Eco-Friendly Menstrual Products

An illustration of assorted reusable period products. Illustration by Gabrielle Campbell.

In the United States, twelve billion pads and seven billion tampons get disposed of every year. On average, one menstruator throws away 8,000 to 17,000 tampons in one lifetime. Because of all this, many menstruators are looking for more environmentally-friendly period products. “The main benefit to sustainable period products is that they create less waste and reduce single-use plastics,” says co-president of Franklin’s Period Club, Annabelle Poncet (11).

Menstrual Cups:
Menstrual cups are made of medical-grade silicone and collect menstrual blood as opposed to absorbing it like tampons. They are made to last at least two years, and many people can wait up to twenty years before needing to replace them. This means someone would need only five cups throughout their lifetime, as opposed to thousands of tampons. Also, cups can hold two to three times the amount of blood a large tampon can. They last eight to twelve hours before needing to change them, compared to a tampon that needs to be changed every four to eight hours. 

Many people have reservations towards the menstrual cup. Poncet says that menstruators might be afraid to switch to the menstrual cup because “it’s foreign to them and a relatively big thing to experiment with.” She also cites fear of leaking as another reason why people don’t use menstrual cups. Although the menstrual cup is much bigger than a tampon, their flexible silicon can make them as comfortable as tampons. If you are looking to buy a menstrual cup, some good brands include Diva Cup, Lunette, Lena, Lily Cup, and OrganiCup. There are many other brands so it’s recommended to do some research to find which cup is best for you.

Reusable Pads / Liners:

Reusable pads and underwear liners are made of absorbent cloth and snap into the underwear as opposed to using adhesive. They are made to last at least five years and can be used for upwards of ten years without needing to replace them. Cloth pads are generally more comfortable than disposable ones, due to the breathability and quality of the fabric. There are also ways to make cloth pads and liners at home, and there are many tutorials online. Cloth pads often come in colorful patterns, unlike disposable pads.

Despite what some think, cloth pads and liners are very sanitary. All you need to do to clean them is rinse them out after use and wash them in the washing machine along with any clothes that need to be washed. Reusable pads and underwear liners are just as sanitary as their disposable counterparts, eliminating stigma around these products. Some good cloth pad brands are GladRags, Heart Felt, Sckoon, LunaPads, and Tree Hugger. 

Period Underwear:

Period underwear has a built-in gusset that collects the blood. Because of this, people don’t need to wear a pad when wearing period underwear. They are less bulky and more comfortable than pads and are a good backup for tampons or cups. The gusset is usually made of breathable polyester and often holds a similar amount of blood (or more) than disposable pads.

People often have similar reservations against period underwear as they do against reusable pads, saying they are unsanitary. As long as you rinse out the underwear right after use and run them through a washing machine, they are just as sanitary as disposable pads. Good period underwear brands are Thinx, BamBody, ModiBodi, and Rael.

Other Options

If you don’t want to give up disposable products, there are other options to make your period more eco-friendly. Organic pads and tampons don’t have any plastics in them, unlike their non-organic counterparts, which makes them better for the environment. Some organic pads and tampons are also biodegradable, although you should make sure to research before you throw them in the compost. There are also tampons without applicators, reducing plastic waste.

There are many ways to reduce waste created during your period. Whether you want to switch fully to a reusable product like menstrual cups or cloth pads or to applicator-less and organic tampons, it is possible to lower the plastics and garbage produced from your period.

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