For years, I’ve used feminine hygiene products without giving much thought to the waste I was creating or the impact of the products I was using on my health. An average woman can be expected to use and discard up to 14,000 pads or tampons in her lifetime. Let that sink in for a moment.
Not only does that create an unnecessary amount of waste, but the toxic ingredients like Dioxin in many pads and tampons have been found to be carcinogenic and endocrine-disrupting. Do you really want to be placing these harmful chemicals inside or touching the most intimate parts of your body?
More and more, it is being shown how chemicals we absorb from these bleached white tampons and pads filled with toxins can negatively affect our fertility and also contribute to autoimmune disorders, not to mention the possibility of toxic shock syndrome from tampons. Exposure to these risks is disconcerting, to say the least; and I wish I had done my research into the products I was using years ago.
But at least now that I have learned about safer and less wasteful options, I can start using them and sharing about their benefits with others. Here are 5 eco-friendly feminine care options that will help you get through your periods with less waste, and without the use of toxic products.
Eco-friendly Feminine Care Options
These are silicone or rubber-based cups that create a seal once inserted and can hold a few ounces of menstrual flow, which is more than tampons can hold. They can be worn for up to 12 hours and usually cost in the range of $25-$45 depending on which brand you choose–they can last for up to 10 years with proper care.
Make sure to read the instructions before using, as most will suggest boiling the cup in hot water before first use in order to make sure it is sanitary. The most popular brand that appears from an informal poll of my friends has been Diva Cup, but I’ve also heard good things about the Dot Cup.They provide one cup to a person in need for each one you buy, which I love.
Other eco-friendly feminine care options with good reviews are the Flex Cup, Organicup, Lunette, and Lena Cup. One other option to note is the Ziggy Cup, which appears to be the only reusable cup that can be worn during sex. The biggest pros for the menstrual cup seem to be how long you can wear them without risk of toxic shock syndrome, the comfort and lack of leakage, and the cost savings.
Cons I’ve heard are difficulty getting them inserted and the fact that they can be a little messy to insert and remove, especially if you’re in a public restroom. A brand you may want to consider if you’re not sure if a reusable menstrual cup will work for you – Softdisc. These are disposable and cost about half what a reusable menstrual cup does.
If you’re someone who gravitates more to using pads rather than tampons or menstrual cups, there are several options I have used in this category that I like. The first is LOLA, which offers a subscription service to deliver the pads to you each month. From their website, LOLA’s ultra-thin pads with wings contain three ingredients: 100% organic cotton, a plant-based backing, and a non-toxic adhesive.
LOLA pads are free of pesticides, synthetic fibers, dyes, toxins, latex, formaldehyde, and fragrances. Another company I have used and like is Rael. They also offer organic pads, tampons and panty liners with a subscription service, and have period underwear as well. A brand that is great for anyone with sensitivities is Organyc, as they offer hypo-allergenic pads.
This is an option that may not be appealing for everyone, but if you’re willing to give it a try, they can save you a lot of money on disposable products and also prevent a lot of waste from filling landfills! Thinx is probably the most well-known brand, and they claim to absorb up to 2 tampons’ worth of flow. At around $35 for one pair, it is an investment that some use as a back up when wearing cups or tampons–some wear them alone on light flow days.
Thinx period underwear is made of moisture-wicking cotton that is super-absorbent and odor neutralizing. Another option is from Modibodi which is made from a combination of bamboo, merino wool, and microfiber. All period underwear is designed to be rinsed after use, washed and hung to air dry. Some brands come with washable inserts for heavier flow days.
Depending on how heavy your flow is and how many days it lasts, it seems most people would need at least 2-3 pairs of these to get through a cycle. This could be a good investment if you are able to use them to replace other period products or even replace liners on light days.
A similar iteration to period underwear, there are many brands now offering reusable cloth pads, like GladRags and Lunapads. These still need to be changed out about as often as you would change a traditional disposable pad, so you would need to buy a set of them if using them for a full cycle. They are made to be rinsed, then washed in a regular washing machine.
A note of caution – they should be washed in natural detergent and without bleach as that can ruin the snaps and natural fibers. You could buy just a few to start to determine if it’s something you want to use long term. At anywhere from $10-25 depending on which type you buy, these can be a little pricey to start, but with proper care, they are advertised as being able to last up to 10 years!
Though the tampon itself obviously can’t be reusable, there are two companies that have created reusable applicators, thus helping to reduce waste: Dame and Thinx. Dame is based in the UK, and Thinx in the US. Cora, LOLA, Rael and many other brands offer organic tampons, both with and without applicators, depending on your preference.
It definitely helps to reduce waste and be more sustainable to either use the reusable applicator biodegradable cardboard applicator from a company like Natracare or TOTM, or the applicator free tampons. So just keep that in mind as you make your choices. A nice one-stop shop for organic pads, organic tampons, and menstrual cups is the Tampon Tribe. You can customize delivery of their products and they are committed to being plastic free and completely compostable!
One product that I did some research on and wanted to like is the sea sponge (used as a replacement for tampons). They did seem to be useful for some women, but when I found out they weren’t regulated by the FDA and could potentially contain dirt and particles that could break off inside you, I knew sea sponges would never be something I would be comfortable trying or recommending.
Some women with higher cervix also noted the sponge got stuck inside them and they couldn’t remove it without the assistance of a doctor. I just wanted to touch on this so you’ll be aware of the potential risks before buying or using a sea sponge.
Discussing your cycle can sometimes be an embarrassing or taboo topic for some, but I would encourage you to be intentional about working to change that. Start the discussion with your friends and loved ones about how important it is to switch to safer and more sustainable products for your period, while helping the planet at the same time. I know it might be a little overwhelming to determine which of these options will work best for you and your cycle, but with a little experimentation and an open mind, I hope you will find something that is safer for you and better for the environment.
Have you tried any of these eco-friendly feminine care alternatives? What have your experiences been like?
Learn more about toxin-free, zero waste toiletries, cosmetics and skin care through reading this post.
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A big thank you, to my very first guest poster, Emily Adams from The Planking Traveler, for providing us with such an informative article. Find out more about Emily and her work below!
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Emily is a nutrition and movement coach certified by The Institute for Integrative Nutrition who has made it her goal to plank in every continent. After struggling with serious health issues for several years, she learned the importance of embracing healthy living both at home and on her travels. She started her blog, The Planking Traveler as a way to share her passion for wellness with others and inspire you to embrace enjoyable movement and optimal nutrition as a sustainable lifestyle instead of just a temporary fix to lose weight. Follow along with her healthy adventures on Facebook and Instagram.