As consumers choose to educate themselves and source products that are easy on the environment (and easier on the pocket in the long-term), reusable, eco-friendly and biodegradable sanitary products are on the rise. There is ample opportunity to move with fresh brands towards an organic and green approach, reducing your period footprint and decreasing the environmental impact of a natural bodily cycle. The average store-stocked sanitary pad contains 90% plastic, the equivalent of 4 single-use carrier bags, meaning a pack of 16 actually equates to 64 single-use bags. They are usually made from a combination of plastic, rayon, bleach and other chemicals. Tampons that can’t biodegrade often contain a thin layer of plastic along with a non-recyclable plastic applicator.
According to household brand Lil-Lets’ website, the average woman uses 11 thousand tampons in her lifetime, which equals 5500 plastic bags. 20 billion disposable menstrual products end up in North American landfills alone. Thankfully, there is now an abundance of sustainable and reusable feminine sanitary products widely available in stores or online. Natracare plastic-free, vegan products are stocked in The Health Store nationwide. These innovative products are often identical in purpose and application to the plastic alternatives, so there is something to suit everybody.
Menstrual cups come in various shapes and sizes, produced by numerous brands including OrganiCup, DivaCup, Lunette and Mooncup. Unlike tampons, they contain no bleach or harmful substances, as well as being waste-free! Sitting inside the vagina, just below the cervix, menstrual cups can provide up to twelve hours wear, depending on your cycle. They can hold up to five times more than pads and tampons. There are plenty of step-by-step guides online, and similar to tampons they can be used when swimming. Cleaning is easy; a quick rinse with hot soapy water and a cleanser if it comes with the product, boiling it for a more thorough cleanse. On average, they are replaced once a year, but with proper care and cleaning a menstrual cup can last over a decade.
Period underwear is a more expensive option, especially considering the potential need to purchase multiple sets. However, they are comfortable, discreet and long-lasting, with brands such as Thinx and Rael creating new styles to reshape the horrid imagery instantly brought to mind at the thought of period underwear. They can hold up to four tampons worth of menstrual fluid. If the leap is too frightening, cloth pads and pantiliners are a satisfactory alternative. There are endless colours, patterns and sizes available, sourced on Etsy or through brands GladRags, Tree Hugger and LunaPads, to name a few. Worn throughout the day for as long as you feel comfortable, simply hand or machine wash, minus chemical and bleach products. Gentle on the planet, comfortable and noninvasive. Brand Flo has natural bamboo pads, packaged in compostable plant film, while Organyc 100% biodegradable pads are targeted toward sensitive, allergy-prone skin.
DAME has created a lifelong 92% plant-based reusable tampon applicator to coincide with their organic tampons, similar to o.b. 100% organic, fragrance-free tampons available on Amazon. Washable sea sponge tampons are as the name suggests, available in various shapes and sizes. The Flex Company created a flexible disc for vaginal insertion, worn for up to twelve hours and holding five tampons worth of fluid. It’s hypoallergenic, BPA and latex-free, creating 60% less waste than tampons.
More brands are emerging, intent on lessening the unnecessary environmental impact of human biology. Many have websites and social media elaborating further on their duty to reducing carbon footprints, guides on their products, customer reviews and tips as well as more information. Some options may appear costly at first glance, but with one box of pads costing around five euro, the savings made both personally and environmentally are priceless. Behind a multitude of brands lies a powerful message. From the movement to eliminate menstrual shame through destigmatization (The Miosta Project another worthy mention) to financial schemes aimed at tackling period poverty and ending FGM, the benefits to this product switchover are immense.
Photo by Josefin on Unsplash
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