Eco-Friendly Menstrual Products
Originally Published: August 7, 2017
Revised: April 15, 2022
Twelve months a year, three to five days a month, with four tampons a day—the thought of all the plastic, paper and cotton I used and quickly threw out is almost more horrific than watching a Vagisil commercial with my grandpa. I didn’t even know I had other options until I stumbled upon an ad for menstrual cups. At first, the idea seemed, well, gross. Putting a two-inch medical grade silicone cup in my vagina sounded a bit too up-close and personal for my taste. It wasn’t until I started thinking about how environmentally and economically wasteful I found tampons that I really did my research on reusable menstrual products. With products like menstrual cups, Thinx underwear and reusable cloth pads, I had more eco-friendly options than I ever expected.
We try to dispose of our period blood so that other people don’t have to see it, but used menstrual products end up in landfills and washing up on the shoreline
Rather than buy a box of tampons each month, I grab my cup from the cabinet. Once I’ve inserted it, I can forget about it for twelve hours during my regular flow or eight hours on a heavy day. Unlike tampons, menstrual cups do not absorb any fluid, they just catch it, so they don’t alter the normal pH balance of your vagina, which helps maintain a healthy balance of yeast and bacteria. This makes them more comfortable and surprisingly reduces odor.
Clara, 18, from New York City, uses menstrual cups “because [they don’t] produce any waste. Menstrual cups are easy to use, super comfortable and very convenient!” Even after several hours, she doesn’t have to worry “about changing or fixing anything.” One perk of menstrual cups that Clara likes is “seeing exactly how much blood [she is] shedding” so that she can be more aware of her average flow.
Ranging from $20 to $40 a pop and lasting for potentially up to several years (although you should always check the brand’s website and keep an eye on your cup for any signs of cracks or holes), menstrual cups save you hundreds of dollars in the long run since you only need to buy one at a time. You can use warm water and a mild, unscented water-based (oil-free) soap to clean your menstrual cup after each use and sterilize it between periods with boiling water. Many pharmacies and stores like Target carry menstrual cups, so they are not as hard to find as you might think.
Jade, 19, also from New York City, says that when she tells people about reusable products, “Sometimes they’re grossed out by thinking that they would have to touch their own blood.” But, she also says that reusable products have gotten her more in touch with her body and the natural cycles of her period. Jade “primarily uses the Lunette, which is a brand of reusable menstrual cup, and then will use reusable pads and pantiliners (Lunapads) as backup” in case of leaking on heavier days.
Reusable Pads & Period Panties
Speaking of reusable pads, they are a great alternative if you don’t want to insert anything into your vagina during your period. Made in fabrics like cotton or bamboo fleece, reusable pads come in all sizes, textures and colors. They are soft and built for easy clean up: rinse in cold water and pop them in the wash.
Similarly, period underwear are a popular member of the reusable menstrual product family. Able to absorb multiple tampons’ worth of blood and made from anti-microbial, moisture-wicking and leak-proof fabrics, they keep you feeling dry and comfortable. They also mean fewer tampons and less pollution!
We try to dispose of our period blood so that other people don’t have to see it, but used menstrual products end up in landfills and washing up on the shoreline. It is difficult enough to handle the stigma and taboo of periods, but by facing the environmental impact of disposable menstrual products, I’ve been able to talk more openly about menstruation. I’ve realized that my blood isn’t gross and I’d been afraid of facing something that is completely normal and natural.
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