At the end of February, Peer Health, the Berkshire Doula Project, and the Feminist Collective collaborated to put on Menstruation Celebration! This event included a talk by Su-Young Kim ‘14 and a raffle of over 75 free menstrual cups. Su-Young is the founder of Halo Cups, a company for social good. Her company sells menstrual cups and matches each purchase with a cup donation to a menstruating person in need.
What are menstrual cups? They are made of 100% medical-grade silicone and are inserted like a tampon. They can hold up to four times the menstrual fluid of a single tampon and can be worn for 12 hours at a time (tampons can only be worn 4-8 hours). And, even better: they are more sustainable than pads or tampons.
The average menstruating person uses 20 pads/tampons over the course of one period. Multiplied across 12 months and approximately 40 years of menstruation, that comes out to 9,600 feminine hygiene products used in a lifetime.
So, what are in these products? First, there is cotton, which is sprayed with 50 lbs of fertilizer and pesticides, and uses up to 50,000 gallons of water. After the cotton has been processed, it is “whitened with bleach, mixed with rayon, dipped in perfumes, and packed into BPA-containing applicators” (Halo Cups website). Additionally, most pads also contain polyethylene plastic, which is a known pollutant. Used pads and tampons pile up in landfills and have very slow decomposition rates. The chemicals within them can leach out into the environment, affecting groundwater, streams, and lakes (and, of course, our own bodies).
By contrast, a single menstrual cup is made of medical-grade silicone and can last upwards of four years. With a little cleaning and care, the cup can stay in excellent and usable condition. Additionally, there are none of the health risks associated with the chemicals in pads and tampons (BONUS! The risk of Toxic Shock Syndrome is essentially zero!).
Menstrual Cups are also much more financially sustainable. As Su-Young explains on her website, disposable period products cost over $2,000 in a lifetime. Forty US states even tax them at a ‘Luxury item’ rate. By contrast, one menstrual cup costs between $20-30. A one-time cup purchase every 4 years would come out to $400 over the course of a lifetime.
Through generous funding from the Zilkha Center, College Council, CES, The Davis Center, Peer Health, Feminist Collective, and the Berkshire Doula Project, the students were able to purchase over 75 Halo Cups. Over 40 people attended Menstruation Celebration, and the event was fun and informative. In addition to Su-Young, a panel of students spoke on the different aspects of the menstrual cup (including convenience, cost-effectiveness, sustainability, and fears/uncertainty) After the event, the remaining cups were distributed to interested students who were unable to attend. Due to high interest, all of the cups were given away and Peer Health is working to bring another batch to campus. Please contact jsw3 if you are interested in getting a cup!
Written by Johanna Wassermann ’18.