Bloating, cramps, and ruined underwear are common period frustrations and often the first things that come to mind for women when they anticipate their monthly cycles approaching. What doesn’t commonly come to the forefront of our minds is the taxing environmental impact traditional menstrual products have on the planet. Most traditional menstrual products contribute to landfill and force women to bear the burden of this heavy carbon footprint.
It’s not really fair, is it? After all, our monthly cycles are a natural part of our existence and we shouldn’t be burdened by the guilt of simply getting through each month in managing them.
However, it does explain the need for more eco-friendly options, such as period panties and innovation within the industry to provide women with a wider array of environmentally conscious options.
The Facts on Waste During Your Menstrual Cycle
Small, easy changes can put you at the forefront in reducing waste and saving the planet. A period occurs almost 450 times in your lifetime as a woman.
Tampons are generally changed every 4 – 6 hours, adding up to 20 tampons over the course of your period. Moreover, sanitary concerns make it difficult to recycle plastic applicators.
Studies show that you’re likely to throw about 10,000 – 15,000 pads and tampons in your lifetime.
Additionally, manufacturers aren’t bound legally to list their ingredients on the product label. A single pad, according to the Women’s Environment Network, is made up of about 90% plastic (such as polypropylene, polyethene and polyester).
The amount of plastic used on a single pad translates to about 4 plastic bags, adding up to 44,000 bags of plastic waste per woman.
The waste, based on a Global Sustainability Institute research, ends up in oceans or gets washed up along the shores. They’re also disposed in landfills where they take half a century to 800 years to break down.
Moreover, according to another study by Marine Conservation Society, about 4.8 pads lie within 100 meters on the beach. That’s not a very pleasant though…
With the need to protect wildlife and the planet, every sustainable effort counts. This means that switching to sustainable sanitary solutions can go a long way in saving the planet for future generations.
How to Choose Eco-Friendly Sanitary Products
Various measures govern the selection of eco-friendly sanitary solutions on the market. They include:
- Antimicrobial technology that makes it easy for you to stay sanitary and healthy because hygiene matters.
- Reusability for use again and again.
- No harmful chemicals such as phthalates to protect your body and the environment.
- No plastics such as harmful polymers to keep you (down there) and the planet healthy.
- Reviews of the best fit, what works and the easiest products to use.
Here’re some products you can use to reduce the number of tampons, pads and panty-liners you dispose of every month to make your period eco-friendly:
7 Organic Solutions for Eco-Friendly Monthly Cycle
- Period underwear
Period panties are designed to hold up to 3 to 5 teaspoons of menstrual blood. They’re affordable, absorbent and washable. This means that a pair of period undies can replace several boxes of tampons, reducing plastic use associated with your monthly cycle.
Period pants are made from natural fibers such as bamboo, cotton and synthetic fibers. A super-absorbent material is used on the inner layer and cotton fabric on the top layer. A leak-resistant outer casing binds the two layers together.
The pants vary in size, cost, absorbency level, fit, and design. They’re washable after use and can last for about 2 years. Period underwear holds up to 4 tampons (20ml) blood capacity. They’re also versatile for heavy discharge and bladder leaks use.
You don’t have to replace your sanitary pads with period underwear in entirety. Instead, reduce them by a box or two annually to make a big difference.
Washable and reusable period panties can save you from using 20 tampons or pads every cycle, which adds up to 240 each year.
- Reusable menstrual disc
Menstrual discs are designed to collect blood. Unlike cups that require suction to hold onto the cervix and extend into the vaginal canal, discs sit at the base of your cervix, the vaginal fornix.
When comparing menstrual discs vs. cups, they’re both painless. However, discs are preferred to cups because you can have penetrative sex in them.
On the downside, discs are disposable and costly. Silicone discs were invented to reduce waste and offer similar benefits.
- Menstrual cups
Menstrual cups are reusable and thus sustainable. Simply use, dump and rinse to reuse your cup. Although silicone cups were linked to Toxic Shock Syndrome, studies have shown that they’re safe.
With lots of cups to choose from, there’s something for everyone. A single cup can last a few years of reuse, making them cost-effective. They’re a good way to save money in the long-term.
The cups were invented in the 1920s, but only became popular recently. This is unlike disposable tampons and pads that have enjoyed lots of popularity on over the years.
You’ll find lots of menstrual cup options on the market to choose from. Most brands such as Saalt fund education, menstrual health and sustainability initiatives. They also donate period care to poor girls around the world.
Made from natural rubber or a non-biodegradable polymer, medical grade silicone, menstrual cups are recyclable.
The cups create a vacuum around your cervix and have thrice the capacity of a disposal pad. Designed to empty every 12 hours and last up to a decade, the cups give value for your money.
- Reusable pads
Reusable pads, unlike their disposable counterparts, are flexible, thin and more absorbent. The cloth pads are eco-friendly and ethically-made to last 3 to 5 years of reuse. They replace hundreds of tampons and pads you’d use over many years.
Most manufacturers also support girls and women from poor countries to fight period poverty, apart from saving the environment. Manufacturers also create awareness about the amount of waste that results from using disposable pads.
Brands such as Mondays and Totm use organic cotton and eco-friendly cellulose to produce disposable pads. Old plastic bottles and natural bamboo are also used to make reusable pads.
The compostable pads feature green sticky backing such as corn-starch tear strips and vegetable gum glues. Poppers are used to fix the pads onto your underwear. The pads are washable after every use and can last about half a decade.
Reusable pads are also 40% cheaper than their disposable counterparts. The absorbable fabrics used on the pads are fast-wicking to keep you dry and comfortable.
- Organic, biodegradable pads
If you must use a disposable pad, opt for organic brands that offer more eco-friendly options. Organic pads are biodegradable and compostable because they’re made from plants.
- Organic tampons
These tampon strings are made from natural bamboo or organic cotton for composting after use. They’re made up of absorbent bodies and may feature a cardboard or sugarcane (plant-based) applicator.
Recyclable BPA-free plastic is used to wrap tampons without applicators. Organic tampon brands also set aside a percentage of their revenue to support women charities.
- Plastic-free applicators
When flashed down toilets, plastic tampons cause sewage problems. It also results in wildlife destruction, overflows into the ocean, and can cost millions.
You can fix your tampon without the plastic applicator (use your fingers) for sustainability.
Reusable applicators work with all kinds of tampons and can last at least a decade. Made from recyclable Mediprene material, they’re anti-microbial and anti-bacterial. The non-porous material doesn’t harbor bacteria, making the applicators safe.
You can easily rinse the applicators after use for reuse. Some brands offer subscription services for free organic tampons delivery to your doorstep.
More and more disposable pads end up in landfills and pollute oceans because they’re made from non-biodegradable materials. There’s need to adopt more eco-friendly monthly cycle solutions to reduce costs, improve health and protect the environment.
With lots of organic and safe sanitary options on the market, choose from organic tampons to period panties for increased sustainability.
Bio: Anna Williams is a health and wellness writer who has worked in aged cared for over a decade. Her passions lie in educating about women’s and senior health, as well as wholesome cooking and her 2 beloved pups.