Published on November 15th, 2013 | by Sara Stroman
Hello Flow– Green your Period
Have you ever considered the environmental impact of the tampons and pads we use each month? Are you looking for ways to green your period?
Recently, I’ve been considering my options for dealing with my monthly period. When I am debating the purchase of items, I always consider two things: 1. the footprint of the item and 2. the environmental impact of my use of that product. Neither answer is easy and in most cases, both answers can seem evil, but I then pick the lesser of the two evils. Not to long ago we featured a review about the Diva Cup, a reusable, bell-shaped menstrual cup that is worn internally in place of tampons or pads. It can be used for years and virtually eliminates waste from feminine hygiene products. I’ve been debating using the Diva Cup, but haven’t yet made the switch. I find myself to be a tampons and pads user, but always the hunt for environmentally friendly products. I recently switched from plastic applicators tampons wrapped in plastic wrap to those in cardboard applicators and wrapped in paper. The amount of time it takes for the paper and cardboard to decompose is much less than the plastic, and I feel slightly better about my decision. Products like these can be found at natural foods stores like Whole Foods.
These environmentally-friendly tampons and pads are more expensive than the big-name brands for sale at local pharmacies, but knowing that the products use less plastic, dyes, adhesives, and are made with organic cotton make me feel better about how I’m spending money, but also allow me to reduce the impact of my period. One of the brands that I really like is Natracare; you can read more about Natracare and their sustainability practices on their website. However, I am not so naive to think that these products don’t have ANY environmental impact. They might be better than drugstore brands, but even if the pads and tampons are made in the USA, the cotton has to be driven to a facility where it is treated and turned into a pad and the pads do still have some sort of glue on them to stick to garments. All of this requires energy and then you add that these products are shipped, probably by truck, all over the country. Huge footprint, but again, it goes back to determining what is the lesser of the two evils.
After an unexpected early arrival of my monthly flow, I kept thinking about the new delivery service HelloFlo. HelloFlo is was jolted into popularity and set the social media world on fire with an ad campaign featuring the video The Camp Gyno.
I found the video entertaining and I thought the concept cute, but my initial thought was “how wasteful.” HelloFlo’s tagline is, “Simplify your period–” smart and catchy, but there is nothing simple about a woman’s period. And I do believe that the woman who created HelloFlo is genius. She’s managed to capture a need for the moment where people no longer have time. She has found that the the simple act of going to the drugstore to buy a pack of tampons and pads is too difficult to fit in, and she’s capitalizing on our rushed lives and taking advantage of the idea that everyone gets things delivered to their doorstep now. You no longer need to go to the store for anything, Amazon can and will ship everything to your door. If you live in Manhattan, your groceries can be purchased online and delivered to your door within hours. This idea of shipping feminine hygiene products fits right in.
While this may be a good profit-based business model, my interest in all of this is the sustainability of their business model. I want to know the following:
- Where are the items are being shipped from
- How they are packaged
- What kind of sweets are they including and who makes them?
- Why would you offer organic cotton pads in the Period Starter Kit and not as an option for other customers?
- What is the sustainability of the companies they are working with: Always and Tampax?
- In what ways is HelloFlo offsetting the cost of shipping these boxes across the country?
- Are they educating women on the amount of waste feminine hygiene products create monthly?
What bothers me about services like HelloFlo is that these very pressing environmental issues are not considered or acknowledged in their business model. Businesses need to start considering how the environment fits into their equations and make that information available to customers, who are becoming increasingly savvy about the green economy.
My other issue with HelloFlo is the idea that you have to “hide” your period. On their FAQ page one of the questions is, “Is the box discreet?” Really?! Are we back in the 8th grade? Are we afraid of letting our boyfriends know that we bleed every month? Have we regressed in our adult age to the time where women have to be embarrassed to be women? The idea that I have to hide my period, or would want to hide it, is sheer ridiculous. When I go to the store and buy pads and tampons I am not embarrassed.
Of course, each of our cycles are different and each woman needs to make personal care choices based on her needs. But hopefully convenience is not the only deciding factor when contemplating personal care purchases. Also, parents with daughters about to experience their period should not treat this event as a gift giving moment, even though HelloFlo suggests you do. This is a time to discuss the changes in a young girls body, as well as what her options are regarding her development and growth. But it is also a chance to discuss purchasing behavior and begin to develop a good sense of green consumerism. If and when I ever have a daughter and it’s time for her first period, we will have an honest conversation and I will introduce to her all her options: Diva cup, 100% organic, plastic free cotton pads and tampons, Always brand pads, etc. She will understand that these items all have a cycle just like her body. I wish that is the story HelloFlo decided to tell.
Pads and tampons image from Shutterstock