Change needs to happen. Period.

by Joanne van Nierop


Climate change. The big looming disaster that we can all see on the horizon. It may be a slightly controversial topic. It may be over-discussed. However, as a young person, I fear for the future of this planet, I fear for my future, and I fear for the generations of the future. It is time for change. It is time we make individual choices that will save our planet.


Climate change is defined as the changes in long-term atmospheric conditions that cause an imbalance in the climate system. You may be thinking, “What can I possibly do to help?” I am here to suggest that your decisions as an individual make a big difference. If every person makes small changes in their lifestyle, we can collectively make a huge difference. 


Now, let’s talk periods. Women make up 49.75% of the world’s population, with a whopping 4 billion women recorded at the end of 2022 (Statistics Times, 2023). Considering there are so many women, it is hard to believe that menstruation is still such a taboo topic in this day and age. As someone with a uterus, I have always struggled to accept the fact that all my period products end up in a landfill. Periods are something completely natural and something we have no control over; however, I believe that we do have a say in how we deal with that time of the month.


Landfills contain many single-use plastics. It is often thought that plastic pollution and climate change are not linked; however, there is evidence to suggest that they most definitely are fundamentally linked to one another. Most disposable period products are not biodegradable. They end up in landfills and break down into microplastics. Microplastics may not be a huge threat right now, but there is a distinct possibility that the higher average temperatures of the earth induced by global warming will cause these microplastics to become a bigger and more serious threat to life on Earth. This includes marine life, plant life, and animal life. We need to be mindful of the fact that disposable menstrual products may contribute to this threat of microplastics in the future. 


Not only do disposable menstrual products have an added effect on climate change, but they may also contain harmful chemicals that women are putting in or near their bodies every month. Many of us have been warned about TSS (toxic shock syndrome), which occurs when the bacteria Staphylococcus aureus grows and releases toxins that cause adverse effects that can be very serious. Therefore, I believe it is time we start looking at other options for dealing with the menstrual cycle.


When it comes to period products, there are many reusable options already available on the market. Menstrual cups made from medical grade silicone or latex and menstrual discs are a great option for those who are comfortable with inserting their period products. Reusable pads or period panties are an excellent alternative option as they are intended for exterior use. These products are all reusable, and there are options out there for everyone. However, many of these options can be quite expensive. In my opinion, reusable menstrual products need to be made more affordable as a part of A Just Transition (a fair and equal shift from an economy that uses coal and high-carbon resources to an environmentally friendly and sustainable economy). Everyone who menstruates should have access to period products despite what their socio-economic status may be.


Switching from disposable period products to reusable ones is a small switch, and it may seem redundant, but at the end of the day, every little bit counts in our battle against climate change. Try to find what works best for you and encourage others to do the same. The only way humanity will prevent the end of life as we know it is if we all work together and do the best that we can as individuals and as a community. 



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