This month we have something a little different and hopefully very useful – .We are delighted to have Jackie Bolen a self confessed tree-hugging friend of the Earth guest posting this month. When not working on Reusable Menstrual Cups (https://reusablemenstrualcup.com/), she can often be found paddling the rivers, on top of a mountain, or drinking coffee around Vancouver, Canada. Her hope is that one day, a menstrual cup or cloth pad will be found in the hands of every single menstruating person in the world.
I have few regrets in life, but this is one of them…
I didn’t realize that there were eco friendly period options until I was in my early 30’s. I honestly thought that my two choices were disposable pads or tampons. I’m not sure why I didn’t know this—maybe I was hanging around the wrong people, or maybe these products just weren’t as popular as they are now. Whatever the case, I’m happy that I made the switch, although I do regret all those wasted years (and money!). I’ll talk about what’s wrong with traditional feminine hygiene products and then offer a couple of eco-friendly alternatives for you to consider.
What’s Wrong with Disposable Pads and Tampons?
Pads and tampons are expensive. According to the Huffington Post, people spend an average of 13 Pounds on pads or tampons each month. This can add up to thousands over a lifetime. According to that same article, only 6% of people in the UK are using a menstrual cup. This means that 94% of people are using disposables. Estimates vary, but it’s thought that the average person produces 100-150 kg of waste during a lifetime from feminine hygiene products. These products, by their nature aren’t recyclable. 90% of disposable pads are non-biodegradable plastic, which will still be hanging around thousands of years from now. This isn’t a huge amount of waste when compared to other things, but it’s not ideal especially when considering that there are far less wasteful options.
The final reason why disposables aren’t great is because they sometimes contain trace amounts of pesticides and other toxic chemicals. Although not found in huge quantities, repeated exposure to these things is thought to potentially have some serious side effects. There aren’t a lot of studies related to this, nor is there much information from the manufacturing companies about what exactly is in their products.
Overall, disposable pads and tampons are expensive, and also not great for the environment or our health. Thankfully, there are some cheaper, healthier, eco-friendly period options.
Reusable Option #1: Menstrual Cups
As only 6% of menstruating people in the UK use menstrual cup, you may not know what they are. They are bell-shaped cylinders, usually made from medical grade silicone, and are designed to replace tampons. The best thing about them is that they’re reusable, and with proper care and cleaning, can last for 5-10 years. A menstrual cup is obviously much better for the environment than thousands of pads or tampons, particularly if you have a heavy and/or long flow. There’s more good news—menstrual cups can often be recycled, depending on where you live. Period cups cost around 20 pounds, which makes them slightly more expensive than disposable products in the short term. But when compared to the 13 pounds a month on disposables, you’ll be saving money in only a couple of months.
The final reason to consider making the switch to a menstrual cup is because they don’t contain chemicals and pesticides in them. Just be sure to get a top-quality menstrual cup that won’t degrade quickly and avoid the cheap ones from China. To date, there has only been one reported case of toxic shock syndrome related to menstrual cup usage, unlike with tampons where there are thousands of cases.
If you live in the UK, an excellent option is the Brighton based MoonCup. It’s one of the oldest, most established menstrual cup companies in the world. Shipping is free and you can order directly from their website here. You’ll be well on your way to an eco-friendly period!
Or, consider the Lena Cup. Although it’s relatively new, it’s quickly become one of the most popular menstrual cups. It has some of the best user reviews on Amazon, and it’s often a little bit cheaper than something like the MoonCup.
Reusable Option #2: Cloth Menstrual Pads
The next eco-friendly period option is cloth menstrual pads. They are similar to disposable pads, except that they’re reusable. You just have to wash them with your regular laundry. The best ones are stain resistant, or are made from dark fabric. Cloth pads cost around 5 pounds each, or you can make your own for cheaper. Like menstrual cups, they can last for 5-10 years and most people find that a set of 6 is enough to get through their period. Again, you’d be saving money by using reusable pads in only a couple of months when compared to disposables. Cloth menstrual pads can go a long way towards reducing waste going to the landfill, particularly of the plastic variety. They are made from natural materials like charcoal, bamboo and cotton so once thrown away, they’ll biodegrade. I’ve even heard of people burying cloth pads in their garden once they’re done with them! Finally, cloth pads don’t contain all the toxic chemicals and pesticides that the disposable ones do. Just be sure to wash them before use.
The best place to buy cloth pads is on Amazon. They have the full range of colours, styles and absorbency levels.
Ready to Make the Switch to Eco-Friendly Period Products?
Are you ready for some eco-friendly period awesome in your life? Congratulations! You’ll be joining an enlightened group of people who are excited that there is a better way to do periods. You’ll save thousands of dollars, produce a lot less plastic waste, and reduce your chemical load.
Small changes really do make a difference. Be part of the change.