In this day and age, it’s rare to find someone who didn’t have the three Rs drilled into them all the way through grade school. Reduce. Reuse. Recycle. Third graders across the country know it like a prayer. But when teachers across the country lead schoolchildren in the old chant, we’re reasonably certain it’s cardboard boxes and plastic bottles on their minds, not tampons.
Brooklyn-based yoga instructor Sarah Konner is picking up where teachers leave off. Konner is one of the heads of Sustainable Cycles, a fledgling group with an inventive take on sustainability: getting women to ditch pads and tampons for reusable menstrual cups.
Konner and her team were recently awarded a fellowship from SustainUS to support her project, which supports low-cost cross-country bike tours that distribute menstrual cups for free. They’re using the prize money to support a cyclist who’s currently making her way from California to New York, hoping to arrive in Crown Heights on August 3. At press time she was somewhere in Colorado.
Konner’s project was chosen from among 50 nominees “because, well, it was a totally unique way to start a conversation about something not always discussed, but a part of life for half the population–menstruation,” wrote SustainUS Fellowship Director Ellie Johnston in an e-mail to the Voice.
In announcing Konner’s win, Johnston referred to Konner as “the Johny Appleseed of reusable menstrual products” (a joke we wish we came up with, but congratulates Johnston for doing so.)
Getting people to switch to menstrual cups has two goals to it. One is to get women to stop buying and throwing away other menstrual products, reducing a community’s trash burden. But on the way to greater environmental friendliness, Konner hopes to empower women in making healthier choices for their bodies–the pad and tampon industries being the behemoths that they are, women rarely hear about alternatives that might be better for them. Not to mention the savings: the cups run at about $35 each and last up to 10 years.
“It’s a no-brainer,” says Konner, 26, who spoke with Voice about her win. She admits that “there is a little bit of an ‘ew, gross’ factor in making the switch. But all it takes is one friends saying ‘it’s not that gross, just try it, you’ll see.'”
In the future, Konner hopes to expand her team of spokeswomen (nice), and continue to build a network of educators to bring sustainable approaches to menstruation to a broader audience.
Konner is keen to make sure more than just liberal arts college women’s centers are getting the benefit of her work. The last time she hit the road, she and her riding partner Toni Craige did their best to meet as large a swath of people as possible. They talked to “women just out of prison in a halfway house, and Catholic workers, and girls in college.”
That time they passed out 300 menstrual cups along a route from New York to Michigan.
Johnny Appleseed of reusable menstrual cups, indeed.