Society for Menstrual Cycle Research Conference

After a whirlwind of a summer, we are, a little belatedly, finishing our post from the SMCR Conference from early June.

Sounds quirky, but believe it or not, there were over 200 people at the Society for Menstrual Cycle Research conference in NYC in early June.  Sarah and I have been looking forward to this conference for two years!  The Society has been facilitating multidisciplinary dialogue and research about the importance of the menstrual cycle to women’s health since 1979.  Scientist, artists, public health researchers, and gender/sexuality experts converged on Manhattan Marymount College for three days of sharing.

On Thursday evening, Sarah represented Sustainable Cycles at the Poster Presentation session– Our display was a big map of the United States with Rachel’s route pinned out. I hung up samples of cloth pads, menstrual cups, and sea sponges, and brought in all the materials of our fresh-off-the-press Educator’s Packets! Most people there already knew and love re-useables, although cups were new to a few people, even at this conference! That evening I gave away three Educator’s Packets to 3 awesome new spokeswomen.

Nita Padavil, one of our newest spokeswomen, is a soon-to-be second year medical student at UChicago’s Pritzker School of Medicine, hoping to become an OB/GYN. She is especially interested in how the hormonal fluctuations of the menstrual cycle underpin a woman’s health and wellbeing throughout her lifespan. Her first Sustainable Cycles event was in July at the Englewood Community Health Fair, which took place in the Chicago neighborhood of Englewood which is predominantly African American and working class.

From Nita:

“One awesome moment: two teenage girls came by and were very excited by both the reusable pads and cup. One even said that our table was the most helpful one they’d been at in the entire fair. Another great moment: One man was sold on the idea of resuable products when he realized this would mean no longer having to make monthly trips to the drugstore for his wife’s Always Maxipads.
“I also talked with a few women I knew from the women’s homeless shelter, (the shelter was the organizing entity for this fair). One was very excited by the idea of reusable products but disappointed that we didn’t have any samples to give away, as she is of very limited financial means.
Overall, this menstrual activism effort was a great success. It even led to conversations among some of my fellow medical students, female and male, who hadn’t heard of these products before. I’m thinking that my next outreach event will be at my medical school, to let my peers know about these products so that they’ll be able to recommend them to patients they see.”
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I feel so lucky to have met Nita. We will be looking forward to hearing about her work in the future!
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There were some serious rock stars at this conference!  We could not possibly list them all, but Alessandra Leri,  Chella Quint, and Chris Bobel illustrate the diversity of the group…

Conventional tampons and pads are bleached with chlorine, and contain some unknown concentration or organocloride chemicals (some in the form of dioxins).  We got to hear Alessandra Leri, a chemist at Manhattan Marymount College talk about her latest work attempting to measure the toxicity of tampons.  With strong results, this research could be part of an attempt to get bleach out of tampons!

Chella Quint is a comedy writer, performer, artist, activist, zine editor, and health educator who lives in the UK.  She did a comedy show during lunch on Saturday which included:

  • A video of a girl walking around a mall with a huge period stain on her white jeans… plus everyones’ reactions.
  • A pitch for her Stain (TM) product line – stylish red patches in the shape of a stain that you can stick on the back of your pants.
  • And best of all, an educational song about the menstrual cycle, that she thinks would be ideal for Sesame Street.  We will have to ask her if we can share it here.  It’s seriously been stuck in my head for days.  She had the whole conference doing a sing-along.

Chris Bobel, a Women’s Studies professor at U Mass Boston, felt like the hostess of the event – she did a ton or work to organize, and was clearly in a state of bliss the entire time.   MORE

We met some menstruation education sisters!  M.A.R.C. (Menstration Activist Research Collective), was co-founded by two students at Arizona State University, Jaqueline J. Gonzalez and Stephanie Robinson.  They have their own version of an “educators packet,” and their own spin on a menstrual product workshop.  It was fascinating to attend their workshop on menstrual activism.

We have big crushes on two different organizations doing work with menstrual products in the developing world… and we got to meet representatives of both organizations at the conference!

  • Zana Africa is a non-profit working with local people to create business out of biodegradable, affordable cloth pads for women and girls. By making affordable sanitary pads, delivering health education, and informing policy, Zana Africa creates new opportunities for women and girls to thrive as focused students, productive workers, and informed mothers.

“The Problem: 65% of women and girls in Kenya cannot afford pads. This means that over 850,000 girls miss 6 weeks of school every year and women miss valuable work hours. The problem is worse across East Africa with 4 in 5 unable to afford pads. Reusable pads and rags are the alternatives, but can be unhygienic, leading to long-term health complications. They also cause embarrassing leaks. Girls would rather stay home than risk such humiliation.

The Solution: produce the lowest-cost, most eco-responsible sanitary pad in the world and to provide large-scale, cascading impact to women and intermediary partners through distribution. By 2020 Zana Africa will directly support 3 million girls and women with their pads, to sustainably win back 5 million school days, 2 million work hours and $1 million to reinvest in their families. They will equip 23,000 saleswomen to earn an additional $100/year.”

  • Sustainable Health Enterprises (SHE): helps local women in developing countries jump-start their own businesses to manufacture and distribute affordable, quality, and eco-friendly sanitary pads.  SHE  uses local raw materials, instead of  imported materials, to ensure affordability and accessibility.banana fiber  SHE will couple its product innovation with a financially sustainable business model operated and owned by women in the community that can be replicated wherever the need exists.  SHE will instigate the launch of a local business by
    • Partnering with existing local women’s networks;
    • Ensuring a microfinance loan for women who will share start-up costs;
    • Training local group in necessary business skills and health and hygiene.

Check out their promo video and join the SHE28Campaign!

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To say that we were inspired by this conference would be an understatement. The collective power, vision, and intelligence of this group of people sent us off feeling a charged excitement about this work, but also with questions of how Sustainable Cycles can be most effective. We are happy to continue giving away Educator’s Packets and resources to new Spokeswomen as we meet them, but we’ve decided that, for now at least, we’d like to focus on making more bike trips happen. Our goal is to support at least one trip per year.

This year we will be inviting women to apply to take a Sustainable Cycles bicycle trip. As we did with Rachel, we will supply educational materials, mentorship, use of the blog, and keep up the relationships with the cup companies. We see these trips with (at least) a two-fold benefit: bicycle touring allows you to meet people, start conversations, and give away cups to a wide demographic of people that would be very hard to find otherwise; and, these trips are a tremendous learning experience for the people taking them.

It’s a cheap, adventurous, and meaningful way to travel. Great for folks finishing up college. If you or someone you know might be interested, contact us for more information!

Sarah Konner: sskonner@gmail.com

Toni Craige: tonicraige@gmail.com

we are here. celebrate with us

after a rainy last day of the bicycle trip, we made it safely into manhattan, boxed up our bikes, and sent them back to california!! i don’t exactly know what to do with myself, now. but i know it involves shopping and cooking for the AWESOME events we’re having. see you there, and if not, spread the word.  also, i’m still looking for a bicycle-powered ice cream churner.  anyone?ImageWE DID IT.

Upcoming events:

Boston, Lost Flag, Help with the NYC Parties!!

I am in Owen’s Aunt’s kitchen in Charlestown in Boston. It rained on us the past couple of days coming in from Albany. But now we are dry, warm, well-fed, and happy.

Since New Hartford, we stayed in a place called Herkimer, NY with a couchsurfing host who contacted us! Her couchsurfing profile was pretty scant, but she said she’d been following our blogs since the beginning of the trip, that she’s a happy cup user, that she’d feed us delicious banana bread, and that she’d give up her bed for us. BUT, that we’d have to wait until she got off work at 9 pm. Sounds creepy, right?! Well, we had our escape route ready and the Walmart parking lot as plan B, but when she got off work and welcomed us home, she turned out to be AWESOME.

This woman is an undercover “menstrual cup evangelist”. Not only has she tried pretty much every menstrual cup on the US and European markets, she has convinced several of her friends and their sisters to use them. And, she stealthily drops these fliers in bathrooms sometimes. Oh yeah, and she makes some of the meanest banana bread I’ve ever eaten.Image

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At Earthdance, an awesome space in beautiful mountainous MA. We got to stay a night because Owen’s friend works there. But we had to work 2 hours for it, so we cooked dinner for them! Fine by me! It was so nice to be in a big kitchen stocked with everything imaginable. And I was presented with tall flowers from the garden.Image

In Boston, I got invited to a ‘chat ‘n chew’–a lovely evening of women and delicious soups. To get home, the hostess sent me off with the Boston Bike Map. And I left her with a DivaCup. Sadly, I lost my flag somewhere on Com Ave near Jamaica Plain…it just flew off. Call me if you find it! I’ll try to make another before NYC. Image

Now, WE NEED YOUR HELP! 

The NYC events are coming up, and that is exciting. If you don’t already know, Sustainable Cycles consists of Toni, Sarah, and I. Toni doesn’t live in NYC, Sarah is super busy, and I am in charge of food for the events. I need a kitchen and I need hands! Who can help? Also, if you have any food hookups (like produce, bulk goods, prepared food, bike-powered ice cream churner), talk to me! 310 963 6121

Here are the events:

Invite all friends and try really really hard to get there. ’cause lemme tell ya. It’s gonna be fun. WE’RE ALMOST THERE!

It’s raining in New Hartford

So Owen and I decided to stop by the library until it lets up.

Since Cleveland, Owen and I biked through Pennsylvania and into Buffalo where an AWESOME event took place. Burning Books Bookstore in Buffalo, NY is an incredible radical bookstore with a great community. They totally organized the event–all I had to do was show up. My favorite part was testing how much fluid fits in a sponge–it’s over an ounce! (I squeezed water from the sponge into a menstrual cup. Pretty cool demo.)

rachel_group buffaloAfter Buffalo, we biked along the Erie Canal trail and set up camp in a small town’s park pavilion. At about 10:30pm some young cops came and kicked us out. So we slept under this bridge. Only, at 1:30am, the rain storm hit and we got soaking wet, so we really didn’t sleep much at all. Oh yeah, I forgot to mention that I convinced Owen to send the tent home in Chicago because we’d only used it about 3 times. SO! That maybe wasn’t the best idea. In the morning, we just continued onward. Needless to say, I was quite grumpy.

bridgeHowever, our luck changed a little bit when we passed a woman gardening in her yard along the canal. I asked her for some water, she offered her bathroom, gave us apples, and asked if we needed anything else. “Well, do you happen to know anyone in Newark? We need a place to stay tonight…” Her husband made one phone call, and we had a home.

rachel_jennJenn Liese is Mama. This woman is one of those angel people. She has over 40 foster children out there in the world, and despite having at least 9 of her kids  (age 18+) sleeping in her 3 bed, 1 bath apartment, she took Owen and me in. As much spaghetti as we could eat, shower to scrub the bridge grime off, a whole room to ourselves, and plenty of kids to hang out with! And she also adopted us into her family. What’s amazing about her is that she doesn’t kick out her foster kids once they turn 18 and the check stops rolling in. She still loves them, feeds them, transports them, shelters them, etc, etc. Despite there being only 3 women in the house, and much to the boys’ shagrin, we had menstrual cup talk anyway! One daughter now has a cup to try.

rachel_sew rachel_flag 2013-07-16 10.44.47In Cleveland I made this flag. Can you come up with a better logo? Send it to us–we’d love to see!

rachel_thinkerI’ve been doing a lot of thinking on this trip. This Sustainable Cycles stuff is important work. I am totally pumped about it and would love to continue biking and holding discussions. Maybe bike from middle school to high school to elementary to university…I mean, the pad and tampon companies are in K-12, so why not have a more well-rounded menstrual education for young females?

Our plan now is to bike from Albany to Boston and then down into NY city. Do you know anyone in the area who would let us shower and crash on their floor? ’cause we’d love to do that! 310 963 6121 – Rachel’s cell

We’ll probably roll into NYC on Aug 1–look out for us!!

Upcoming events:

  • Aug 3, 2013: 3:30-6:30pm. Launchpad. 721 Franklin Ave Brooklyn, NY 11238
  • Aug 11, 2013: 7-9pm at Bluestockings Bookstore. 172 Allen Street New York, NY 10002

Sustainable Cycles Happenings in NYC- Welcome Rachel!

Rachel is finally in the state of New York and she’ll be arriving in Brooklyn in no time at all!

To celebrate, we’ve got two Sustainable Cycles events planned!

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Saturday, August 3rd, 3:30-6pm

Brooklyn LaunchPad, 721 Franklin Ave, BrooklynLaunchpad.org

Sunday, August 11th, 7-9pm

Bluestockings Bookstore, 172 Allen St., Bluestockings.com

Check out the Facebook events for more details:Facebook/Launchpad event and Facebook/Bluestockings Event 

Come to one or both! Bring friends! There will be food, stories, menstrual cups, and more!

I heard Rachel is even planning to have a bicycle-powered ice-cream churner making strawberry ice-cream! Can’t beat that!

Cleveland

Hi, all.

Owen and I are staying with his grandmother on the west side of Cleveland. The event in Oberlin went well–about 15 people attended! And, I decided to draw my blog post:

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We stayed at the George Jones Memorial Farm with an old high school friend just outside of Oberlin. They grow veggies for City Fresh, a CSA that feeds NE Ohio.

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Cousin Geoff helped weld a bracket for my safety flag in Chicago–safety first!

20130709-185018.jpgThe Burr Oak tree at Owen’s uncle’s farm in Pardeeville, Wisconsin. From Chicago, we got a ride to Wisconsin and spent the 4th of July with family.

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Then, we took the ferry across Lake Michigan to Muskegon, MI. And we started biking again from there!

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Ann Arbor was a great discussion. The people at Mich House (part of the Ann Arbor Student Co ops) were so hospitable! Shower, snacks, and a great time.

gayprideHeartland Gay Pride Parade in Omaha.

A few weeks ago, Sustainable Cycles got written up in the New York Village Voice. Read the article here.

People are overall stoked about this project as I continue along on this bike ride. I have given cups away at organized events and during random conversations with hosts and people on the street. Some have expressed interest in becoming ‘spokespeople’ for alternative menstruation, and one person wants to ride for Sustainable Cycles next summer!

Looking forward to heading into the city August 3–come on out, meet us at the border, and ride in with us! I’ll give specific time and place soon…

Upcoming events:

  • July 18, 2013: 7pm at Burning Books. 420 Connecticut Street Buffalo, NY 14213 (RSVP to the FB event)
  • Aug 3, 2013: 3:30-6:30pm. Launchpad. 721 Franklin Ave Brooklyn, NY 11238
  • Aug 11, 2013: 7-9pm at Bluestockings Bookstore. 172 Allen Street New York, NY 10002

Sandusky, Ohio

Hi from humid Ohio. As I have now thoroughly proven, updating the blog is hard for me!!

I am still not at a computer, but I will be when I get to Cleveland in a few days. Here are some sneak peak photos, and I will explain in further detail at said future point in time.

Exciting things are happening. Event planned in Oberlin and in Buffalo. And in NYC! Details to come.

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Omaha, Nebraska

Friends,

I sit in Chris’s childhood home in Omaha, Nebraska. (Chris is the lone biker we’ve been teamed up with since Baker, Nevada). Owen and I biked in yesterday from Lincoln, where we spent a couple of days with a friend of a friend. I held an event at the Indigo Bridge Book Store in a cool part of town. This event was attended by the highest number of male people so far–3! Image

We all circled up and passed around sponges, cups, and cloth pads. Two people were already cup users, but the rest were very new to the idea. 3 women left with new DivaCups to try! Image

Discussing female anatomy. It’s good to have different sexes in the event to give some perspective.

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An incredible man and incredible cook! Pepe of Pepe’s Bistro treated us to a delicious vegetarian meal just because he heard we were biking cross country. He helped to start the Lincoln Bicycle Kitchen, an awesome fix-it-yourself bike shop.

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A great place to go fix your bike! The Lincoln Bike Kitchen. We got to clean up and tune up for free, wahoo.

If all goes according to plan, we’ll be in Chicago in one week. You’ll hear from me then!