How to have an eco-friendly period
Updated: Jul 1
From menstrual cups to re-useable tampon applicators, which will you choose to help reduce your carbon footprint?
By Aisling O'Connor
According to Friends of the Earth, most pads are 90% plastic, and tampons are at least 6% plastic, and that's not to mention the plastic packaging they come in. In an average cycle, you can expect to go through approximately 5 pads for a five-day cycle or 20 tampons, and personally I’d say it’s a bit more than this. Although everyone’s cycle is different; I need to change pads at least 3 times a day, usually more.
In short, there’s a lot of plastic in periods.
With every single piece of plastic ever made still on this earth in some shape or form; whether in landfill, the ocean, or micro-plastics in the air, you might be looking for a way to cut down on the large amounts of plastic in your period.
What eco-friendly menstrual products are there?:
Menstrual cups are arguably the most popular eco-friendly period product or at least the most well-known.
They are somewhat similar to tampons in that you have to insert them, except unlike tampons, they collect the blood rather than absorbing it.
You need to boil your cup before your cycle begins and then empty it several times a day and give it a rinse. Menstrual cups are said to last almost a lifetime. They’re usually made from silicone, which is still plastic, however, one piece of plastic forever is better for the environment than several single-use plastic pads and tampons over the course of your cycle.
Period underwear works like pads in the sense that it absorbs the blood. You simply wear period underwear instead of your regular undies, and it catches your flow. They can be worn as a safety precaution for those using pads and cups, or on their own.
Thinx are the most popular period underwear brand and say their undies can hold up to 4 regular tampons worth of blood, neutralizes smells, dries fast and they don’t leak.
Biodegradable pads & tampons
Standard pads and tampons are not biodegradable, or recyclable which is why they belong in general waste. Brands like Clemintine make pads and tampons from cotton, bamboo and corn starch.
Biodegradable pads and tampons work the same as regular pads and tampons. If you have a heavy flow, I would be worried about how well biodegradable pads work; sometimes the thin plastic layer at the bottom of a regular pad is the only thing preventing a leak so it might be hard to find pads absorbent enough.
These kinds of green period products work best if you put them in your compost bin, otherwise, it defeats the purpose of them.
Reusable pads can be a DIY job or bought from brands like Blooms and Nora, or Fluffy Bums. These are cloth pads and panty liners that can be washed and used over and over again.
These are ideal for at home, but you may run into some problems if you need to change your pad while out and have to find a way to bring the used one home.
Reusable tampon applicator
If you want to stick to regular tampons but are looking for a way to at least lowering the plastic in your period, then reusable tampon applicators are for you. Brands like Dame made applicators that can be used indefinitely and stored in a metal tin.
So, which green period product is the best?
It’s really a case of understanding your flow and what works best for you. For example, you might like the idea of wearing period underwear to bed which will be more comfortable than going to bed with a pad on, but use a period cup during the day. You can mix and match and wear a biodegradable tampon or period cup wth the period underwear or with a reusable pad if you have a heavy flow.
Thankfully there are a lot of options so there’s room to experiment and find something that works for you, that said, if none of these is suitable, that’s fine too!
What if you feel more comfortable sticking to traditional period products?
Periods are already an uncomfortable time of the month so if any of the eco-friendly period products aren’t right for you; then stick with what you are comfortable with. Some of us can’t use tampons, some need super mega maxi pads all week or can somehow get away with a panty liner; everyone’s body and cycle is different and that’s okay.
If you want to stick with traditional period products, but want to lower your consumption of single-use plastic overall, here’s what you can do instead:
● Switch to reusable coffee cups and water bottles
● Donate your old mascara wands to animal shelters such as Appalachian Wildlife Refuge as they use them to brush mites from small animals
● Make your own hair and face masks instead of buying the single-use ones
● Say no to single-use shopping bags
● If you can say no to plastic straws, then ask for your drinks with no straw or carry a reusable one
● Buy the chocolate you’re craving from brands like Seed & Bean, and Vego’s (white) chocolate which comes in biodegradable packaging and are vegan friendly too!