The Office of Sustainability and the Center for Gender Equity have partnered with OrganiCup to offer free menstrual cups to interested students as part of the CampusCup 2021 initiative, which aims to increase accessibility of sustainable menstrual products on college campuses nationwide.
Leslie Pearson, associate director of the Center for Gender Equity, said the initiative is to pronged, as it raised awareness for sustainable menstrual products while remaining action focused.
The offices kicked off the initiative with a conversation about sustainable menstrual products and a documentary screening of “Period. End of Sentence.” Between March 12 and March 26, Pearson said 318 students signed up to receive menstrual cups, a number much higher than she had originally anticipated.
Alice Hurley, ‘24, signed up to receive an OrganiCup after hearing about the initiative via email. She said at home, her family places a lot of value on sustainability and limiting waste, and the opportunity to receive a free menstrual cup was an offer she couldn’t pass up.
“I always knew menstrual cups were a really good option because disposable period products generate so much waste, so I was happy to take advantage of the opportunity,” Hurley said.
Rita Jones, director of the Center for Gender Equity, said she hopes the initiative can begin to normalize conversations about periods and remove some of the secretive and shameful attitudes that often come along with menstruation.
Jones was also impressed by campus involvement in the initiative, and said it is a great example of collaboration within the Lehigh community.
“A conversation about sustainable menstrual products and a few posts from each of our offices has led to over 300 students trying a sustainable product,” Jones said. “We’re doing less but achieving more.”
Audrey McSain, the sustainability program manager at Lehigh, said the CampusCup initiative is the first time the two offices have held an event in relation to menstruation and sustainable period products.
McSain said she hopes the event can continue in the future and that sustainability period products remain a topic of conversation.
“The fact that so many students were interested indicates two things: there is a possible need for accessibility to these products on campus, and also there is a desire to switch over to a sustainable product that is better for the Earth and for bodies,” McSain said.
Pearson explained that 1 in 10 menstruating people on college campuses face period poverty, meaning they do not have access to period products.
In addition to normalizing conversations around periods, Pearson said the initiative can address the period poverty issue on Lehigh’s campus as students are provided with the OrganiCup, valued at around $30, for free.
“Being able to have a sustainable product offer, in addition to the environmental impact, starts to address the disparity that we see in period poverty,” Pearson said.
Hurley said she loved that OrganiCup is free to sign up for.
“It’s kind of a privilege to be able to invest in sustainability products, which is definitely a barrier for some people who may want to try something like a menstrual cup but can’t afford it,” Hurley said.
McSain said that according to CampusCup, the 318 students switching to an OrganiCup will avoid using 169,904 tampons or pads while at Lehigh, increasing the sustainability of the campus while starting a conversation about sustainable menstrual products.