Ventures, a venture capital firm.

    “Replacing traditional meat production with cultured meat would have a huge impact on the reduction of greenhouse gas emissions, it would free up a large number of resources that are now used for meat production worldwide and will completely disrupt an old-established and currently unsustainable industry,” said Alexander Hoffmann, principal at M Ventures. “We’re incredibly excited to be leading this investment into Mosa Meat, a company at the unique cross-section of food and biotech.”

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    This marks yet another giant stride in finding sustainable alternatives in terms of food consumption. Here’s hoping that more such brainwaves follow soon.  

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