When it comes to finding ways to reduce our consumption and reduce waste, period products probably aren’t the first to come into mind. But let’s face it, periods cause a lot of waste. I’m talking a lot a lot. According to “Flow: The Cultural History of Menstruation”, the average person with a menstrual cycle disposes of 250-300 pounds of pads, tampons, and applicators during their lifetime.
Most of these products won’t even begin to biodegrade for years (if at all!). To add to this, most of our period products contain chemicals that then seep into the soil in and around landfills, further harming our earth.
Periods are just something that many of us have to live with. There’s no denying that there’s still a lot that needs to be done regarding affordable (or free) access to period products and care. But for those who are able to, trading in your traditional period products for more sustainable and waste-free alternatives can help make our planet cleaner.
Choose organic and plastic-free products
One of the easiest ways to reduce waste and opt for a more sustainable period is to choose organic and non-plastic pads, panty liners, and tampons.
Most period products are unfortunately made with non-organic cotton, rayon, and a mix of other synthetic materials. They can also include toxins such as Dioxin, which is a byproduct of the chlorine bleaching process used to make the wood and cotton pulp look clean and white. Dioxins are present in conventional and non-organic pads and tampons and are known to cause cancer.
On top of opting for organic cotton over non-organic cotton, there are also period products that come packaged in paper rather than plastic. Take Daye tampons, for example, their packaging is 100% biodegradable and consists of “bio-based recyclable sugarcane applicators, and water-soluble paper wrappers”.
When it comes to tampons, you can even forgo the applicator altogether! I know that it sounds daunting to insert a tampon without the help of your handy-dandy applicator, but I promise, after a few uses sans applicator, you’ll forget why you ever thought you needed one in the first place!
To add to this, organic period products are also not more expensive than conventional products. You heard that right! It’s a misconception that organic products are overpriced and too expensive for the average person to afford, but this often isn’t the case. As with everything, there are more expensive and luxurious options that normally cost a bit more, but even when it comes to period products, I promise that your local grocery store or pharmacy carries an organic and/or plastic-free period product option that fits right in your budget.
It’s also important to consider that even if the products do indeed cost a few extra pennies (because when it comes down to each tampon/pad/panter liner, the monetary difference from organic vs. non-organic really is pennies if anything), it’s still worth it considering that these products come into direct contact with your a very sensitive part of your body (not to mention the organic and plastic-free options help to protect the environment, wildlife, farmers, and more).
Want to take your sustainable period even further? How about going zero waste and opting for a menstrual cup. Most cups on the market are made with medical-grade silicone and are tiny, flexible, and easy insertable options that fit nicely within your vagina for up to 12 hours.
Menstrual cups come in several different sizes depending on your flow, just like tampons and pads. And what’s more, some menstrual cups can even hold more blood than a super plus cotton tampon. That means fewer worries and fewer bathroom visits!
It might be strange to imagine not throwing away your period product after usage, but don’t fret! Cleaning your menstrual cup doesn’t have to be daunting, in fact it’s quite easy. Once it’s time to empty your cup (at least 2X per day), simply remove the cup and empty the blood into the toilet or a nearby sink. Then, rinse it out with clean water and use a mild, oil-free, fragrance-free soap (no harsh chemicals and perfumes should be coming into contact with your nether regions!) to give it a quick clean.
Just like tampons and pads, menstrual cups come in all different shapes and sizes. It may take you some time and research to find exactly which brand and which size will fit your flow and your vagina the best.
Not every period is treated the same. Some of us opt for tampons and some prefer panty liners and pads. All is okay, no judgement here!
So just as there is a zero-waste insertion option, you better believe that there is a zero-waste panty option. Let me introduce you to period panties!
Period panties are washable and reusable and a headache-free option for caring for your periods. Now if this is the first time you’re hearing about period panties you may be picturing bulky, high coverage panties but I promise that they’re much more chic. Many brands offer panties that come in several different sizes, styles, colors (I’ve even seen zebra printed ones before…) and levels of absorbency. Some of our favorite brands are Thinxx and Moodz.
Are you someone who has a heavy flow and likes to layer your protection? Don’t worry! You can still enjoy a zero-waste period by using menstrual cups and period panties (for those occasional leaks and that extra level of security!).