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Can Plastic Free Periods Help Us Pay Back Climate Debt?

Today, July 28 2022, is this year’s Earth Overshoot Day. As of today, human kind has officially used all of the resources that Earth has available for us for 2022. This means that we are from now on fuelling ourselves on climate debt for the rest of the year, adding to the climate debt we’ve created in all the previous years.

There is really no way to put it nicely, Earth simply cannot keep up. A lot needs to be done to reverse the situation, but let’s talk about what we at Ruby Cup know the most about, plastic free periods. With our Ruby Cup, we’ve created plastic free periods since 2011 both for people who can afford their own period products and for people who have received menstrual cups through our Buy1Give1 program.

In essence, the question we’ll answer in this article is: Can Plastic Free Periods Help Us Pay Back Climate Debt? The short answer is yes (even though much more needs to be done too). The long answer includes a look into the Earth Overshoot Day definition, the plastic contents of a number of period products, and 9 planetary boundaries we need to respect in order to keep the world inhabitable.

Plastic free periods are right here

Earth Overshoot Day always comes early

When we are today hitting Earth Overshoot Day, it means that “between January 1st and July 28th, humanity's demand for biological regeneration is equivalent to the planet's entire annual regeneration” - Earth Overshoot Day. By making things get this far, we are weakening the state of Earth, making it harder and harder for our planet to regenerate - and directly impossible under current conditions.

With a few deviations, Earth Overshoot Days fall earlier and earlier every year. Per 10 years since 1972, the past Earth Overshoot Days were:

 

    • December 14, 1972
    • November 19, 1982
    • October 15, 1992
    • September 21, 2002
    • August 4, 2012
    • And now: Today, July 28, 2022

 

In the ideal world, global governments would solve the problems together to #MoveTheDate (official hashtag) in a decent manner. However, too little action is being done in this regard. Evidently, we don’t live in a flawless world.

Your personal average environmental footprint depends on your lifestyle and where you live.

Country overshoot days 2022

Currently it seems to be left to consumers and companies to take our part in solving the problems. Since 2011, Ruby Cup and all Ruby Cup users have done our part - and we’ll keep on going. As of July 28 2022, we’ve prevented +14,150,000 kg of plastic from ever being produced. This we’ve done together with all the Ruby Cup customers globally who have chosen our menstrual cup as their zero waste plastic free period product, and together with the +139,000 people with periods who have received a Ruby Cup through our donation program.

These numbers are big enough that we are proud to say that Ruby Cup is the period cup that impacts lives, and that we are also (together with all Ruby Cup users) impacting the environment in a positive manner.

 

How much plastic menstrual cups can save us

Plastic free periods are certainly a thing with menstrual cups. Did you know that traditional, single-use period products such as disposable tampons and pads consist of up to 90% plastic? And that people with periods who use these solutions to handle their periods discard an average of 16.7 products per month, 200 per year, and 1,000 in 10 years?

Waste management of disposable products is troublesome as the different constituents (period blood, cotton fibres, plastics) need to be handled in different ways but are impossible to rip apart from each other. The result is that the majority of plastic-filled period products end up in landfills where they take up to 500 years to decompose. The average person who menstruates throws away up to 200 kg of menstrual products in their lifetime.

Making the switch to a plastic free period, and inspiring as many people as possible to do so, leads to real change in the world.

A menstrual cup has a very light environmental footprint corresponding to 20 disposable pads or tampons. But you can use it for up to 10 years. This means that when compared to single-use period products, the menstrual cup achieves its status as a fully zero waste product in less than two months, and you get up to 154 totally waste-free and plastic free periods by making the switch.

So, the more people with periods who make the switch, the better. Luckily there are many benefits to switching to a menstrual cup - find out more in our article on 10 menstrual cup benefits that will make you want to switch.

How much bloody waste from period products you can save with a menstrual cup

The 9 planetary boundaries we need to respect

Researchers have defined 9 planetary boundaries humanity needs to respect in order to help keep Earth in shape. These are: 

 

  • Stratospheric ozone depletion
  • Loss of biosphere integrity (biodiversity loss and extinctions)
  • Chemical pollution and the release of novel entities
  • Climate Change
  • Ocean acidification
  • Freshwater consumption and the global hydrological cycle
  • Land system change
  • Nitrogen and phosphorus flows to the biosphere and oceans
  • Atmospheric aerosol loading.

 

If we don’t expect these planetary boundaries, at some point Earth will become inhabitable. And seeing Earth Overshoot Day coming earlier year by year, is a sign that we should all be doing more.

As we try to always remind ourselves here at Ruby Cup when we want things to move faster (whether in fields such as global menstrual health, the fight against period poverty, or improvement of our environment): Sustainable change for the better is a marathon, not a sprint.

Change has to come in many forms and from various angles, for us to be able to #MoveTheDate for future Earth Overshoot Days.

Start with yourself. You, too, make a difference in this world as perfectly imperfect as it might be. Jump to our plastic less pep talk in our article Progress over perfection for Plastic Free July. Or get more inspiration for a plastic-free (or plastic-less) life in our other Plastic Free July posts easy menstrual blood plant fertilizer & zero waste DIY water-based lube.

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