Last weekend, Pomona College launched its program to provide DivaCups to students at no cost through the Sustainability Office. This initiative, in partnership with Diva International Inc., is the first of its kind at the 5Cs.
DivaCups are reusable, bell-shaped cups that collect, but do not absorb, menstrual flow during a person’s period.
The initiative to provide this product began last year when one of the Pomona's former first-year representatives, Zemia Edmonson PO ‘20, suggested the school provide tampons and pads for free. Pomona's EcoReps, who serve as student ambassadors for programming in the Sustainability Office, wanted to provide a product that was more sustainable, said Sustainability Office member Abby Lewis PO '18.
“I think it’s so important that there is some form of accessible product and I think it is even more amazing to have DivaCups for the health benefits they provide and the sustainability part of it,” Lewis said.
Sophie Zivku, a representative for Diva International Inc., said the product is healthy for users because it's made of 100 percent medical grade silicone.
“It doesn’t contain any chemicals, plastics, or dyes,” she wrote in an email to TSL.
The Center for Marine Conservation reported that 170,000 tampon applicators were found floating along United States Coastal Areas in one year. Because the DivaCup can be reused each month, it reduces the amount of trace left behind. Even those who do not use a DivaCup will benefit, she said, since the product protects the health of the environment.
Alex Seidel PO '18 described the DivaCup as a “more sustainable, more practical, more cost-effective solution.”
As one of the Pomona College EcoReps, Seidel received a DivaCup as part of the pilot and has used it. The Reps presented the initiative to the first-year class and about 60 DivaCups were checked out of the office. After the Sustainability Festival last week, the total number of DivaCups handed out has increased to 250, Assistant Director of Sustainability Alexis Reyes wrote in an email to TSL.
Although sustainability was a key factor in choosing the product, affordability was an important factor in the partnership with Diva International, Inc., Seidel said.
By providing the product for free, Pomona is making it accessible to the entire student body, Lewis said.
“That up-front cost makes it kind of inaccessible, especially if you don’t know it’s gonna be something that you want to use because there is kind of that ‘ick’ factor to it,” Lewis said. “So it’s powerful the program that we have that is giving them out for free.”
Diva International Inc., places an emphasis on social sustainability and menstrual equity, Zivku wrote. The company has partnerships with organizations that provide their product to people in halfway houses and shelters.
“From the initiative that we’ve done at Pomona, what’s really exciting is that menstrual equity and access to menstrual care is provided for free to students, which is really important to us as an organization,” Zivku wrote. “But [it] is also really valuable to student life to not have concerns about paying for something like menstrual care.”
Lewis and Seidel have found that this initiative has started a much larger conversation about menstruation and bodily awareness on Pomona’s campus.
“I think most of us try and kind of hide it, that’s the culture, you don’t talk about menstruation, you don’t interact with it to the extent that you can avoid interacting with it,” Lewis said. “Menstruation was something I never talked about until I got involved in the program and I was advertising on class pages and all of the sudden I had people reaching out to me and asking me questions.”
Reyes wrote that the EcoReps and the Sustainability Office will continue to encourage these kinds of conversations. She wants the other 5Cs to consider a similar program and said members of the Sustainability Office at Pitzer College have already reached out.
“Hopefully, by being the first we can inspire other colleges to do same thing in the future,” Lewis said.