Combining Biking With Menstruation Education

by Bronwyn Isaac

The ideal marriage is between two complementary but very different partners. This is exactly what Sarah Konner and Toni Craig did when they married their love of biking adventures and menstrual education and birthed Sustainable Cycles, a 501(c)3 nonprofit that promotes eco-friendly menstrual options. Perhaps the most famous of these period products that are largely considered good (or at least better) for the environment are the reusable menstrual cups — though they are not the only ones featured in Sustainable Cycles work.

Sustainable Cycles first launched in 2011, when Konner and Craig decided to design a curriculum that presents people with methods to make their periods more sustainable by promoting reusable menstrual products through educational workshops. The two women were friends who shared a background in dance, as well as a love of biking and environmentalism, so they decided to collaborate on eco-friendly menstruation education.

Now, Sustainable Cycles has grown from beyond Konner and Craig. Since their launch in 2011, the women from Sustainable Cycles have traversed over 30 states and biked over 16,000 miles — and they intend to keep the momentum going. They currently have a fundraiser for their 2017 campaign in April, where team members will bike to the Society for Menstrual Cycle Research Conference in Atlanta. On this tour, they plan to host their menstrual education workshops while also advocating for safe bike lanes.

Ruby Gertz, a New-York-based member of the team, spoke to Bustle about life on the open road, biking for menstruation education.

"When you're traveling across the country on a bike it's unusual, it's a conversation starter," she says. The biking aspect showcases the environmentalist values (no driving, flying, or other pollutant-releasing travel) while drawing women into the fray.

People are more interested in talking to you if you've done something eccentric and out of the box.

But also, the mere spectacle of a bike tour draws interest from locals wherever they tour, according to Gertz. "People meet us and they're like 'Oh, what are you doing?' It provides a way to connect with people and start the conversation," she says. "People are more interested in talking to you if you've done something eccentric and out of the box."

Sustainable Cycles/Ruby Gertz

The group also hosts workshops in the cities they bike through along the way, and they plan to host a dozen on their upcoming tour.

"We host two-hour workshops. All of the educational materials were prepared by Toni and Sarah when they did their first tour, and all of them are downloadable at the Sustainable Cycles website," Gertz explains.

The group tries to make their educational material as accessible as possible. "Anybody can host a workshop if they want," Gertz says. "For the next tour, we are hosting over a dozen workshops."

Sustainable Cycles/Ruby Gertz

While one of the goals of Sustainable Cycles is to educate people about more environmentally friendly menstruation, Gertz stresses that the intention of the project is not to pressure people to change their menstrual products. Rather, it is to create an atmosphere in which people can explore all of the available options.

That monetary barrier is a big thing for women who aren't sure they wan to commit.

For one, Gertz understands why people are taken aback by the initial cost of switching to some of the eco-friendly products, like reusable cups.

"One of the biggest barriers is the up-start cost, usually it's a $30-$40 investment to first get a cup," she explains. "That monetary barrier is a big thing for women who aren't sure they want to commit. One of the biggest obstacles is convincing women to try it, even though you save money in the long term."

It's empowering that it forces you to get to know your body better while you're using them."

Gertz notes, though, that Sustainable Cycles is actually in the fortunate position of giving out free cups, thanks to donations from different groups.

Sustainable Cycles/Ruby Gertz

Another challenge that Gertz has observed in educating women about reusable cups is the shyness people have toward their own bodies. "When it comes to actual use, I think that some women are put off by the idea of touching themselves in the way required to insert a cup," she says, but notes, "it's not going to get stuck inside of you."

In fact, Gertz believes "it's empowering that it forces you to get to know your body better while you're using them."

Sustainable Cycles/Ruby Gertz

"Overall, the response has been really positive. We're not trying to force our enthusiasm on everyone," says Gertz.

Moreover, Gertz stresses that Sustainable Cycles presents other options other than diva cups.

"It's also important to recognize that people do have different comfort levels with their bodies," Gertz says. "We also bring cloth pads and sea sponges that are also sustainable and intimidate people less."

Sustainable Cycles/Ruby Gertz

For Gertz and Sustainable Cycles, it is critical that making people feel comfortable goes hand in hand with their advocacy. "People's bodies are different," Gertz says. "If you have different developmental issues, there are sustainable options as well with pads."