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Seeing red?

Find out how periods can save the planet in the first ever Environmenstrual Week of Action
Seeing red?

It’s time to talk about periods: tomorrow marks the start of the very first Environmenstrual Week of Action (13-20 October), launched by Women’s Environmental Network (WEN), Anglian Water, Thames Water and a coalition of 35 activists, social enterprises and menstrual-prenuers.

What’s the problem?

On average, a woman uses around 11,000 disposable pads or tampons in her lifetime. With half of Britain’s women flushing tampons away, 1.5-2 million menstrual products a year end up in seas, rivers and in beaches.

Research from the Marine Conservation Society and Natracare shows one pack of sanitary pads contains four carrier bags’ worth of plastic – and one pad can take 500 years to break down.

But plastic’s not the only issue – cotton is the world’s most heavily pesticide-sprayed crop. Synthetic chemicals and fragrance are often found in disposable period products without clear labelling.

Time to talk

WEN has been campaigning for decades on the environmental and health impacts of conventional period products. ‘We know too well how the taboo and shame around menstruation stops honest conversations about the alternatives available’, says Kate Metcalf, co-director at WEN. ‘We wanted a collaborative approach to bring real change in this area – which is why we are building a coalition of partners and organising a Week of Action.’

The goal of the Week of Action is to raise awareness about the damaging effects of plastic in single-use menstrual products, and to promote eco-friendly alternatives, such as reusables and organic disposable period products.

‘We want everyone to get involved in the Week of Action’, Kate says. ‘It’s about having fun whilst encouraging conversations around menstruation. We have created a toolkit with some ideas on how to get involved, including getting active by contacting manufacturers and supermarkets’.

Art, fashion and theatre

The Week of Action will end with a festival hosted by Caroline Russell and Leonie Cooper – chair and deputy chair of the GLA Environment Committee – at City Hall in London. The committee recently released an ‘unflushables’ report, exploring the damage of single-use menstrual products, wet wipes and nappies.

The evening, which is free to attend, includes a speaker panel, with Susie Hewson (founder of NatraCare), Natalie Fee (founder of City to Sea) and Mandu Reid (founder of The Cup Effect).

Other sessions include a ‘Seeing Red’ fashion show spearheaded by eco-designer Dr Linda Thomas and her infamous Pantyliner Dress, and Not Another Bloody Play! by the Twisted Hares theatre company.

Environmental artist Ptolemy Erlington’s striking moorhen sculpture, created with plastics collected from rivers and beaches, will also be exhibited.

Click here for more about the women who set sail to tackle plastic pollution.

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