Sustainable Period Podcast
Did you know 12 billion pads (made with a ton of plastic) and 7 billion tampons are thrown in the landfill each YEAR! And the average woman spends an average of $5,000 on period products over their lifetime.
Join me and the awesome team at Sixth and Zero to talk about the amazing alternatives available that aren't just better for us, but better for the environment!
Hey friends. Thanks for joining us for this next episode of the waste less live more podcast, I'm so excited to have my Sixth and Zero team with me For this one. I can't wait for you to get to know them each a little bit more as they join me to chat about sustainable periods. So this is a topic that comes up a lot at the store where we get a lot of questions. So we thought it'd be a great time to dive in a little bit more in the hopes to maybe be part of that this revolution that's happening to break the stigma around periods, and answer some of those common questions we get about reusable products. So here we go. Ladies, I'm so excited. You're here today to talk about this. I know we get a chance to talk about it a lot day to day at the shop. But now we get to talk about it with everyone else. So why don't we I want to start with each of you guys introducing yourselves, Abby.
Hello, I am Abby. I am the sales manager at Sixth and Zero and I have a period.
I am Natalie. And I'm the production manager at Sixth and Zero and I menstrate.
I am Jamie, I am the Administrative Manager at sixth and zero and I have a period.
Mary Allen 1:15
I love you guys. And I am Mary. And I also every once in a while will still have one, but not as often anymore. That's just the age difference. So thanks for coming on. And talking about all this stuff. I think a lot of it's not talked about very much. it's something that we share quite often we get to have great conversations with women who come in. But that's not so common. I think it's becoming more common, which I'm really excited about. But I think there's kind of a history of hush hush quiet. We don't talk about it
Have to hide my product up my sleeve.
Mary Allen 1:57
Yeah, I don't want anyone to hear me open my package. Why is that?
I don't know? Well, it all started back in the good old days of ancient Greece, when menstrual blood was seen as fundamentally unwholesome a, a humor that needed to be expelled from the body in order to maintain balance and health.
Mary Allen 2:23
There is nothing humorous about it
absolutely not, quite miserable. hate it
Mary Allen 2:28
I know, I feel like through through the years even all throughout history, it's been seen as something unclean. And And finally, when we get into a little more modern times, maybe less so. But it's still something that there's shame around. Yeah,
yeah, for sure. And especially, I think it rose to mainstream popularity during World War II, just as women kind of started entering the workforce in droves. That, you know, having something that's limiting what you're able to do once every month kind of was something that might have chained them down for a bit. But I think just kind of switching forward to the women having more of a role in the workplace, not wanting to be tied down, you know, or just kind of feeling stuck with what their bodies were naturally doing every month. It definitely helped out a lot.
Mary Allen 3:13
Like starting to have disposable products that's kind of where it came in to the mainstream?
yes, before that It was just a smorgasbord of whatever you could, whether it was you know, the stuffing the toilet paper or just making your own hodgepodge assortment of stuff. Yeah, so it was we were all fending for ourselves before. Yeah, good old tampons came along.
Mary Allen 3:32
Yeah. So what was that? Like in the 30s? Is that kind of when?
yeah, so the modern tampons were first patented in 1931. But then they didn't go into production until the patent was bought in 33. So yeah, it was that kind of timeline was when it all started really coming to fruition.
Mary Allen 3:50
I've seen videos of people will go back in time. And they for period products would just have like towels almost, and they would clip into their pants. And so seeing that was just kind of like not dehumanizing, but kind of like man they were just like taking towels and like putting them in their pants and then going to work in that and and like thinking about when you're at work for however long of a day and you have a towel in your pants that's has to be super uncomfortable. And so the making of tampons and pads had to have been like this extraordinary thing, I'm sure.
Mary Allen 4:31
Yeah, yeah, something truly revolutionary and freeing. And that gives you an opportunity to have, like you said to go to your work day, worry about it a much less. But that comes with its own set of issues, right. I mean, the, what they're made of that we're putting on to our most absorbent parts of our bodies, and not not to mention the toxins. Jamie, I think you you were reading a little bit about that earlier.
Yeah, so the vagina doesn't have any systems to help break down or flush out the toxic chemicals that we put near it. And a lot of the tampons are contaminated with dioxins from chlorine bleaching, sometimes fragrances, as well as pesticides from non organic cotton, which is the dirtiest crop on the planet. And with that fragrance, I know when I was in high school, fragrance tampons are such a huge thing all of a sudden, and it's just adding another smell, it's not hiding anything.
Mary Allen 5:27
I remember the pads, I remember the scented pads when I was in high school or college or whatever, and they smelled so strong. It's like you could smell that on the person sitting next to you, not their period, but that perfume, and you knew that that was the smell of a perfumed pad
Well and what does that say? That we've been, like fighting for so long against this whole, it's a natural bodily function, but we feel the need to like hide and conceal and kind of minimize and cover up and it's like, when where did this pressure come from?
It is It's definitely like, we feel I say collective we we feel shameful of a period or a menstrual cycle that literally happens out it's out of our control. We can't do anything about it. And we're born with it. Right? As someone who menstruates , and why is there's Why is there the shame? You know, when we talk about fragrance pads and fragrance pads and fragrance tampons? It's because for some reason, people who menstraute, feel shame about what their body's doing. And it just makes no sense.
Mary Allen 6:33
No, it doesn't. It's a beautiful thing, really. And it's a enables us to bring life into the world which is pretty, pretty special that we have that Yeah, we don't need the little secret open packages anymore and all the quiet opening.
i fotgot that was a thing
Mary Allen 6:50
and I did find out that something I'd never thought of whether they're fragranced or not tampons are FDA classified as a medical device. So companies are under no obligation to reveal the ingredients. So even if you get the cherry blossom scented, who knows what's in that or just a generic cotton tampon? They don't have to reveal what it's been dyed with, or what kind of toxins are in it?
Mary Allen 7:18
Right Absolutely. And what you said the most absorbent part of our body that is unable to flush itself out. And and then, you know, I've read where it sucks so much moisture that tampons are actually sucking moist, your own natural moisture, which can offset pH balance all of those things.
Yeah. And I think we all know the pain of having to pull out a dry tampon.
Mary Allen 7:41
Its the worst! It hurts and it's painful. And and so then we buy all these other products to help try and fix it when the problem lies in the tampon itself, right, or the pad itself. Because it is drying and it hurts, it hurts and it's uncomfortable. And then you're like, oh, I need to buy all these other things and all these other products to help fix whatever's going on. Yeah, not all of us realize like what that issue is. And so
Mary Allen 8:09
with a potential bacteria imbalance, or a pH imbalance, or whatever caused by really a lot of these products, and not only then it's not good for our bodies, but also we're learning more and more, they're not good for our planet. We know how many tampons and pads are used On average
There are 12 billion pads and 7 billion tampons discarded every single year.
Mary Allen 8:32
Yeah. And as we know, we've talked about there's no away so those that many pads and tampons are being thrown away. And there's no quote unquote, away. So they're made of pads in particular, made of a lot of plastic material within those. What was the stat I think one of you shared earlier?
Yeah, the pads can take up to 500 years, at least to break down just smaller and a plastic applicator can take 20 years, but it just breaks down into smaller and smaller pieces. It never actually goes away.
Mary Allen 9:01
Right? Yeah, we know that with plastic, it just turns into micro plastics, right? Yeah. And
I think they said that in one box of conventional pads, there's a plastic equivalent of four plastic shopping bags. And so when you when you think about it with every period every single month, just the accumulative waste that we're constantly, constantly throwing away, away, quote, unquote,
Mary Allen 9:21
right, right. Well, it's out of our sight,
out of sight out of mind, baby.
Mary Allen 9:27
So and I get like what you were saying it was revolutionary when these things first came out, you know, and I'm sure so helpful and beneficial. But as as time has gone on, now, we're digging in more and seeing this. This isn't so great, not only for our bodies and for the planet. And so many people now and wonderful companies have come up with amazing alternatives that are not only more sustainable, but are also healthier,
and that also save you money because they're reusable. I found a statistic that each woman on On average, we'll spend up to $4,800. On essentially trash.
I've never thought about it. I never thought about it like that.
Mary Allen 10:11
So $4,800 Over your lifetime of having a period pretty much, right. And that's I think that's just the average of regular menstruation each month. That's not necessarily when you have a baby, and you menstruate a lot more for a longer period of time, or if you have any sort of medical issues around that. And then I mean, there's the other side there, there are a lot of light menstruators, and that kind of thing as well, that may not need as much. But yeah, 5000 bucks, over life is quite a bit of money. So you're right, it saves money, and it saves on the environment. So let's dive in a little bit of what some of these sustainable products are. And we're excited to have them at Sixth and Zero, we carry specific brands, and we we've curated these brands, specific brands for a reason. But there are a lot out there on the market that I'm sure are absolutely fabulous and great alternatives in general. So basically, like the alternatives, there's there's cups, menstrual cups, there's reusable pads, washable reusable pads, and there's period underwear.
There are also period discs, which sit in your cervix. And so they're a little bit different than a period cup, because they'll sit differently, and you can wear them for longer time periods. I think I don't know a lot about them. I've never tried one. I've just seen them marketed a lot.
Mary Allen 11:27
Yeah, yeah. So there's options. So and I know everyone's anatomy, everyone's anatomy is shaped and designed a little bit different. So you might have to have a little trial and error of what works best for you. You want to go around and kind of share what you should be you guys use and what you like, don't like.
So I use I kind of go back and forth between the cup and the period underwear. So I really love the period underwear for like, night time or just any other time that I kind of focus more on comfort. I never have loved pads. I never like this sensation of feeling like you're just kind of sitting in it. And so I was really that's something that really surprised me with the period underwear was that it did it was like super moisture wicking. It dried really quickly. It was never any there's never that same discomfort of just feeling gross
Mary Allen 12:15
like youre in a diaper.
Yes. Like it's, it's it's such a big difference. And then I was really hesitant to try the Dot cup at first because it's one of those things that I would look at and be like, Oh, that seems like such a cool idea. I just don't know. And Mary kind of warned me like, you know, it might take you like a month or two to get used to it. And I think I literally came back the next day. I was like, Oh, this is a game changer. In fact, I think my last period I am I misplaced my cup, and I had a old box of just like some organic cotton tampons. And I specifically remember like, I felt uncomfortable, I felt like my cramps were worse. I just was more more aware of it in a way that I hadn't been before. And I just kind of the contrast between the two of having the cups, and then going back to the tampon. I just I noticed a difference. I was like, this is not this is not for me. And I just like the freedom that having the cup has, you know, not worrying about having to go out and buy go to CVS in the middle of the night because I need something you know, I just I know it is in my house. It's it's easily accessible. I can use it for years and years and years and not to worry about anything else. So it's been it's been definitely a game changer. I feel like it gives me a lot of freedom.
Mary Allen 13:23
Yeah, you know, that was one thing is surprised me. There were two other women who have come in and said it, their cramping was less and they actually feel like their flow was less what Yeah, I was really surprised to hear I have no idea that was a
yeah, when you think about all the chemicals that are in these products, they're affecting you in some way, shape or form. If that's not, you know, kind of we talked about the drying. If you think about it that sitting if you're using a tampon that sitting up in you for up to eight hours if you are following the instructions on the box. Most women don't I didn't when I use tampons, right and if you think about like our anatomy, and how intricate our bodies are like of course they're gonna affect you in ways that you don't think about because I had the same experience when I started using reusable products.
Mary Allen 14:12
So do you use a Dot cup or a menstrual cup?
Yeah, I do. I use the dot cup and I also use a period underwear. I was the same way as Abby when I would wear pads when I was younger. It always just felt bulky and like everybody knew I was wearing a pad and it was like I felt like
Mary Allen 14:27
always looking at your butt. at thr back of your jeans. Is there a little Extra Can you see that?
Yeah. And it just felt I felt dirty. And like it was like I was just sitting in myself which I guess you kind of are. And so I was really hesitant to try period underwear. But personally I've really heavy periods and so I didn't want to wear the cup overnight because I was like I don't know if it'll work the best. So I got a pair of thinx period underwear. And the first time I use them I seriously cried and I was like This is amazing. its not uncomfortable, there is no leaking, which I've experienced before, during the middle of the night. And I was super impressed and super surprised. And then yeah, I do use a cup. It took me a while to get comfortable with it. You know, you got to get up, you got to get all up in there. And then it's weird. And it was uncomfortable for me at first because I wasn't used to having to do that. But as I have used it, maybe the past five months. Yeah, I've noticed that my periods don't last as long. And I don't cramp as bad. So yeah, it's been pretty life changing.
Mary Allen 15:35
That is interesting that you say you got to get up in there and a lot of women have said they do become real comfy and familiar with my body, with my vagina a little bit better.
And I've had that same learning curve with the dot cup, it took me maybe eight attempts the first time because you have to figure out what works best for you to insert. So I looked at the dot, they have like three different methods to try,
Mary Allen 16:01
like origami folding.
Yeah. Yeah. And I went through all of them. And then as soon as I figured out what worked for me, after the first couple of times, taking it in and out, I felt so much more comfortable. And it was still that learning curve of getting really personal with yourself. But if I would have started with that in middle or even high school, I feel like that would have helped with the stigma.
Of the disgust and the shame so much, because you are way more understanding of your body?
Yeah, well, I think it adds another layer to it of you are going through this really weird time your body's changing, you know, they tell you all this stuff is gonna happen. And you don't really know what to what to make of all that. And then you're presented with all these weird looking supplies. You're like, what do I do? This goes where? And I feel like it is it's just another layer of overwhelm that as my as my nieces and nephews get older, I guess I should say nieces specifically. But I do I I've been thinking like, that's something that I would love to just be a resource for them on. Because like you said, Jamie, I wish that that's something I would have had as a kid. Because now that I am older, and I appreciate the change that it makes in my life. It's like, well, where where was this? 10-15 years ago, you know, this would have been such a game changer.
Mary Allen 17:14
I feel kind of left out of this party. Because I did not get a cup I've yet to dive into that I was a little I was the older I feel like when I first learned about them. And then they're they're good for like 10 years. They're medical grade silicone they last 10 years. And I just felt wasteful, getting one knowing that like I'm on my way out.
it's not exactly regiftable
Mary Allen 17:36
Yeah, exactly. That's not like something you pass it down to somebody I wouldn't think I don't know. But I thought I just Yeah, so I haven't I never did get into those. So but I'm but it's really great that we have these conversations at the store with people because that is probably the product that people are most hesitant about that we can definitely you guys are so willing to share your own experience and your stories and try to destigmatize or de scarify you know, the the anxiety around using a menstrual cup. And there are a lot of cups on the on the market that are great. And they have different sizes. Dot cup is one sixth and zero carries. But there are a lot of great companies made from that same silicone and they sell different sizes. So that cup sells one size. And it's they kind of say this is more of the average one size fits all type product. And we really liked them because they for every dot cup you purchase, they give a dot cup. And so period, poverty is a real thing, not just in third world countries, but here in the United States as well. A lot of people can't afford period products. And so many of us just don't even can't fathom that. But that's a real thing. And so we love that they give a cup away for every one that's purchased.
Yeah, so just one speaking on the dot cups, it's about $32, which if you think about the price of a small box of tampons, you can spend that in one month. And then it does last up to 10 years. And you're also buying a second one for somebody else. Yeah. And they have found that a menstruator who's in that kind of period poverty, they'll miss around 60 days of school each year due to the lack of hygiene products. So they both work with domestic and international organizations, and they choose places who prioritize empowerment and child protection. And they've also created a curriculum that's designed to teach these girls basic anatomy and basic menstrual cycle information so that they can understand their bodies and what it's going through.
Mary Allen 19:43
Yeah, that's amazing. We love them.
Well in speaking on the topic of period poverty, I, I wish I knew the resource at this time, but it was it came out a while back. It was kind of this multi step, plan or idea just to kind of help, what is the word I'm looking for, help kind of facilitate, like global change and kind of push us towards more eco friendly standards and just in general kind of caring more about the world in its entirety. And one of their points was they actually like giving women that freedom from the period poverty, giving the women the independence to kind of participate in society, as their male counterparts are, is a way that we can just kind of as a world as a global collective community kind of band together a little bit more, and just have our societies functioning at higher levels, because more women are able to participate at their fullest throughout all times of the month.
Mary Allen 20:39
Yeah, absolutely. That's important. So cups, check. Another great reusable product. Are the period underwear. Yeah, yeah, I know. I love them so much. And we had Thinx at the store. So that's a really common brand. They were really kind of the revolutionary ones. I feel like the frontline period underwear and love them very much. They stopped selling to wholesale. So that's why we don't have them at the store. It was nothing negative about I still love them. I have several pair of those in the night shorts. Like I think maybe you said Natalie, those are game changers. I love them. Yes. And they're just comfy, too. They don't look, they just like cute little boxer shorts, kind of little loose, I love them. But we've switched to period brand, very clear, simple what they are about. Their name is period. And we love them because they are super size inclusive. And they are super affordable. That's that was probably my favorite, favorite thing. I thought man, if these are as good, then then this is a done deal. This is going to be the people we carry. And they are they're really good. They're high performing. So so good. And they're like 14 bucks a pair.
Yeah, yes, about half I think of what thinx was because I, when thinx, they were they sent us all, each of the staff members a free pair. And I would tell people, I'm like, you know, I've used them, I love them, I would sing their praises. But I feel like $30 for a pair of underwear when you have no clue if it's going to work with you or with your period, it is kind of a big investment. And so I love that period is so affordable, because it just removes that extra barrier into the kind of the interest of sustainability that I feel like is so it's so hard because you know, our disposable goods are so cheap because they're so cheaply made. And you will have to shell out a little bit more for, you know, durable goods like that. But it's such it's such a great investment, long term.
Mary Allen 22:35
And I love that the founders when I listened to an interview, they said it's it's not revolutionary, if it's not accessible to everyone. Absolutely. And I I 100% agree. And that's on the cheaper end of some other ones. A lot of them are 38 to 42 something dollars, the shorts or maybe 50.
Yeah, and if you compare it to a box of pads that you go buy from the shelf at any store, they're 12 or $13 for however many Yeah. And then you know, the period underwear are like 14, I think and and they're gonna last you if you take care of them. Well, a really long time. Yeah,
Mary Allen 23:10
yeah, absolutely. And the one of the biggest questions, but those are like, so you just bleed into them? And it does seem so strange. And it's like, yeah, you do, and it's pretty freeing. It feels pretty good.
Yeah. And we get so many questions about, is there a smell? Do you feel it? And I going into it had the same questions because I hate pads. But now anytime I know I'm about to start, I put some on, I have tested them on my heaviest days. And they have held up which are like a miracle. I wish I would have had that in high school. But they are so affordable. And the company period does work with a lot of local organizations in their area, they do a thing called giving Tuesdays, which they share on their website, and they do community donations, so just $20 that will give them the ability to ship out four pairs to different organizations that are in poverty, or girls who don't have the accessibility for them. So just $20 They'll send out four pairs.
Mary Allen 24:12
Yeah, and a lot of people don't realize, you know, if you're on assistance programs, that that pays for food, but it does not pay for toilet paper, or feminine hygiene products, anything like that. So that's why these, these programs are so important.
Yeah, and if you think about something that we've heard probably before the pink tax that is placed upon feminine care, and when you when you're talking about those who are not fortunate enough to be able to buy those things just right off the shelf that comes with the period poverty, you know, I can't afford it. There's this high tax on it, I can't pay for it. So, you know, it's great that these companies that we are carrying, you know, provide back for their communities so that that period poverty can hopefully come to an end and recognizing that it is still a huge issue not only in the United States, but on a global level as well. And so I think it's so important that we talk about these products that are available, because you know, they can hopefully one day be made available for anybody who's in need of them.
Mary Allen 25:13
Absolutely. And then the last, and we're going to circle back around because we have a list of questions, but that kind of apply to all of these things. But the last kind of disposable item that is accessed, you know, that we have are reusable pads. So I've seen a lot of a lot of different companies in the sustainability sector carry reusable pads, and I think they all probably function about the same and they're all great options. We carry glad rags, but kind of function I feel like about the same as the underwear except it's just a separate piece that you clip in, like snap on, like you would a disposable pad,
Right, instead of the like sticky wings, right? It's just cling and sometimes stick to your thigh on accident. It does snap so it does fit securely. I have the GladRags panty liners, and they're small enough that if I think I'm about to start, I'm going somewhere, I'll just keep on in my wallet because it's thin enough. And it has saved me. The last time I was at an airport, I started 30 minutes before my flight. And I luckily had that glad rag in my wallet. And I really liked those as somebody who has never liked pads.
Mary Allen 26:24
I know some people who wear pantyliners Every day, just Yeah. For days, well, yeah. And so a lot of them come in and we'll get the reusable panty liners because they wear them almost every day, just feel dry and comfy for whatever their body does. So
yeah, and glad rags as a company is really cool. They are a certified B Corps. And they're centered in Oregon. And they are fully about sustainability not just in periods. But when it comes to their packaging, or even their waste control in their offices. They use local bike delivery to get all of their goods so that they're not putting out any you know, co2 emissions from cars, I love that they donate all extra fabric scraps to good use in their community, whether it's people who sew or schools for crafts, they find ways to use every bit of their product.
Mary Allen 27:15
Yeah, that is so cool. I love it. And we are we really pay attention at six and zero to the companies we purchase and think highly of B Corp certification. So if you're not familiar with what B Corp is, it's a basically a status or certification that's designated to businesses that meet a high standard of verified performance, accountability, transparency, on all kinds of factors from employee benefits to charitable giving to supply chain practices, etc. So it's a stringent certification process. And so that's a big deal when you get that B Corp certification. So we try to be mindful about what companies we bring in and if they are a B Corp or not.
Yeah, and I feel like that's really great. Because it is I think, as more people are kind of just becoming conscious of what we're putting into our bodies, where are they going after we're done with them? You know, you have your list of this is what's bad, this is what we need to avoid. But then the question becomes, okay, so what is my alternative? And I feel like, we kind of have it set up where we we do the homework so that you don't have to, you know, we we do the the, you know, looking over the companies making sure that they are their ethics aligned with ours, making sure they have sustainable initiatives, and then you can just feel good about it, you know, you don't have to constantly be on the lookout of I know that I need to avoid this, this and that, for my health. You know, it's like we've already we've already considered it. You know, we know that people are wondering about that. And so we try to just kind of take care of that in the front end.
Mary Allen 28:42
Yeah we want you to have peace when you walk in the door, but always and always happy to answer questions and talk. And it's not an embarrassing thing. I know, Jamie, you've shared about some older ladies, and I'll say like my age for sure. Like I was part of that generation where it's very hush hush, you don't talk about it.
Yeah, there's definitely been age gaps in the people who come in and start being whisper about it. Even if they're the only ones in the store. They'll kind of whisper and be like, Oh, this is so embarrassing. Versus other people will walk in and shout across the store and other customers. Hey, do you use this period underwear? How much can you bleed in it? So it's definitely a gap. And I've noticed it in men as well. It tends to be you know, the older men who are still very runaway from the topic or if moms come in to talk about options for their daughters. The dad will make a joke like oh, well, that's not about me. So he'll walk away. Whereas now we're seeing a lot of younger couples come in and the boyfriend will be like, Oh, babe you have a cup. Hey, have you tried this underwear? You should maybe get some?
Mary Allen 29:46
Yeah, I love it. That's so cool. That's so awesome. And it's great that when the women that do come in and they're kind of whispering or hush hush or maybe feel a bit of shame or embarrassment about talking about it that we can be like oh girl and we just engage immediately completely it's not an embarrassing thing, like, let's chat about it and figure out what might be the best thing for you. So it's been fun to kind of see that progression of change.
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