One of my intentions for 2012 is to see just how little trash I can produce, and how much more of what I consume I can recycle. Even though the new year is in its infancy my friends and family have already heard me repeatedly waxing ecstatic about the place I found in Fruitvale that takes the used clothing you wouldn’t donate to Goodwill or the protocol for recycling plastic like bread bags, packaging film from toilet paper, or the liners from cereal. I’m buying flour and nuts and raisins in bulk and using bar soap instead of the fancy pump stuff. It’s Frontier House all over again, on location in Oakland.
It’s not that I haven’t done these things before; I’ve been recycling for years, although I realize there are others far more committed and consistent than I. But I’m experiencing a new willingness to allow for the possibility of being inconvenienced or even uncomfortable, at least until I get used to a new way of doing things, for the sake of the planet.
So what’s my current growing edge, when it comes to the Kate-O-Rama 2012 Reduce-Reuse-Recycle Campaign? If “outer limit” had a catchphrase, people, it would be this: LUNAPADS.
Yes, Virginia, menstrual cloths that can be washed and reused aren’t just for hippies anymore. There are whole businesses devoted to eco-friendly periods: In addition to Lunapads, a girl can find supplies online at Etsy, GladRags, Sckoon, Ecomenses, Jillian’s Drawers, New Moon, and — my personal favorite, as far as names go — Party in My Pants. I figure in the three decades plus that I’ve been bleeding every month (that’s roughly 342 times, if you don’t count two pregnancy stints) I’ve done my part to contribute to the pile of 14 billion pads, tampons and applicators that go into North American landfills every year. Why not give DIY periods a try?
I buy the Starter Kit. The pads are made of cute patterned fabric — flowers and peace signs and seashells and skulls — so that’s fun. And the liners are soft-as-a-baby’s-butt fleece. I watch the instructional video and learn that, not only will I get used to taking care of my Lunapads so they will last for years to come, I will grow to more deeply appreciate my body and my cycle. I learn how to clean the pads (let them steep overnight in gentle soap if you can’t do laundry right away) and even pick up a handy gardening tip: my plants will thrive if I feed them the iron-infused water.
The instructional video does not mention how to respond when your 11-year old son asks, “What’s in that bowl in the bathroom? Is it barf?”
On day two of The Lunapad Experiment one of my homies calls. This is a girl with some life skills. Not only has she rocked the eco-menstruation thing — thus I know for sure it’s doable — she’s followed the Grateful Dead, worked as a mortgage broker, and started at least three businesses, including a health food store, a recycling company, and a home decluttering service. She has four dogs and owns a Beretta. “How’s it going?” she asks.
“Oh, me and my fleece diapers, we’re doing great over here,” I tell her. “It’s a veritable bloodfest.”
“Hold the course,” she says.
We hang up and I slip into a fantasy about a modern version of the Red Tent. Instead of five days of bloating, irritability, and cramps layered over the usual duties of work and homemaking, perhaps I could have a week in bed, with chocolate, a pile of Oprah magazines, a few action movies, and servants. I wonder if maybe all those Judeo-Christian laws about how menstruating women are unclean were a joke our foremothers played on the men to catch a break. I can just picture some Jewish chick in ancient Israel telling her old man a horror story or two about menstrual emissions and laughing to herself as he toddles off to revise the Torah.
After a week, I decide the eco-menses thing — while perhaps a bit messy, more “hands on,” if you will — isn’t that bad. Sure, I don’t know how long this particular manifestation of my reduce, reuse, and recycle effort will last, and I’m completely clear that I will not be taking my Lunapads with me on my next business trip, should the need arise. But it has to be a good thing, every once in a while, to push one’s personal limit, don’t you think?