It can be expensive to be a woman in today’s society.
Even if we shop at thrift stores and are careful buying makeup or hair products, there’s one big expense which most women can’t avoid—our periods.
As Jezebel estimates, the average woman spends about $120 per year on pads and tampons and an additional $20 each year on over-the-counter medication to combat cramps and other period-related side effects. Women on average menstruate for 40 years (taking into account that some women have children), so each woman spends approximately $5,600 on her period over her lifetime.
Imagine what else you could do with $5,600 if you didn’t have to spend it on period protection.
And the costs are not only financial: conventional period products are costly to the environment as well. Have you ever stopped to think about the number of pads and tampons that you throw away each cycle and the amount of waste that adds up to? The average woman uses about 240 tampons each year, or 9,600 over her lifetime.
If you were to line up that many tampons from end to end, they would be twice as tall as the Empire State Building.
And on some level, the price we pay (both financially and environmentally) is a cost of convenience and hygiene. We all know our periods are expensive, but we can’t imagine life without pads or tampons.
So what would a world look like without that expense?
But before I continue, I should give a disclaimer: if you are woman with a period, I am on a mission to convert you and all your period-having friends.
Ladies (and any daring gentlemen who have continued reading this far), the answer is a menstrual cup.
Menstrual cups go by many names—DivaCup, The Keeper, Moon Cup, etc. There’s even a company developing a collapsible menstrual cup.
I’ve got firsthand experience with menstrual cups: seven years ago, I said goodbye forever to pads and tampons, started using the DivaCup, and never looked back. I can honestly say my decision to give up conventional period products has been one of the best decisions I’ve ever made.
For those of you who are unfamiliar with the idea of a menstrual cup, here are the basics:
It is a small, flexible cup made of medical grade silicone or latex which, like a tampon, is inserted into the vaginal canal during your period. A menstrual cup costs between $20 and $40 and can be purchased online or at your local health foods store and some conventional department stores.
Here are 3 reasons you should consider saying goodbye to tampons forever and hello to a menstrual cup:
Reason #1: It’s better for your body
Most pads and tampons are made of bleached cotton and/or rayon and contain surfactants and adhesives which are irritating substances to be inserting into an extremely sensitive part of your body on a monthly basis. You could switch to organic tampons, but they also cost 10-20% more than regular tampons do.
In addition, tampons also absorb everything around them—including some good, healthy fluids that should stay inside your body. And organic tampons aren’t going to fix that problem.
A menstrual cup will not absorb any fluids that are supposed to stay inside of you and—best of all—they will never get stuck! Because of the way a menstrual cup fits into your vaginal canal, you can keep your cup in much longer than a tampon without the risk of leaks or Toxic Shock Syndrome.
And say goodbye to Midol or Tylenol for cramps: the fit of a menstrual cup means that some women (me included!) even experience an alleviation of menstrual cramping.
Reason #2: You’ll save money—lots of money
The initial $30 investment to purchase my DivaCup seemed like a lot, but it has paid for itself many times over in cost savings and convenience. I estimate I’ve saved close to $1000 over the past seven years because I’ve not had to purchase pads or tampons.
While many people think of tampons and pads as a necessary monthly expense, buying these products can still be a major struggle or hassle. Some women can’t afford these products every month, and that can keep them out of school or work. Menstrual cups are a single-time purchase that pays off big in the long run—so why not make menstrual cups available and accessible to all women?
Reason #3: It’s good for the planet
In the United States, we’re accustomed to the disposable nature of traditional feminine hygiene products. According to the DivaCup website, the average woman uses 20 tampons per period which adds up to 240 tampons per year.
Add to that the number of disposable pads you use per cycle, and you can start to see what kind of an impact you’re having on the planet. Like most things we use and throw away, we don’t think twice about it. But just like disposable baby diapers, our discarded feminine products are filling up landfills and adding to the waste we produce each day.
There’s got to be a better way. And maybe menstrual cups are the answer, to help us rethink hygiene products and disposability, and to tackle major social and ethical problems we’ve not even considered.
Menstrual cups may not be mainstream, but they’re undeniably a force for good—they offer sustainability at a low price, and address one very real source of financial inequality among men and women.
I’d love to live in a world where girls are taught to use DivaCups, rather than tampons, and where women are offered clear, affordable access to the equalizing, hygienic products they need. Let’s build a world where women and girls can swim, run, climb, and dance with no strings attached!
Anna Schumacher has been writing for fun and for the public since age five. She grew up in St. Paul, Minnesota, and graduated from College of Saint Benedict with a degree in Economics. She is currently serving as the Operations & Talent Development Manager at Groundswell. Anna has written for PolicyMic, and she documented her year as a Rotary Ambassadorial Scholar in New Delhi, India in her travel blog. Follow her on Twitter: @arschu.