Get ready because we're talking about periods today! Cramps, acne, headaches, bloating... some of the many parts of womanhood we wish we didn't have to deal with. And it doesn't help that stigma around periods is still alive and well. New York State only recently began banning the Pink Tax and requiring public schools to provide free menstrual products. These are steps in the right direction and we can do our part by making sure we are informed about period care options!
If you didn't already know, I'm sorry to break it to you, but most feminine products are not sustainable. Menstrual care products and their wrapping actually produce more than 200,000 tons of waste a year! So why is that bad? Plastic-filled pads and tampons make up a large part of the contaminants in the environment. The chemicals in unsustainable fem products get soaked into the ground as they sit in landfills. These chemicals are then released into the air and groundwater, creating pollution. On the contrary, sustainable feminine care products have a significantly smaller carbon footprint.
In addition to being kinder to the planet, sustainable feminine products are often the healthier option! Since the Food and Drug Administration considers period care products to be medical devices, companies are not required to list ingredients on their packaging. However, New York became the first state to require ingredient disclosure on menstrual product packaging just last year(thanks to assembly member Linda B. Rosenthal)! Most popular period care brands' pads and tampons contain toxic chemicals like dioxins, chlorine, synthetic fragrances, and pesticide residues. I know, right?! We would never purposely put these things in our body so why are they in our period care items? Keep reading for some alternatives whose ingredients won't make you squirm!
Reusable products are generally the most sustainable option and period care is no exception. In addition to being better for the planet, they're much more cost effective. Here are some great reusable feminine care items that will have the Earth and your wallet thanking you:
Menstrual cups have risen in popularity over the last few years, and for good reason! They are a great alternative to traditional period care products, as they can replace years of waste from tampons and pads with plastic applicators and linings. In Fact, one menstrual cup can last up to 10 years with proper care! Menstrual cups can be worn for up to 12 hours so they'll spare you a few trips to the bathroom too!
Aren't convinced to switch to menstrual cups yet? What if I told you they could save you a ton of money? Most women will spend about $6,360 on disposable period products in their lifetime. However, a woman will only need about 4 menstrual cups throughout her menstruating years, so at an average of $25 a cup, that's only $100!
Reusable Pads and Period Panties
Like all sustainable products, reusable pads and period underwear reduce pollution and waste from production, to distribution, to post-consumerism. They will also save you money in the long-run as you will only need to purchase new ones every 6-12 months.
In addition to their environmental and financial benefits, research suggests that, if properly cared for, reusable pads and period underwear may be better for your health, as they are typically made with materials like organic cotton, hemp, and bamboo. These natural fibers reduce skin irritation and risk of possible health issues, like hormone disruption, that are present with pads containing artificial chemicals. Some women even claim to experience less cramps when they use cloth period products.
Reusable Tampon Applicators
The newest addition to sustainable period care products are reusable tampon applicators. They eliminate waste typically created from disposable plastic tampon applicators and individual wrappers. They are also said to last for life, so they only require a one-time purchase. Most reusable applicators fit multiple applicator-free tampon sizes so one applicator is all you need!
This one from Dame is award-winning and self sanitizing!
The FDA-cleared re.t.a from Thinx is also a popular one!
Organic Tampons and Pads
Between disposable plastic tampon applicators and pads which are typically about 90% plastic, period care products can be detrimental to the environment. And as we learned earlier, the toxic chemicals in these products can negatively impact our health as well. By eliminating toxic chemicals and using materials like organic cotton and natural bamboo, feminine care brands have been able to make healthier and more sustainable disposable options. So let's support these companies that are looking out for the health of their customers and the Earth!
There are so many great brands out there! Here are some favorites:
I hope at least one of these alternatives to mainstream fem care products has inspired you to take steps toward a more sustainable period! And spread the word! I think it's our duty to help out our fellow WOman, and maybe even normalize talking about menstruation while we're at it.
I want to acknowledging that not all women are so fortunate to have access to period care. In some underdeveloped areas, girls are forced to miss school due to their menstrual cycle, and poor feminine hygiene sometimes leads to serious health risks like reproductive issues. Organizations like Global Citizen, Bloody Good Period, and Hey Girls are great resources to learn more about period poverty and find out how you can help.
Thank you for reading!