Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Ecofemme's reusable cloth pads

This year spent in India has been more valuable than the 27 years I spent here before moving to the US. I came across several sustainable businesses, but I must say that I was most intrigued by Ecofemme's reusable cloth pads. Not only was it eco-friendly, it also required me to change my auto-pilot way of thinking about menstruation : toss a bag of whispers into your monthly grocery pile, don't talk about it in front of men (barring the boyfriend/husband) and tweak your social obligations around 'that time' of the month. All done as matter-of-factly as brushing your teeth. Or not.

I had to choose between the environment and personal convenience. Adding to that challenge, this year has also been a year of healthy choices, so I decided to try out ecofemme's reusable cloth pads. When I read on their website that it takes 500 years to degrade one plastic pad, I was horrified.  I, as an individual have so far used 3400 pads, with thousands more to go.

Indian women have traditionally been using cloth pads for centuries now, but with the advent of global consumerism and convenience, we bought into the herd mentality and switched over to plastic. But lack of affordability still kept rural women from buying these. Until the Indian government decided to give them away for free. Well meaning intention, but at the cost of millions of disposable pads being added to the already existing plastic heap! Read here for more info on the scheme launched by the government and its effects on the environment.

Question : I don't care about the environment, why should I use eco-friendly pads?
Answer : Well, do you care about your health?

Most major sanitary napkin brands use wood pulp to make the pad, and use chlorine to bleach it from its natural brown colour. The bleaching process generates dioxin, a known carcinogen. Here's the WHO's report on dioxin and its effects. Dioxin is also known to cause endometriosis, auto-immune disorders and more. Plus, dioxin accumulates in the body for 20 years or more after exposure, so the damage is already done.

Given all of this, I thought about switching to reusables for awhile, read what others had to say about it and finally took the plunge. I believe in the slow but sure approach, so I bought two night pads (They have four sizes - panty liner, day pad, day pad plus and the night pad). The next time round I bought a day pad plus. All of them have a nice button at the bottom which substitutes for the wings that come with disposables, so they fit quite snugly.

Washing the pad - this does require you to spend a few more minutes in your morning routine but you can do it when you bathe : Soak the pads in a bucket for about half an hour (they recommend adding a few drops of lavender or tea tree oil if you're going to soak for longer or overnight). The blood comes off completely and you just have to scrub them a bit before you hang them out to dry. It takes about 24 hours to dry (there are seven layers of cloth inside the pad), so one would need at least 5 pads to go through one cycle (unless you want to wash them right after every use).

It stains less than a disposable pad and I even rode a scooter wearing it, on some bumpy roads in Madras - They stayed put.

Best of all, I love the fact that a woman has focused her time and attention on stitching these beauties. Unlike some gross impersonal machine which spews out the disposables by the million.

I will end by saying that I'm happy to have made the switch to cloth pads and happier to be supporting the wonderful women who make them.