The University of Glasgow’s Queen Margaret Union (QMU) was one of the first student unions in Scotland to provide free environmentally friendly menstrual products to all students. Products include menstrual cups, biodegradable pads and tampons, reusable pads, and even latex free condoms. They’re also providing pamphlets with instructions on how to use these products safely and correctly.
Sustainable hygiene methods for those that menstruate have become slightly more easily accessible, with Primark starting to stock reusable cotton pads that can be washed for a relatively cheap price. Reusable pads come in many forms such as panty liners, daytime, and night-time and when used and cared for properly can last between 2-6 months.
Sustainability relating to the menstrual cycle was often overlooked due to it being more expensive, especially with the rise in period poverty. In the UK, 1 in 10 girls can’t afford to buy menstrual products, while 1 in 7 have struggled to afford them, according to a representative survey of 1,000 girls and young women aged 14-21 conducted by Plan International UK. Further research also found that young girls are missing school due to their period – they found that 49% of girls have missed an entire school day because of their period and 59% of these girls have made up a lie or an alternative excuse to avoid going to school due to the taboo surrounding periods.
Many schools and public places have started offering free sanitary products but not all of them are environmentally friendly or suitable to different cycle intensities and needs. Some public places offer only tampons or pads that are only suitable for light flows meaning those that can’t use tampons or bleed heavily may still struggle if they’re caught off guard.
Erin Kavannagh, a 17-year-old student said:” One day in high school my cramps were that painful my friends had to help convince me to leave school early because I didn’t think it was a good enough excuse to miss classes even though I was in excruciating pain.
“My school did provide us with free products which was amazingly helpful, but I would love to see more environmentally friendly products become more easily accessible as that is something I would be happy to use if it was available.”
These experiences were also echoed by 16-year-old Allannagh Smith. She said: “I had to go home because my cramps were extremely painful, and the male teachers wouldn’t let me leave as it wasn’t seen as a ‘proper excuse to miss lessons’. I had to sit in intense pain for another hour before I eventually walked out.
“I also asked members of staff if I could have a pad that day and I wasn’t given any. It was horrible.”
Often overlooked symptoms of a period are the pain caused by cramps, nausea, diarrhoea, and a loss of /increase in appetite. These are often symptoms that lead to absence as well as the inability to access the appropriate hygiene products.
Scotland is leading the way by not only offering free products, but also environmentally friendly ones. The more you experience a period, the more you’re able to roughly tell when it’s likely to start; however, it’s common to start a few days earlier or later than expected when you’re unprepared, and having free facilities means people are less likely to have accidents.
By combining environmentally safe products with mother nature’s monthly visit, it means those that menstruate can do so guilt free and comfortably.