Choose alternative products. Period.
For the last few weeks I chose to complete a “Zero Waste Challenge” which involved producing zero garbage for three weeks. Everything was going pretty smoothly − until I got my period. Apparently, recycling is the new glass ceiling.
If you’re interested in using some more sustainable products when you’re on your period, searching for an organic alternative to synthetic pad and tampon blends, or are simply just looking to try a new way to manage, here are a few reusable period products to keep in mind.
Reusable cloth pads
Much like conventional pads, reusable and washable cloth alternatives attach onto your underwear and need to be changed every few hours. But, instead of throwing them out after, you put them in the wash.
The Canadian, female-run company Lunapads currently makes a series of reusable products that come with two parts: a “pad” part that snaps onto your underwear, and a liner that is held within the pad. You don’t have to change both parts during the day, just the liner when you feel it is necessary, which you can keep in a waterproof storage bag until you have the chance to wash it.
Their cloth products come in a variety of sizes for different body types and flows, and are a good alternative for those who get irritation from disposable pads. Lunapads also runs a program called One4Her, which donates a set of reusable pads to young girls in Uganda for every product purchased. Many of these girls don’t have access to menstruation products and often end up missing school and falling behind when they have their periods.
Reusable pads are a bit more expensive (roughly $15 per pad, with liners) but if they’re taken care of, they can last for years (think about the hundreds of dollars you’ve already spent on products over the last few years).
A natural alternative to synthetic tampons, sea sponge tampons are made of actual sea sponges, from the sea, that have been harvested and bleached.
They need to be sanitized (usually with hot water and vinegar) after purchasing, but after that, with regular soap and water washing they can last up to six cycles. They are about the size of a dinner roll when purchased, but can easily be trimmed, and seeing as they’re sponges, they squish right up into a neat little tampon size.
Sea sponges can be purchased online or at health food stores, and can be left in for three to six hours, depending on the heaviness of your flow. Although it is organic, they do not reduce the risk of toxic shock syndrome, and they cannot be substituted with non-organic or coloured sponges.
Reusable menstrual cups
Another alternative to tampons, menstrual cups are made of medical-grade silicone, and instead of absorption, they work by catching the blood in a cup.
Menstrual cups are shaped like halved eggs and can be left in for up to 12 hours. Their simple design, which includes the silicone or rubber cup and a pull-tab for easy removal, comes in two different sizes, can last for years on end, and can reduce the risk of TSS.
They’re a bit larger than standard tampons or sea sponges, but inserting and removing them should be no more stressful than your first tampon experience.
Before and after use they should be thoroughly rinsed with water and detergent. It’s also best to insert the menstrual cup after washing it with warm water as it makes it more comfortable. This means you’ll likely need to wash it in public sinks at some point, but hey, do it in solidarity− it’s not exactly a secret that you get a period.
The Keeper Mooncup and the Diva Cup are two popular menstrual cups that can be purchased at select pharmacies or even health food stores.
Organic and chlorine-free tampons and pads
If you aren’t ready to get blood on your hands (sorry, I couldn’t resist) by washing reusable products, organic and chlorine-free tampons and pads are a more environmentally friendly option than most available disposable brands. They function the same way as conventional products, and can be found in health food stores.