Sustainable & Safer Menstrual Products
Each period we have can be a reminder of our connection to nature’s cycles and the earth. Over the course of a lifetime, menstruators may experience 500 periods and, if they use pads or tampons, go through 11,000 of them over the years! By choosing more sustainable menstrual products, we can honor both our own health and our relationship with the environment.
Mainstream menstrual products often contain plastics, synthetic fibers, pesticide residues, dyes, and even artificial fragrances. Trace amounts of dioxin--a known carcinogen and hormone disruptor linked to endometriosis--has been found in tampons. These products come into contact with the most sensitive and absorbent tissues of our bodies, so transitioning to reusable and chemical free products has become a top priority for many menstruators.
Period products also have impacts on the environment, with billions of non-biodegradable disposable pads, tampons, and their plastic wrappers being thrown or flushed away each year. Plastic tampon applicators (even tampons themselves) are often found in beaches and waterways.
Fortunately there are many products available today that are better for both our health and the environment.
Reusable menstrual products are gentler on our bodies and reduce waste too. They’re good for years of use and within a few months of use, become a much more affordable option than disposables.
Washable Cloth Pads
Cloth pads are typically made of cotton and worn just like disposable pads with wings that hold them in place. They range in size and thickness and some even have a pocket for layers for multiple absorbency needs. Cloth pads are available at several retailers and the internet is also full of tutorials on making your own too.
Period underwear are used in place of or as a backup to tampons and pads and can absorb up to 2 tampons worth of blood. After use, rinse them in cold water and wash them with the rest of your laundry. Hanging them to dry will help them to last longer. Look for brands that have certified their underwear as being free of PFAS, a carcinogenic chemical used in waterproofing products. Several options are available with a range of absorbencies and sizes, including teen sizing.
These are flexible cups that are inserted into the vagina to collect menstrual fluid. After 6-12 hours of use, they are emptied into the toilet and either wiped clean or washed before being reinserted. Cups typically come in two sizes based on whether the user has given birth vaginally, but some companies offer more options, including smaller sizes for teen menstruators. When choosing a cup, be sure to look for medical grade silicone.
Not Ready for Reusables Yet?
If you’re not yet ready for reusables or saving up to invest in them, here are some guidelines for choosing safer, more sustainable pads and tampons:
Look for 100% organic cotton pads and tampons to avoid exposure to synthetic fibers and chemicals. When organic products aren’t accessible, look for chlorine-free cotton. One of many brands leading the way is Natracare, the first company to offer organic cotton products.
Choose applicator-free tampons to reduce plastic or cardboard waste. These tampons are typically inserted using a finger. For those who prefer to use applicators, DAME makes a reusable applicator.
To learn more or to get involved in the movement for making period products more accessible and safer for people and the planet, follow Women’s Voices for the Earth and their Detox the Box campaign.