How to Be a More Eco Friendly Menstruator
Updated: Aug 9, 2019
It’s no surprise that the constant consumption and disposing of menstrual products is not ideal for the environment. The average menstruator uses roughly 220-240 disposable menstrual products a year, and considering that around half of the global population experiences menstruation, this number really adds up. Taking into account that one pad can take between 500-800 years to decompose, this build up of menstrual products is just sitting in our landfills and garbage dumps. Fortunately, there are ways to decrease your carbon footprint as a menstruator; here’s a list of five ways to limit your use of disposable period products.
1 - Menstrual Cups
Menstrual cups have gained popularity over the past 10 years; more people are finding their longer lifetimes and cleanliness more convenient and better fits for how they handle their cycles. A menstrual cup (also known as Diva Cup) is a small cup, generally made of silicon, that is inserted into the vaginal canal to catch period blood. Unlike a pad or tampon, which are made of single use cotton to absorb flow, menstrual cups can be used many times, and for some brands, if cleaned and treated properly, one can last up to 10 years (great for your wallet). A major improvement from a single use product, right? In addition to being better for the environment, menstrual cups are more healthy for your body; pads and tampons are often made with toxic chemicals, which, when coming in contact with your body can alter the pH balance of your vagina, causing toxic shock syndrome and other potentially problematic chemicals transmitted into the body and emitted into the environment. As menstrual cups are made of silicon, there are no chemicals transmitted into your body or emitted to the environment for that matter! There is a wide variety of brands and types of menstrual cup, and they are available online and at most super-stores like Target and Walmart. By switching to menstrual cups, you can greatly decrease the amount of waste you produce as a menstruator; if you are looking for more information on menstrual cups and their benefits on both your health and environmental health, here are a few resources:
From Head to Toe - Menstrual Cups ← How to use menstrual cups
Put A Cup In It ← General info on menstrual cups
2 - Cloth Pads
Cloth pads are similar to regular pads with one obvious difference, they are made of cloth. If you are a pad fan, this might be the option for you! Just like disposable pads, you put them in your underwear and change them once they are full, with cloth pads, however, instead of throwing them away, you can wash them. This limits the amount of waste you produce and is an option if you don’t like the idea of internal menstrual products. You can get varying levels of absorbency just like with disposable pads and even cute patterns if that appeals to you! Cloth pads are available online and are now becoming more commonplace in stores like Target and Walmart.
3 - Period Panties
Similar to cloth pads, period panties are underwear with absorbent lining that holds period blood until they need to be changed. Just like cloth pads, these are good for people who prefer pads and external period products. They come in a wide range of styles, absorbencies, and sizes and can be washed just like regular underwear after a preliminary rinse. Thinx is one of the fore-running period underwear brands; they offer a large variety of styles and absorbances for all body types, are incredibly period-positive, and run almost entirely by menstruators for menstruators. The most absorbent type claims to hold up to two tampons’ worth of flow, so period panties can be used on their own or in conjunction with other products like menstrual cups or cloth pads. They are especially helpful for the last few days of your period when your flow is lightest to eliminate end-of-cycle spotting waste.
4 - Organic Pads and Tampons
Organic pads and tampons are effectively the same as regular pads and tampons with one major difference: they are organic. Since they are organic, these products don’t contain dangerous chemicals like regular pads and tampons do, so they are better for both you and the environment. Despite being single-use, they can biodegrade faster and do not transfer chemicals into the environment. These are a good option if you aren’t super comfortable with a major product change and are willing to spend a little more for a healthier product. You can generally find organic products in the same aisle as the other period products at the stores you shop at.
5 - Sea Sponges
A sea sponge? Really? I know, I was surprised when I read about this one too. If you are a tampon person and interested in trying a softer and more eco friendly option, this might be the way to go for you. Sea sponges are ocean organisms that grow in colonies, similar to coral. Basically, they are a replacement for a tampon or menstrual cup and are a softer and biodegradable alternative product. They are sustainably harvested by divers and are entirely safe to use as a menstrual product. Like a menstrual cup, they are multi-use and can last up to six months with proper care. These are unfortunately less commonplace but can be found online with a quick google search.
Clearly, there is a wide array of alternative period products to be used to reduce waste from single-use pads and tampons. There are a multitude of options and combinations to that can be used for all comfort levels. If you are not 100% sure about a product, you can always use it in conjunction with another you are comfortable with. For example, if you wanted to try using cloth pads but weren’t sure about their absorbency, you could use one in combination with a tampon to get a sense for whether or not it will work for you. To be clear, the most important factor in deciding the menstrual products you use is your own comfort. It is obviously important to consider the environmental impact of your practices and lifestyle; however, if you are not ready to use a different kind of product, that’s completely alright. How you chose to manage your period is up to you and it is important that you are comfortable with what you are putting inside (or outside) your body.
Thanks for reading! Feel free to leave comment, reactions, and questions, I’d love to hear what you have to say!