Easy on your pocket money and the environment.
From farming to the fashion industry, everybody’s going green.
It seems like every day something that once promised to be a game-changer is revealed to have negative effects on our bodies (looking at you, charcoal mask), or worse yet, is found to be toxic (who thought vaginal glitter capsules were a good idea, seriously?), propelling us onward and upward in our quest to live cleaner, more sustainable lifestyles.
The latest area to go green? Menstrual products.
While our humble tampons and pads may look like innocent white puffs of cotton, there’s more to them than meets the eye – like perfumes and plastic. But with all of the advice from gynecologists about things we definitely shouldn’t be putting into our vaginas, is our monthly Tampax usage really a cause for concern?
The official FDA stance is that tampons and pads are safe, but there clearly needs to be a bit more research to prove this point; after all, do we really know what we’re putting against our vulvas every 28 days when we rip that adhesive strip back on our pads?
One thing we’re sure of, is that a woman will use around 11,000 sanitary products in her lifetime, which is a hell of a lot, multiplied by the mass of women around the world, all throwing out products that take literally ages to degrade. And besides filling up landfills, cotton is also an infamous dirty crop that requires a huge amount of pesticides.
So if all of the above sits as uncomfortably with you as that bulky commercial pad in your panties does; take note. There are a handful of savvy companies disrupting the menstrual product industry with safe, eco-friendly alternatives that can be reused for months, or even years, which means they also come with the added benefit of costing way less than your monthly pad supply, and lighten the load on the environment. Winning.
1. Period underwear
What it is: A similar idea to pads, but way more comfortable with zero leakage, period underwear provides built-in protection.
The concept is similar to traditional pads, minus the need to insert something into your panties. Your protection is your panties. They come with a snug fitting, padded layer you can bleed straight into, accidental-leakage-anxiety-free. Gone are the days of the saggy diaper look. Period underwear has had a serious makeover in the past couple of years and is now available in different styles, from boyleg to thong, which you can select from, depending on the flow of your period.
There’s some new technology behind these panties, too, like an antibacterial layer and moisture-wicking, so you don’t smell or feel like you’re sitting in a puddle of blood. Halle-freaking-lujah.
When you want to change into a fresh pair, simply rinse the used set and toss in the laundry. Note: do avoid fabric softener when washing, as it can slowly break down the moisture wicking element of the underwear.
2. Menstrual Cups
What it is: A menstrual cup is a nonabsorbent bell-shaped cup you fold and insert into your vagina. Once inside, it will gently reopen and catch all of your period without leaking out the sides. They’re usually made of flexible silicone, so you don’t feel them once properly inserted.
The idea does take some getting used to, but most women become converts once they’ve worn a menstrual cup. A big benefit? You typically only need to empty it a couple of times a day, which can be done morning and night, in the shower.
But the best part really is this; you only need to buy one once. That’s the real eco benefit.
3. Sea Sponges
What it is: Yes, we’re talking about the real oceanic creature here. Don’t freak out, they’re actually softer and more comfortable than tampons, although they aren’t exactly a vegan-friendly alternative. Sponges are harvested, cleaned, and dried ready for use.
To use, lightly wet with water, squash, and insert just like a tampon. Perhaps one of the most appealing features of using a sea sponge is the fact they conform to your unique body shape in a way a rigid tampon never will. Simply give a little tug to remove it, rinse and thoroughly clean in the sink, wring it out, and then reinsert. When your sponge is at the end of its lifespan, its also compostable, making it the most hippy alternative to pads and tampons.
The downside is sea sponges do need to be regularly changed like tampons, which obviously isn’t that simple when you’re out and about for the day. (Wringing out a bloody sponge in a public bathroom is never particularly ideal.) And while they’ll keep you squeaky clean during wear, removing one can be on the messier side.
Our faves: Jade and Pearl.
4. Organic Cloth Pads
What it is: If you’re a little freaked out by the idea of a cup or sponge, but still want to make an eco-friendly move, you can stay in your comfort zone with a pad, but invest in a selection of organic cotton, reusable, cloth pads. They’ve been described as pajamas for your underwear, which sounds pretty soft and dreamy, no?
Instead of adhering to your panties with an adhesive sticker like disposable pads, reusable cotton pads typically come with button-up ‘wings’ that clip and hold in place, covering your underwear. They do feel slightly more bulky than disposable pads, but the fabric is soft, breathable, and comes in an assortment of prints and hues. Perks, right? Really the only downside here is that they add to your laundry pile.
Images via Modibodi, Moon Cup, Got A Girl Crush.com.
Comment: What alternatives to tampons and pads have you tried and loved?