Content warning: If you aren’t interested in periods and/or are squeamish about descriptions of periods, then this probably isn’t the post for you!
Going green is a slow process but seems to be inextricably linked to motherhood. Maybe before as a childless person I was more carefree with the idea of disposing of my daily trash all over the planet. Maybe I was selfish. Maybe I just didn’t think. But anyway, as I’ve grown into motherhood I’ve become more environmentally aware. (I’m sure there are people who come to this realisation without having kids – I’m just a bit slow.)
It started small and it starts with stuff that is encouraged in our country by law or by policy. For example, a charge for plastic bags came in a while ago and suddenly we became more thoughtful about reusing bags. I bought various tote bags and I’ve managed to do this with some success, although I still forget to carry shopping bags with me half the time. At least I make an effort to reuse any plastic bags we’ve bought, as bin bags etc. And it’s a nice excuse to get cute cloth bags.
One of the huge wastes I’ve become more aware of is the waste to do with periods. And I have awful periods, due to my history of endometriosis and fibroids. I looked up the definition of “heavy period”.
Apparently a heavy period is one where you bleed more than 80ml per cycle, or soaking through a pad/tampon in two hours or less.
Obviously you can only measure the amount you lose if you’re using a menstrual cup. A few cycles ago, I decided to try a cup again (I’d used one years ago pre kid) and I went for the mooncup as it’s the easiest available one in shops here.
Aside: If you’ve never tried a menstrual cup, I’d really suggest you give it a go. You have to be okay with knowing your body but I don’t think that’s a bad thing! Used correctly they are far less invasive than tampons (no fibres being shed inside of you, so they don’t irritate you or make you feel “dry”) and you shouldn’t need to change them as often if you have “normal” periods. You do have to be okay with seeing your own bodily fluids but I’m the kind of person who isn’t squeamish – I find it keeps me in touch with my body a lot more.
A mooncup capacity is 30ml and I was having to empty it about every hour, and that was just on my heavy day! I estimated that during my last period I lost more like 300ml or more (probably 400+, I mean I was half delirious getting up so many times a night). A “heavy period” would be a light one for me! I’m amazed others seem to lose so little!
Not only that but I’d have to wear a pad as well to catch any overflow spills, plus at night time I would lie on a towel and I’d wear a few pairs of shorts in case… It was awful.
I’ve been spending plenty of time hanging out on some fairly crunchy mom groups and one of the things I kept hearing about was “CSPs” or cloth sanitary pads.
(Hear me out here. I thought it was gross too!)
But the more I thought about it, the more I thought it might be something to try.
The reason is, I really lose a lot of blood. So I end up using so many sanitary products, and that is all waste that goes into landfill and isn’t recycled. The cup did reduce the number of tampons and I prefer a cup to tampons, but I still had a big fear of leaks. I would still leak a lot with the mooncup simply because my periods are so heavy. I did some research and I decided to try a different cup. But I also felt like I needed some other protection and I wanted to try something more sustainable so was looking at period pants, CSPs etc.
There is a great site called Put A Cup In It which talks you through all the different options. You can even do a quiz to find out your ideal cup! For me I’d already come round to the idea of a cup so it wasn’t a huge mental leap, but the mooncup could be quite fiddly with having to change it so often, so I realised I’d probably have to try and find a larger capacity cup. The one recommended for me based on the quiz was the Super Jennie.
However I’m in the UK and they’re not so into cups here, although they are into CSPs. I couldn’t find the Super Jennie for sale here. But Put A Cup In It has an affiliate link to another site called Feminine Wear (awful name!) where you can get 10% off with the code PUTACUPINIT. So I thought what the heck, I’ll give it a shot.
They didn’t have the Super Jennie but they did have the Merula XL, which has a large capacity for heavy bleeding. Also, it comes in a range of different colours so for those of you who are excited by things like that (ha!) it’s an idea. I always didn’t love the fact that the mooncup comes in a kind of yucky transparentish colour. So I went for the Merula XL. At the time they only had it in black but they have a lot of cute designs…
And then I saw these…
Honestly, who knew cloth pads could be so pretty?! For those of you in the US, you can get these from Mimi’s Dreams Etsy store. She has lots of different designs. I was glad someone had decided to import them to Europe!
With that and the 10% off voucher I was a sitting duck for pretty period shopping. And – bonus – it’s a much greener idea than having a tonne of disposable tampons, pads and pantyliners.
I was actually looking forward to getting my period!
My last period was kind of uncomfortable. Mainly because we went to visit my friend so we were staying at her house. Even without all the stuff you have to throw away for periods, it is still kind of awkward emptying a menstrual cup.
TMI warning: Sometimes when you empty a menstrual cup and you have a lot of blood, it kind of sits at the bottom of the toilet and it doesn’t shift even when you flush it. My tip is to empty it onto some toilet roll you’ve put down in the loo beforehand. Or empty it into the sink (but some people are icky about this).
Anyway, it does mean you end up doing a bit more toilet cleaning than usual. Also, we had a photo shoot planned and of course I had my period so I felt all bloated and spotty. (It was a family and motherhood photo shoot so I guess it was at least true to life, although I’d have preferred to be less bloated and spotty!)
So now I am on day two of my period, which started last night. I wore the new Merula cup overnight and – woohoo! – no leaks! Not even a drip! It was amazing. Although usually it doesn’t get super heavy until day two.
This morning after emptying the cup and replacing it, I had a leak but I think it was because I hadn’t placed the cup correctly, because when I extracted it, it was only about half full. So the next time I replaced it I took extra care in placing and turning it to make sure it was fully open. I also decided to brave the peacocks! (I still have a load of disposable pads I was using up.)
So my first experience with CSPs is… well, I don’t like the idea of bleeding onto the pretty peacocks! But actually they’re pretty comfortable. They do feel a bit “bunchier” but that probably just takes a bit of getting used to as you’re used to super thin disposable waterproof stuff and now you essentially just have a bit of cloth in your knickers (albeit pretty cloth!). Actually had to write to the maker to find out what side to bleed onto! (She was very nice and said it’s a very common question and yes, it’s the pretty peacocks!)
In terms of using them, they are shaped like winged pads and you just place them in your pants and they have little poppers to do up, rather than adhesive which you get on disposable ones. The pretty material is face up and it’s backed with fleece and has some padding inside.
When you are done, you are just supposed to rinse or soak them in cold water to get the initial blood off and then you wash them in a cool wash. (Also if you’re out and about you can kind of fold them up into a little package with the poppers which appeals to my sense of satisfaction and portability!)
I really feel like they are a great investment so far as I like that I’m not dumping a tonne of disposable paper and plastic for my period, but we shall see how the washing goes.
So… It’s Day 2 and usually by now I’d have leaked through onto a pad with the mooncup but I haven’t leaked at all with the Merula. Long may it continue! Maybe I’ll have no need for added protection with the new cup? That would be the dream!
So I’ve been thinking about this for a while: I bloody love Christmas – but the whole thing has gone slightly mad.
Something changed in me when I had B. Suddenly I stopped not caring about stuff. (Some would say my stone cold heart may have thawed a tiny bit.) There’s something about having a child that makes you care a bit about the world they’re growing up in and the one you’re going to leave behind.
I’m very very far from eco. I have always been a consumer. But the tide is turning (figuratively and literally, a giant wave of rubbish is moving across our oceans, smothering the sea life) and most recently here in the U.K. we’ve had a high profile advert imploring us not to use palm oil because it’s killing orangutans and the rainforest, and we’ve had Martin Lewis of moneysupermarket telling everyone not to go into debt for Christmas, and to give people the gift of not being obliged to reciprocate gifts.
Now, I love gift giving. And I honestly don’t expect stuff in return. (I’m a dreadfully ungrateful present recipient – I am really bad at pretending to like things I don’t like.) But it’s got me to thinking whether I should really be buying loads of stuff that I’ve done in previous years.
I’ve tended to go all out at Christmas and it probably isn’t necessary. If it’s not reusable then it’s just going to be wasteful. I love the high end luxury stuff but a lot of it is glittery disposable stuff that isn’t worth the premium packaging that gets instantly discarded. (I’m looking at you, Jo Malone / Molton Brown!) Plus I just don’t have so much spare cash now I seem to enjoy spending it on B!
I’m not quite at the wooden toy evangelist level. I don’t ban plastic from our home or anything like that. (One of B’s favourite toys is the €4 cleaning set with a dustpan and brush that his godmother bought him when we went to visit her. Yes it’s plastic tat but he uses it a lot.)
I’ve gently tried to steer anyone who asks towards some of the sustainable / wooden toy providers (Yes Bébé is my current favourite) but I also appreciate that people like to choose gifts or may not afford certain things and I’m not going to deny them the pleasure of choosing something for themselves if that’s what they want to do. I mean, B likes everything (especially the boxes it comes in) so it’s a win win.
Anyway, tonight I ordered a load of my Christmas stuff so I thought I would share because things like that make me excited and get me in the Christmas mood! Here’s my list so far… I am getting a lot of repeats so most people will have a combination of a few of them! Plus there are still some Black Friday deals on some of them!
We had a potted tree last year in the hopes we could keep it alive and reuse it. That didn’t work! We ended up with two trees and we kept one alive until August but then he died… So this year we are getting a 7-8 ft tree from Patch London. Using code RUPERT0010 may get you a discount this weekend! We saw them (pic above) at Taste London and they look like great quality. So cutting down a tree doesn’t exactly fit with being eco, but Patch replace all the chopped trees and it seems better to use a nice tree for a few weeks and dispose of it in a biodegradable way than to buy a plastic one.
Again I’m not going to sound any credentials for these because the true way to be sustainable is not to send cards. But I have family and friends who I still share cards with and so I’ve decided to send just to a few people and the others can go without as we’ll just message each other on Facebook or something. I’ve ordered ours from Vistaprint – they have a Black Friday deal code VP2711 for up to 60% off and that runs till 27 November.
I’ve ordered calendars featuring the latest photos of B that we took in the bluebells. They’re the third session with our photographer who took his newborn shots and they are amazing. Obviously I’m utterly biased but he looks really cute and it’s a nice gift to give grandparents, aunts and uncles. Not massively eco friendly but they’re in use all year round and with the Black Friday code from Vistaprint they cane to just over £6 each, which is amazing! I’ve enjoyed seeing his photos from last year on our calendar and it’s up in my parents’ kitchen as well so they must like it!
Reusable drinks containers
So my big present this year is coffee cups from Stojo. The difference between these and others is that they’re collapsible so they don’t take up loads of space in your bag. I’m very excited about these. All the chains have now started charging for paper cups, and giving you about 25% off your drink if you use a reusable one, so I think these will come in handy. I found them in Robert Dyas for £5 under retail. And they come in a nice holiday red! I’ve literally bought 15 or something which is crazy but I think it’ll be a cool little gift for friends and family.
If you’re like me and drink a lot of water, you’re already carrying water bottles around with you. I love the brand Cotopaxi – it’s an ethical brand that employs local people in South America and Asia to make its products. I already have three rucksacks and a bag from there and I have this awesome water bottle – it’s a bit expensive to buy all my friends as gifts, but if I was feeling more flush, I would. You may have guessed by now I like red.
Organic cotton travel towels
Okay bear with me because this sounds boring AF but I am soooo pleased with these! I saw these at Taste London and the moment I felt the blanket I was sold (soooo soft!). They’re made from Turkish cotton (some kind of organic certification and whatnot) and the selling point is they are way absorbent but pack down really small, and they look cool and they also can be worn as scarves, used as blankets etc. I bought two travel towels for my best friend and her sister who always travel on holiday at Christmas, and I got the larger (sooooft) blanket for us. And now they have a Black Friday deal on where their new range of travel towels are like 40% off which is insane, so I just bought a load more to give to friends, because who doesn’t want a travel towel / scarf thing? Exactly! You can also get free shipping thru Cyber Monday with code BLACKFRIDAYSECRET!
If you could only touch this blanket you’d be able to feel how soooooft it is! Swoon!
Fair trade ethically sourced artisan scarves
Yeah that was a mouthful but these things are pretty gorgeous. Fair Fibres is a start up company selling gorgeous scarves and pashminas made by disabled weavers in Nepal and Kashmir. I gave my first one as a birthday gift and the recipient was over the moon. I think now people are becoming more aware of the provenance of things and they want stuff that is less disposable and that hasn’t been made in a sweatshop. After the glowing review the first one received, I ordered a further two for friends’ Christmas gifts. There are lots of different colours and patterns… of course I went for the red one!
Bamboo (and rainbow!) toothbrushes
I found these on Amazon… I haven’t bought them yet as I was debating whether to or not, as I’m not sure if a toothbrush as a gift is something my friends and family aren’t quite ready for! But I love rainbows and it would be a bit eco, so we shall see. Either way I’ll probably end up getting them at some point!
Finally I had a whole internal debate over packaging. I’ve always loved making amazing exciting looking presents. When I was younger I’d pride myself on my gift wrapping. BUT, that’s very un-environmentally friendly! As a compromise I have decided I’ll try and use up the wrapping paper from last year (if I can find it in the spare room) and I’ve also bought a load of red cotton totes off amazon that I’m going to decorate with gold fabric paint. Some of you will remember my projects from last year with the jute bags. I thought totes might be more usable in an everyday context because you can fold them up. And they’re cheaper to buy in bulk. So not eco in themselves probably (I doubt they’re organic cotton for that price!) but it’s kind of encouraging re-use so I hope that’s doing a bit.
So that’s my Christmas shopping so far! I don’t know if that’s really boring looking or what, but I feel like I’ve tried to be a bit more thoughtful in what I’ve bought. In the end it comes to quite a lot, but probably less than if I’d gone and spent £50-£100 on people to get them a “decent” gift.
My other plan is to put a handwritten (yeah maybe I’ll print it!) note in explaining the thinking behind the gift and also saying what I am really thankful for from that person. Because I want to give people the gift of time, and effort. If I have time I might even make some items of food, but I don’t know if I’ll manage that!
What do you think? Does this all sound whacko or is it old hat and you’ve already gone off grid and live a minimal carbon footprint life in a forest somewhere?!
Of course we’re not doing sustainable or possibly even ethical for little B… He’s getting a ride on train set in the middle of the living room on Christmas morning because that’s how we roll! 🤣🤣
We actually bought it at the Baby Show last year but he finally seems big enough for it now and he absolutely loved it when he tried it at this year’s show!