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My Journey to the Mooncup

A plastic-free journey to using a Mooncup - Life Before Plastik

Written by Sophie Zeldin-O'Neill

I distinctly recall the day I discovered what a Mooncup was.

I was 20, at university in the north east, and sharing a house with a smitten couple who knew a lot more about the environment than I did. That didn’t say a lot… as the climate crisis was one of those topics I knew I should care about and knew I should do more to combat. But if I’m being honest, I’d never taken the time to deeply engage with any of it.

I worked hard at school, got into a good uni, I cared about my friends and family, but if you had asked me what I did to actively be a good citizen of the world, I’d have had little to offer beyond a Blue Peter badge.

Yes I shopped in vintage clothes shops - or occasionally the ‘sustainable section’ in H&M - yes I took trains almost exclusively over cars, and yes I reused old tech as much as possible. But all of these choices had little to do with environmental awareness, and everything to do with my being a skint 20-year-old student.

“I do what I can”, I told myself. “But I will never take it so far that I use a Mooncup.”

Life Before Plastik Menstrual Cup

Ten years on from my student days, I like to think I’m a little more thoughtful about my consumer choices. I’ve been out in the world now and seen what it means to have a social conscience.

I have more money at my disposal and I’m more educated, too. I work for a company that’s a proud, badge-wearing B-corp - one of a handful of organisations committed to reaching net zero emissions by 2030 - and it considers the climate in almost all its work.

I have a car but I avoid using it for short journeys. When shaving my legs, I use a reusable metal safety razor that’ll hopefully last forever. I don’t buy into fast fashion. I use a tote bag and never opt for plastic carriers. I have recently started using reusable make-up pads over wipes, and shampoo that comes in a bar. I separate out my recyclables. I use short cycles for my laundry.

If I take it any further, I tell myself, I’ll surely morph into one of those women you see outside the organic greengrocers singing George Harrison songs and tapping on a snare drum, unaware that I carry with me a whiff of B.O. and pungent self-righteousness. Right?

It’s a stereotype that clearly took root in my mind some time ago. When a woman I admired at work asked me one day if I had ever tried a Mooncup, I was quick to say no. I didn’t want to be labelled a right-on hippy. I wanted to appear professional, elegant, not someone who used a Mooncup, for heaven’s sake - the menstrual product equivalent of dreadlocks and a Bob Marley T-shirt.

“Oh”, she said. “That’s a shame - they’re brilliant. I can’t recommend them highly enough.” I remember her turning and walking away with a big smile and a flick of her hair. I felt so embarrassed... I wanted the earth to swallow me up and biodegrade me right there and then.

In the pie chart of western humanity, I fall into the big segment labelled “Does a bit more than average, but nowhere near enough.” So why don’t I do more? That’s a slightly uncomfortable question for me.

The honest answer is that while I care about the planet, there’s a voice in my head that tells me it’s not something I can fix by myself, that the real change has to come from Big Business, that I only live once and I should live life to the fullest, unimpeded by the restrictions that might come with leading a more meaningfully sustainable lifestyle. I want to see the world, seize the day etc. Not spend my short time on this earth knitting shoes out of hemp and whittling my own coffee cups.

The truth is, though, that those restrictions exist solely in my head. The world has changed in the last few years. People have cottoned on - finally - to how much sustainability matters, and have reacted by inventing a whole abundance of products which make it easy, cheap, practical - and even fun - to be more mindful of the environment. The nature of travel has changed, too. It’s now perfectly possible to see the wonders of the world and leave only a very minimal carbon footprint in your wake.

Life Before Plastik - Sophie Zeldin O-Neill

As for opting to not have children for the sake of the planet, why not have them if you’d like, but just raise them to be people who care about the planet, make informed choices, and enjoy nature more than Nintendo. As a friend recently said to me in one of her wiser moments: “Everyone doing something to help is better than just a few people doing everything.”

The more I read on the subject, the more certain I am that sustainable living can quite easily enrich and enhance my day-to-day, far more than it restricts it. Which leaves me - and all of us - with very little excuse anymore.

In a world where veganism is booming, cycling is having a renaissance, and Leonardo Dicaprio is backing the green agenda, you can be unapologetically you - glamorous, geeky, goth, emo, young, old, corporate, creative... full of wanderlust or a homebody… and perfectly feasibly live as sustainable an existence as any right-on rainchild playing kumbaya on their bongos outside the deli.

Yes, that’s right. You heard it here first, folks (though you almost certainly didn’t…) Sustainability is, officially, cool as hell. And it’s here to stay.

Today, I look back at my student self and wince at the narrow-mindedness, prejudice and naivety with which I viewed the world. But as with everything in life, we evolve and we experiment and learn what matters most to us, what we want for our lives, and what sort of person we want to be.

Lockdown has given us all a chance to pause and reflect further still. And this month, when my period came, I tried a Mooncup for the first time.

It wasn’t nearly as bad as I thought.

Not every plastic-free journey happens overnight... sometimes it can take lightyears to get to the Mooncup. Have you had similar experiences to Sophie's? Let us know in the comments below. 

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