As a teacher of interdependence (and codependence) I believe that while interdependence is based on respect, mutuality and self leadership, it is fundamentally about choice. In interdependence, I choose to involve myself in life and I choose to manifest my creativity rather than following the dictates of default living. Said another way, it is about attitude and taking leadership over my thoughts, feelings and behaviours so that my choices, however unique, mundane or significant, are based on healthy care of self and community. Even if economic, physical or social constraints make it impossible to choose when and where to live, work or play; each and every moment in life requires a response and it is up to me in how I answer. How do I choose to approach the work I must do; how do I relate to those I must deal with; and how do I decide what manner in which I will view life today?

Choice, however, has yet another side. I was in Abbotsford the other day with what I thought was an easy choice: I needed some “feminine protection”, and I am not talking pepper spray. Desperation made me enter the nearest store. My senses went on alert — it was the Real Canadian Superstore, that monolith of monstrous choice where aisle upon aisle holds every conceivable wish to suffice a hunger, cure a craving, tame a tangle and mask the scent of millions. I immediately got physically (and existentially) lost. Thankfully, I was not alone. My sister, a seasoned suburban traveler, was with me and, understanding the cues and mores of local culture steered me in the right direction. We strove past reams of Purex Soft and even softer Scotties Little Softies; snaked through towers of Cheerios and Lucky Charms and shivered our way through the frozen realms of Rocky Road and Delissio Pizza. Finally, slightly exhausted from maneuvering around carts laden with specially blessed products by Kraft and Sara Lee, we arrived at our destination: Feminine Hygiene. I stood transfixed, slightly in awe and touched with not a little fear. The choice seemed to exponentially grow before my eyes.

Pearl, compak pearl, flushable cardboard and plastic applicators, regular, unscented, scented(!); multipacks, colourful packs, and packs to hide in your purse; regular, super and supermax; and combinations thereof. And that was just the Tampax brand. My sister grabbed a coupon from the shelf, “here,” she said, “a dollar off!” My budgetary mind clicked in, yes, where? A pack of 40 is $8.99 but the coupon is only good with a pack of 12 at $4.99. Let’s see, $4.99 less a $1 is… but that means I still pay more than if I buy the pack of 40, wait, there’s a pack of 54 for $7.99, yes! No! They are not organic, go for the pack of 10 for $6.99… don’t toss your principles: spend more; buy less.

I stood there verging on panic as ethics tangled with need. The blue packages blurred into one massive landfill of used protection as my mind reeled in facts I hated to acknowledge: “In the United States alone,” according to The Chic Ecologist “an estimated 12 billion pads and 7 billion tampons are disposed of annually. Each of those tampons and pads has an environmental impact of the waste of not only the product itself, but the packaging, plastic or cardboard applicators, as well as the less visible costs of transportation and production.”

Then there are the dioxins produced by chlorine bleaching, rayon production (an added artificial fibre to increase absorbency) and, lest we forget, the marine devastation from flushing any of them down the toilet.

I slowly backed away until yet another reality stepped, or should I say seeped in. Principles would have to wait. I grabbed the package in my sister’s outstretched hand, re-traversed the long canyons of undesired consumption, threw the money at the cashier and raced down the long hallway towards the restroom. I sighed deeply. Relief, I was finally protected.

For those of you interested in another choice, one that bypasses plastic or cardboard applicators, and even organic and conventional cotton/rayon blends, check out menstrual cups (Keepers and Diva Cup), or washable pads such as Luna. None of them are as convenient as tampons or have as pretty packaging but I am glad to say, do much less environmental damage.

The bottom line? Choice comes with responsibility and interdependence is about responsible choice.

Jo-Ann Svensson teaches “Creative Codependence” and is a Certified ARC Health Practitioner.