FULL DISCLOSURE: This is a story about periods. Yes, the normal, monthly and completely healthy occurrence women all around the world experience. If you can’t bear read any further, you’re a part of the problem!
Whether you call it “that time of the month”, “Auntie Flo” or “shark week”, a period is a normal experience that gets a lot of flack for being ‘taboo’ or too graphic or uncomfortable to talk about. Fun fact, the word “taboo” is actually said to have been derived from the Polynesian word “tapua”, which translates both to menstruation and sacred. And the taboo of talking about menstruations is almost universal these days. But it’s just a period, guys!
While periods might only be a minor inconvenience to those of us living in developed nations, there are many women in third world countries who experience much more difficultly during their natural cycle. A lack of education and an unwillingness to talk about the issue means that, in some cultures, women are shunned out of the kitchen for being “unclean” and worse, may be unable to attend school during their period due to the lack of sanitary products. In the end many young women drop out of school, as they are missing adequate learning for 1-2 weeks every month and are unable to catch up with their fellow male classmates.
That’s where newly established Brisbane-based social enterprise Ecopads Australia has stepped in to make a change. The amazing lady (and a good friend of mine) behind the brand, Freeda Thong, was nominated for the Queensland Young Achievers Award in the Environment and Sustainability Categrory in 2006 – and for good reason. For every sale of her handmade cloth pads, one is donated to a girl or women in need.
The brand also has a vision to provide education, encourage female empowerment and protect the environment. Did you know disposables are the third largest consumer item in landfill and can take up to 800 years to decompose? Gross! A switch to cloth pads is not only better for the environment, but could also save you up to $70 a year. If that’s not enough to change your mind, I trialled them so you know what the real deal is…
My initial worries were:
I don’t usually wear disposable pads, so I wondered whether I was going to find it super uncomfortable or others were going to find it super noticeable, like “hello, I’m wearing a big cloth nappy, guys”. Luckily that wasn’t that case, not in the slightest.
What are they like?
They’re actually very cute and fun (it does sound weird saying that now, but you’ll see) and you can choose the designs you want. I’m told to pick lighter designs for lighter days and darker designs because, well, you know…
I couldn’t go past the one with bicycles printed on it, because you’ll use them on your cycle. Get it??
I am lucky to be blessed with light periods, so I didn’t have to worry about ‘heavier’ flows, but with the Ecopads starter pack I received I did have a varying range of cloth pads in different sizes, designs and absorbencies.
Did they pass the white jeans test?
If you’ve seen my other Style Trials before, you’ll know I don’t do anything by halves, so there was to be no aid or cheating on this task. I wore my Ecopads to work, to a fancy cocktail event, a sweaty activewear class at Dance Barre and I even wore them with white jeans! I can report they passed the white jeans test and I never once felt uncomfortable. I even had to ask my colleagues “can you tell?” and they had no idea!
How do you clean/reuse them?
It’s pretty straight-forward and all the information is provided to you in an information pack. You basically rinse, soak and then launder as normal. You then hang out to dry and put them away for next month! It was super simple and ended up looking good as new.
For someone who doesn’t usually use pads, it was a very different experience. They were easy to use, very comfortable, left no odour and were easy to clean to appear brand-new again.
The only thing that got to me was that, unlike disposables, you can’t simply change them for a fresh one if you’re out and about. So for those people who are away from home for a considerable amount of time during the day, or who have heavier flows, partnering Ecopads with the use of a tampon might be recommended. The site suggests you could also carry a spare with you and use a ‘wet bag’ to carry the soiled one. And while I do like to channel my inner-hippy every once in a while, I was not so keen on that idea.
The plus side was that it can be a way to reduce on unnecessary use of disposables (which remember, take up to 800 years to decompose in landfill), reduce the risk of Toxic Shock Syndrome and helps girls and women in need in developing countries.
You can find more about the brand here, buy your own or just donate to the cause and help provide women in developing countries access to Ecopads!
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