personal · zero waste

my menstrual cup experience (TMI warning!)

If talking about periods makes you uncomfortable, you may want to skip this post ;). Otherwise, prepare for some TMI.

I was first introduce to the menstrual cup about a year ago from a friend who was just starting to use it. She showed me this video, which does a pretty good job of highlighting what to expect.

Even though menstrual cups aren’t that expensive, I wasn’t ready to spend $25 on something I had a high chance of giving up on after one try. I knew it would take at least a couple of cycles to perfect and I wasn’t ready to make that commitment.

When I turned 30 this past August, I decided to kick my zero waste efforts up a notch by working on having zero waste periods. So I finally took the plunge and bought the pink LENA cup in small.

My first time I using it was a disaster. I had a really hard time getting it in – I couldn’t get a good grip on any of the folds so sometimes it’d pop open before it was completely in. And once it was in, I couldn’t really tell if it opened all the way or if it was positioned correctly. But when I’d see how much blood had leaked onto my pantyliner, I knew I was doing something wrong. Taking it out the first time was just as (if not more) challenging as putting it in. I remember it was suctioned so securely and so far up, I started to panic a little. But once I “bared down” (i.e. relax as if you were going number 2), the cup lowered enough to where I was able to grab the stem and wiggle the cup down even further. Once I was able to reach the bottom of the cup with my index finger and thumb, I squeezed the bottom to “pop” the suction and slip it out. I rinsed it with warm water and slipped it back in for another try.

The next few cycles were pretty similar. Some days it wouldn’t leak much (or at all) and I’d think I was getting the hang of it. Other days it would leak so much I’d have to keep changing my pantyliner. I couldn’t consistently get it to not leak.

The breakthrough came during my last cycle. I finally decided to try to find my cervix, which I was really squeamish about. I didn’t expect to feel it because I assumed it was really high up (inside me) but when I reached in, I was able to feel it pretty quickly and clearly. Feeling it helped me visualize what my cup would look like if it was suctioned properly below it. Between my last cycle and this cycle, my friend (the same friend who introduced me to the cup) also showed me this video, which helped me realize I was always trying to insert the cup straight up instead of at an angle.

During my most recent cycle, I only had one instance where I leaked and I’m pretty sure it’s because I inserted it straight up again so it didn’t suction properly. Once I reinserted it at an angle, I didn’t leak any more.

For those of you who are going to be trying a menstrual cup for the first time (or if you’re having a hard time perfecting it), my main tips are:

  • Try it for the first time when you’ll be at home for a long period of time. It makes dealing with leaks and reinserting it over and over again a lot easier. You don’t need the stress of someone wondering why you’re in the bathroom so often or for so long.
  • Try to find your cervix when you’re on your period so you have a better idea of what you’re try to work around/contain. Yes, your hands will get dirty. Yes, it’s kind of gross at first. But you’ll get over it pretty quickly. The reason why I say try to find your cervix when you’re on your period is because I think it’s lower during your period (at least for me it is). I can’t reach my cervix when I’m not on my period.
  • Try different folds. I like the punch fold the best.
  • Try to pop it open as soon as the tip is in. I feel like doing this makes it impossible for your cervix to be outside of the cup.
  • Slip it in at an angle, NOT straight up. When I tried slipping it in straight up, it was very difficult and not very smooth (almost like I was trying to force it in). Now that I have the angle down, once I get the tip in, the cup literally gets “sucked” up.
  • My biggest tip is: DON’T GIVE UP! I don’t think anyone gets it perfectly their first cycle. I think part of the reason is because we’re not that comfortable touching our lady parts (especially when we’re on our periods!) so the first few tries are more about getting more familiar with your body.
zero waste

coffee routine

2d9697171-443424-g-hlt-120514-coffee-5p-today-inline-large
{photo credit: Trish Hamilton / Today}

My daily morning coffee at work used to be a waste producing routine.  I would pour the pot of coffee into a paper cup, add 3 of those individually packaged creamers, add 2 packets of sugar and then stir it all up with a disposable plastic straw.

Although my coffee routine now isn’t completely zero waste, it is a lot less wasteful than it used to be.  Instead of a paper cup, I use a ceramic cup.  I bought a half gallon of Silk’s Very Vanilla Soymilk and use that as both my cream and sugar, since it’s sweet.  And instead of stirring everything with a plastic straw, I use a silver spoon (or fork, or knife, depending on what’s easier to grab that morning) and then rinse it right away.

I’ve been doing this for a several months now but even just counting how much trash I kept out of the landfill in just one month (~21 working days) keeps me motivated to continue swapping disposables for reusable alternatives whenever I can:

  • 21 plastic straws
  • 21 paper cups (with plastic lining)
  • 42 packets of sugar
  • 63 plastic creamers

Total = 147 pieces of trash!

zero waste

plastic bags banned in California

Prop 67 passed on Tuesday, which means, effective immediately, stores will no longer provide single-use plastic carry-out bags to customers.

After reading this article, I learned that this proposition was actually paid for by the plastic bag industry to serve as a distraction.  Plastic bags were already supposed to be banned back in January 2015, but the plastic bag industry wanted Californians to vote on this issue before the law became effective.  The reason behind this was two-fold.  One, they bought themselves another 2 years of selling plastic bags.  Two, they hoped that Californians wouldn’t pay much attention to this issue and that most people would default to voting “no”.

I can’t even remember the last time I took a plastic bag from the grocery store (or even a retail store).  I almost always have a reusable bag with me.  And the few times I do forget to bring my own bag, I will pay $0.10 for a paper bag or just carry the items out loosely.

Even though the ban on plastic bags doesn’t affect me all that much directly, I am so happy that it passed because I know a lot of Californians wouldn’t change their habits otherwise.

zero waste

junk mail – credit card offers

I absolutely hate getting credit card offers (and all other types of junk mail for that matter).  Junk mail is what makes checking the mail a tedious task for me.  Think about it, if every piece of mail you received was something important like a postcard from a long-distance friend or a wedding invitation, wouldn’t checking the mail be so much more fun?  I think my special distaste for credit card offers comes from the fact that it promotes our nation’s consumer debt problem.  Plus, they’re hard to rip up thanks to the cardboard insert and/or fake card they put in it so I have to go through the extra effort of opening it first and then and ripping up/shredding the individual pages.

Since I’m the one who sorts the mail for not only our home, but also my mom’s, I get to comb through credit card offers for all three of us.  As I went through the mail this past weekend, I decided that instead of complaining like I usually do, I was finally going to take action and do some research on how to get rid of these pre-approved cards once and for all.

Enter Opt-Out Prescreen.  I signed all three of us up for the “permanently opt-out” option.  It’s kind of annoying how they make you sign and mail the form in.  But if that means none of us will receive another credit card offer ever again, then the extra effort is totally worth it.

If you’re interested in reducing your junk mail, here’s a great resource.

zero waste

airplane cups

Have you ever noticed how many plastic cups are used on a single flight?

If it wasn’t for my new interest in zero waste, I don’t think I would’ve ever noticed (or cared, to be honest).

On my flight to Taiwan two weeks ago, I was keenly aware of how many plastic cups were being offered to us during our 13 hour flight.  I accepted my first plastic cup of water without even thinking (ohhh how easy it is to revert back to old habits).  When the flight attendant came by with a second cup of water, I held up my water bottle and asked if she could refill my bottle instead.  She said she could but I’d have wait a few minutes since she had to finish serving everyone else before running off to the kitchen to fill my bottle.  “No problem”, I said.  Before I had a chance to even react, she set the second plastic cup of water on my tray and jetted off.  I guess she figured I still wanted a cup of water in the meantime.

Once I got my bottle filled, I didn’t use another plastic cup for the remainder of the flight.  Each time I ran out of water, I’d simply walk to the kitchen and ask a nearby flight attendant if she could fill it for me.  I eventually got James on board after he went through three plastic cups of his own.

We used the same method on our flight home.  The only exception we made was using a plastic cup for drinking non-water beverages like soda and juice.  We did, however, hold onto our cups the entire flight, asking the flight attendants to refill our cups each time instead of handing us a new one.

Hey, every little bit counts.

zero waste

zero waste

Zero waste is my latest obsession.

It all started when my favorite blogger recommended this podcast.  The guest speaker in that episode introduced me to 2 well known zero waste advocates: Bea Johnson and Lauren Singer.

I’ve watched Bea Johnson’s talk at Google at least a dozen times already:

Before I heard about zero waste, I was only focused on reducing my use of the bad kind of plastic (i.e. the plastics made from materials that are hard to recycle and harmful to our health).

Now, I’m trying to reduce my overall use of plastic and the amount of trash I produce.

A couple steps I’ve taken so far include:

  • No longer putting trash into my personal trashcan at work.  Even when the trashcan is less than halfway full, the whole trash bag gets tossed and replaced.  I know the cleaning crew is just doing their job and I’m sure if they didn’t take out the trash every day, there would be a lot of angry employees complaining.  But after noticing how wasteful this practice was, I started to collect my trash in the corner of my desk and tossing it into the kitchen trashcan whenever I walk by.  That trashcan is always full.  By developing this habit, one less trash bag gets tossed into the landfill each day.
  • Bringing my water bottle with me whenever I eat out at restaurants that only have paper cups.  Paper cups are not nearly as recyclable as everyone thinks they are because they still have a plastic lining on the inside.
  • And as of last night, I started bringing silverware with me to restaurants that only have plastic utensils.

I still have a long way to go before I am truly living a zero waste lifestyle.  But one baby step at a time.

zero waste

repair if you can

Repair something if you can…even if it’d cost you less to get a new one.

A few weeks ago, I discovered a shoe repair shop really close to my office.  I brought in my worn out work heels and the shoe man said he could repair it for $12.  Considering the heels cost me $99, it was much more worth it to repair them than to replace them.  However, last week I brought in a pair of heels that only cost me $16.  The cost to repair my $16 heels was $20 since the damage was more severe.  For a moment, I was tempted just to toss the $16 heels since repairing them for more than they were worth seemed silly.  But then I realized that by repairing them, I’d be keeping them out of a landfill for that much longer.  And I wouldn’t be adding to the fast-fashion cycle.

So I went ahead and paid the $20.