City to Sea
City to Sea is an environmental, not-for-profit organisation campaigning to stop plastic pollution–from the city to our seas. The vision is for the world’s waterways and coastlines to be strewn with sticks, sand and seaweed … not plastic!
Can you give us an overview of City to Sea and what it is you do?
City to Sea runs award-winning campaigns to tackle the single-use plastic items found most commonly on our beaches and in our oceans. We provide practical, solutions-focused initiatives for individuals, communities, businesses and government and advocate for reuse over single-use.
I’m the campaign coordinator for Plastic Free Periods and before I joined City to Sea I worked in marine conservation and education. Through creative content and partnerships I work to empower menstruators of all ages to make positive product choices, to raise awareness of the benefits of reusable menstrual products and to reduce the amount of plastic being flushed down the toilet!
City to Sea started a campaign for Plastic Free Periods 2 years ago. What was the motivation and how did it come about?
Our first campaign – Switch the Stick – began when our founder Natalie Fee did a beach clean along the river Avon and found hundreds of cotton buds washed up. After some investigation the early City to Sea team realised that these were ending up along our riverbanks and beaches because people were flushing them down the loo! After successfully campaigning to get 7 major retailers to switch their own-brand cotton buds to paper sticks, we found out that the same problem was occurring with flushed period products. Although sadly our beaches are littered with tampon applicators and pads, it seemed that no one was talking about it. City to Sea has always approached difficult subjects with playfulness and fun so we felt like we were in a position to start the conversation
Moving forward you will be putting more pressure on supermarkets to stock a wider range of plastic-free period products. How are you doing this? And why do you think it’s important to target supermarkets?
This year we ran a survey to find out how British people manage their periods. We found that nearly half of British menstruators buy their period products in the supermarket and that the main barrier for those who havn’t switched to plastic-free options was the lack of availability of those items where they shop.
After some investigation we found that 3 of the 9 major UK retailors don’t stock a single plastic-free period products, and of those that do none stock the full range (plastic-free disposables, period pants, washable pads, menstrual cups, reusable applicators).
With 86% of the British public worried about the impact of plastic pollution, why aren’t they being given adequate choice when it comes to what they are putting in/ close to their bodies every month!? We think that wherever you live, wherever you shop you should be able to go plastic-free with your period.
To tell retailers that we want more plastic-free period products on their shelves, we’re asking the public to submit photos or videos of what plastic-free period products they find in their local supermarkets, using the hashtag a #BloodySuccess if they find what they’re after, or a #BloodyShame if they don’t.
People can find more info and a sample video HERE
We read that you have also launched a school’s program to help schools update their period education, and in turn empower and educate young people on the choices available to them and their environmental impact. The subject of periods can be embarrassing and scary for many, as well as an unwanted financial expense each month.
What do you think are the impacts of those things to young people and what difference do you think the school’s program can make?
Isn’t it crazy that at any given moment 800 million people are menstruating, and yet 48% of people with periods in the UK still feel embarrassment about their periods!? This roots in centuries old misunderstandings around menstruation, which have only been worsened by advertisements created by mainstream period brands.
Misinformation and secrecy means that one quarter of menstruators don’t know what they’re meant to do when they start their period. Add the fact that period products are far from cheap (and are still subject to a ‘luxury items’ tax) and we end up with young people missing school and disposing of their products in ways that are bad for our planet.
Our unbiased education program wants teachers, students and parents alike to Rethink Periods. We’re providing free training for 600 teachers across England to deliver education that empowers young people with the facts and encourages open discussion about menstruation and its social and environmental context. We’re providing each school with a free resources box packed full of disposable products and reusable products so that students can see the full range of products available to them.
It’s a little known fact that those who choose to use reusables can save up to 94% of what they would have spent on disposable products over their lifetime, tackling period poverty and pollution hand in hand!
What you are doing is incredibly important, so from all of us here at WWW HQ we want to say Thank You!
For anyone who wants to get involved or support your campaign what can they do?
We would love people to join in our campaign calling on retailers to provide people with more choice when it comes to our periods.
Just go into your local supermarket, snap a pic or video of what period products are available and upload it to social media. Be sure to tag the supermarket, us (@citytosea_) and whether it’s a #BloodySuccess because you found plastic-free products or a #BloodyShame because the retailer needs to up its game!
We partnered with film director duo Lucy Hawes and Jo Guthrie to create ‘Turning Tides’ – a short film which highlights our deep and vital connection with the ocean through punchy visuals of global coastlines and female surfers, and a soundscape composed entirely of recordings made from plastic pollution.
Watch the 2 minute film below.