Do you have a use for menstrual products? Are you interested in pursuing more sustainable acts for the environment? Do you want to be more conscious of what is going into your body?
Well, great news. UT’s Office of Sustainability is hosting a campaign called CampusCup – an initiative that allows OrganiCup to partner with campuses across the United States to distribute free menstrual cups.
The event is as simple as signing up for a link with the Office of Sustainability and filling out an online form. You will then receive a free OrganiCup, while supplies last.
OrganiCup is a Danish menstrual cup brand, a product that replaces pads and tampons. Their product is made from 100% medical grade silicone and may last up to two years. In the same amount of time, someone may go through approximately 528 pads and tampons.
The cup may be worn for up to 12 hours at a time compared to the four-to-eight hours of usage for tampons.
OrganiCup has won “Product of the Year” twice and received the “Excellence Award” from BuyMeOnce in the sustainability category. It is Allergy Certified, Vegan and United States Pharmacopoeia (USP) Class VI certified with the Food and Drug Administration (FDA).
This certification is provided based on testing of end use, type and time of exposure of human tissue to plastics – Class VI being the most stringent class.
CampusCup started at UT when OrganiCup reached out to the Office of Sustainability, as this project is something the company does with many universities.
This project is headed by Amber Heeke, UT graduate and Social Impact Coordinator at the Office of Sustainability, and Katie Stapleton, senior studying political science with a minor in sustainability.
Stapleton heard about the initiative elsewhere, though.
“I was introduced to this project by the President of the Student Basic Needs Coalition, Mikayla Prince,” Stapleton said.
The CampusCup project speaks directly to the Office of Sustainability’s goal: “[We work] to Make Orange Green by promoting a sustainable and equitable campus community.”
OrganiCup seeks to “make periods on campus more sustainable,” according to their 2020 CampusCup brief.
“OrganiCup reached out to us. … We get the opportunity to reduce waste, educate on sustainable options and address student needs in one fail swoop of student service,” Heeke said.
Stapleton has been and is currently working on getting free menstrual products made available to students on campus.
“I have lobbied for free menstrual products in women’s and unisex bathrooms now for about a year. Administration has been receptive to the idea, but we needed a department to help us organize data on what the need for this type of program really is,” Stapleton said.
CampusCup at UT may help in determining that data based on student turnout. Stapleton has said that this project will also provide data on people who are willing to seek out these products.
With that being said, discussion of periods and of period products can often be stigmatized or looked down upon.
Heeke and Stapleton both seem hopeful in encouraging the destigmatization of periods.
“I hope that giving students the opportunity to try the products risk-free and at no cost to them may be the incentive some might need to give it a try – what have you got to lose?” Heeke said.
At the same time, not only is this an opportunity for those who have periods to try something new or to take advantage of something they already have experience with, it offers an opportunity to limit the waste generated by single-use period products.
According to OrganiCup, “A medium-sized* university uses as much as 2.9 million disposable period products per year. The OrganiCup, however, is reusable for years and has a minimal impact on the environment.” The scale for the university being mentioned had an approximate population of 10,000.
This project is another way that the Office of Sustainability and the UT campus attempt to bridge the gap between needs versus accessibility and the opportunity for creating less of an environmental impact.
For the sign-up link, check out the Free Store (@freestore_utk) or Office of Sustainability (@sustainableut) via Instagram.
In the words of Heeke herself, she is also open to email.
“They can email me for the link if they aren’t on the ‘gram,” Heeke said.
She may be reached at email@example.com.
The project is set to begin Monday, Oct. 5 and go through Sunday, Oct. 18 and is open to students only. The cups may be available for pick-up at the Student Health Center any time during November. No appointment is needed but a confirmation email will be required.