[VIDEO] Mooncups: the rise of reusable sanitary items, and the Sheffield women who are using them

I’ll be honest, before writing this feature, Mooncups were something I had little interest in. They seemed alien to me: like most women, I’ve been a devotee of Tampax for the whole of my adult life. But after hearing more and more about women reaching for their cup when Mother Nature comes knocking, I started to do a bit of digging.

And I was surprised.

In a recent study, approximately 91% of women who were given a menstrual cup said they would continue to use it, and would also recommend it to others.

But why are women turning to cups? And how are they encouraging others to jump on board, too? I spoke to four Sheffield-based women who have a better insight and personal experience with using Mooncups to help me out.

A menstrual cup

Naomi has only been using her Mooncup for three months, starting on her first post-partum period.

“Before I conceived, I used tampons but I really hated it. Since having my son, a lot has changed in my lifestyle and I’ve been focusing more on a healthier, reusable and recyclable attitude to life,” she said.

“We use cloth nappies and are vegan, so in those communities it’s just something I saw being mentioned a lot, googled it and thought it sounded like my sort of thing.

“I am trying to go cruelty free, and reduce my carbon footprint as much as I can. It’s a few small steps, but will hopefully make an impact. I figure that seeing as I feel so strongly about not using disposable nappies on my son, it only makes sense not to use disposable sanitary care too.”

And what would she say to anyone who fancies trying out a product like a Mooncup?

“Like everything in life- don’t let negative attitudes put you off! A minority choice can make you feel like an outsider, but just have an open mind and you will be surprised. It’s so much easier, more comfortable and saves so much money. It’s not gross at all, I promise.”

Similarly, Lucy, aged 26 and a personal trainer from Sheffield, also prefers to use reusable sanitary items. She made the swap to Mooncups because she “was sick of pads being so itchy in workout clothes (at work). Not only was it way easier than I thought, but I feel clean and like I can exercise too.”

Whilst it’s still impressive that women like Naomi and Lucy are doing their own bit for the environment, others are going ‘one better’ and providing for those less fortunate.

Lucy Skerratt, 22, is a PhD student with SIIBS, researching period stigma in contemporary advertising. She also runs the Sheffield ‘End Period Poverty’ campaign, fundraising to provide products for women who otherwise wouldn’t be able to afford them (inspired by stories that made the national news only a few months ago). They’ve since had donations of sanitary items “flooding in”.

But so far, none of the products that Lucy has bought are reusable.

I found this odd, because she’s clearly very passionate about periods (I mean, you’d have to be to be doing a PhD).

“It’s fine for me to use a mooncup, but that’s because a) I can afford it and b) I have access to clean running water, I’m not living in poverty, I’m not homeless,” said Lucy.

“Doing the PhD research, I’m aware of all the stigma and I’m moving forward from that – but if you’re looking at a young girl who’s 14 or 15, who only knows about Tampax, the idea of giving them a Mooncup and being like ‘this is what you should use daily’… you have to talk about education as well, and saying ‘well, this is an alternative’.

“It would be wrong for me to just purchase Mooncups and then say ‘work out how to use them yourselves’. They need to work out whether they want to do it, because the main thing is, it’s a choice.”

When asked about her own experiences with Mooncups, Lucy is very open.

“It definitely makes a lot of sense environmentally.  I think I’ve been more encouraged to use it since doing my PhD in terms of breaking down stigma and looking at menstrual activism as well, and how important that is.

“A Mooncup takes the approach of being very much connected with one’s body. To see that, and the environmental factor, working together is great.”

This is a totally different stance to Holly Lown, Chair of Sheffield Student Union’s Women’s Committee (WomCom). Like the other women I talked to, she uses a Mooncup mainly because it’s cheaper in the long run, and also because (again) of the environmental factor.

“I always felt bad about how much waste [being on my period] produces,” she said.

“The amount of plastic which takes thousands of years to decompose… I just felt so bad that I was putting that into the earth.”

Like End Period Poverty, WomCom have also fundraised to provide sanitary items for women. However, they included Mooncups with their donations.

She said: “It just felt like a better way to contribute. Tampons and sanitary towels are obviously vital, but it was way more practical to have a reusable item

“We wish we could’ve donated more [the committee provided four], but unfortunately they’re really expensive. That’s the problem – we wanted to encourage other people to donate them as well, because of their practical uses, but they’re like £20 a pop and it’s just not doable for a lot of people.”

Scanning through the interviews above, I feel that one thing is clear: the limelight should be taken away from mainstream, disposable sanitary items, and be given to products like Mooncups. More education is needed to provide girls with the option of reusable items, rather than them jumping on the tampon train as soon as they’re teens.

But whether they’re using a cup because it’s cost-effective, or just because it’s more comfortable, one thing can be agreed on – these women are saving the planet, one (reusable) sanitary item at a time.

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