The Zero-Waste Period initiative has brought 446 reusable menstrual products to campus in the quantity of 400 menstrual cups and 46 reusable pads. It will further bring 250 more menstrual cups through a donation to the Pitt Pantry. Each of these products should divert an average of 3,000 tampon-equivalents of waste per person from landfill by allowing them to use the cup or pad over a period of about 10 years. The conversation surrounding these menstrual cups and reusable pads was one that arrived on campus out of an acknowledgement of the intersection between basic needs, menstrual rights, period poverty, and waste diversion.
The originators of this project joined several components of sustainability and focused on the bottom line that on a college campus, there are a number of people who menstruate who lack easy access to products, who want a product to reduce their environmental impact, or just want to destigmatize menstruation and open the conversation. The project began as a pilot program last year (2019), and this year (2020) developed into a full-fledged program; both the pilot and the expansion were spearheaded by Pitt Planned Parenthood Club (PPPC) and the Student Office of Sustainability (SOOS). The nominees are current members of the executive board of PPPC and the Program Associate for the SOOS that has assisted in the project. They have collectively driven this project to fruition after having it passed down from preceding PPPC and SOOS members through the change in last academic year to this academic year.
Now, dispensers that are installed and stocked by the University have been installed in over twenty locations across campus, and a survey regarding menstruation and the way that it impacts our campus community, specifically regarding people with non-cisgender identities, to garner more information on how the University community and this coalition can make informed decisions regarding dispenser installation to ensure the most safe and effective environment exists on campus. This specific project advances our campus toward one of equity across gender and income, recognizing the limiting factors that students on college campuses experience, especially regarding hygiene and menstruation, and guarantees that the University takes responsibility toward creating an inclusive environment that alleviates the possible stress or anxiety surrounding menstruation, destigmatizing the way that people on this campus view and understand the basic right to period products.
The personal roles taken in this project include advocating for funding for the project through the Green Fund and Student Government Board, networking and benchmarking different product suppliers to find the most sustainable, effective products to provide for students, creating interest lists and surveys by tabling and advertising, and organizing the kick-off event once the purchase was made. The kick-off event, or The Zero-Waste Period, was led by Pitt Planned Parenthood Club’s executive board and the Student Office of Sustainability Associate by introducing a stigma-free discussion of menstruation, addressing menstrual and gender equity, followed by a demonstration of how to use the products, along with best practices for hygiene, storage, and general maintenance. Office hours that act as times for pick-up and information sessions for interested individuals were hosted leading up to the event, and will continue to be set for the rest of the academic year to allow for as many people to receive a product as possible.
The Zero Waste Period Initiative is a 2020 Pitt Sustainability Award Winner (Student-Led Group)