Towards sustainable menstruation, one cup at a time: Cup for Change Feature
Updated: Aug 22, 2021
Since their commercialization in the late 19th and early 20th century, pads followed closely by tampons, have become the primary period products used by menstruators. Although these products were the most widely accessible and affordable when they first came into the market, the amount of waste produced by them is enormous. The end of the 20th century witnessed the invention of a new, zero-waste period product - the menstrual cup. Menstrual cups are small funnel shaped cups generally made of either silicone or rubber that can be inserted into the vagina to collect menstrual blood.
Image: Advertisement for early menstrual support products in an American newspaper sometime in early 20th Century.
With climate change posing one of the most urgent challenges of the 21st century, several industries have begun a shift towards more sustainable methods of functioning. Conversations about the need for sustainable menstruation methods have also seen a large increase in the past decade or so. A single menstruator typically uses between five and fifteen thousand pads and tampons in their lifetime - most of these end up as plastic waste in landfills and take five to eight hundred years to decompose. Compared to pads and tampons, reusable menstrual cups produce no waste. A single reusable menstrual cup can be used for two years before needing to buy a new one while a typical menstruator requires around 500 tampons in two years.
In addition to being more sustainable, menstrual cups also have the potential to alleviate period poverty. Period poverty is the term used to describe the struggles faced by low-income menstruators in accessing period products. In rural India, one in every five menstruators living in poverty drops out of school when their period starts. This amounts to 10 million students dropping out each year. On average, a menstrual cup costs 5000-5500 Indian Rupees less per year as compared to tampons making them a much more affordable choice for menstruators belonging to the lower economic class.
Menstrual cups are also extremely convenient. A cup can typically stay in for 12 hours at a time before needing to be rinsed and emptied, allowing the menstruator to keep their cup in for the entire work day without needing to worry about leaks. A common concern people have before using a menstrual cup is whether or not it will be painful. Although inserting a cup can be uncomfortable the first time, most menstruators report having no pain and not even being able to feel the cup once they get used to it.
Image: Vulvani, CC BY-SA 4.0 via Wikimedia Commons
Despite all the benefits that using menstrual cups offers, information and education about them remains limited. One such organization addressing this issue is Cup For Change, a youth organization which aims to educate people about sustainable menstruation and reducing period poverty.
Cup for Change was founded by two high school students - Aeka Guru and Manasa Kalamalai in 2020. In the past year, the organization has educated over 2000 individuals about sustainable menstruation through webinars and Instagram posts. They have helped over hundred menstruators make the shift to menstrual cups and have a global reach with supporters from over ten countries. They are also one of the first youth organizations to be developing an app for sustainable menstruation. The app, being developed by Manasa will assist new menstrual cup users on how to use the cup, have a personalized menstrual cup tracker, resources to manage periods using cognitive behavioral therapy software, map software that allows users to find period products, and an educational interface where users can learn about sustainable menstruation through quizzes.
Note for Readers:
Cup for Change is holding a fundraiser till 30th August to raise money for reusable pads for menstruators who have been severely impacted by the Covid-19 pandemic. Learn more and help their cause by visiting their Milaap fundraiser by clicking here:
Sasha Singh is an associate of the youth organization Cup4Change.
This article has been authored by an associate of the Organization featured within. The Bharatiya Magazine does not assume any responsibility or liability for the opinions, facts and other content appearing in the article.