We vagina-owners have a lot to worry about when we’re on our periods.
Lower back pain.
Bleeding through our clothes.
Seriously, we have more than enough to worry about. However, if we want to get more serious about being sustainable, we’ve got to think about just one more thing when we’re on our periods: how can we reduce our waste? If we want to be more responsible Earth inhabitants, we’ve got to change the way we approach our periods.
I have to admit, I never really thought about how much waste I produced on my period until about last year. I started to really become more informed and conscious about sustainability in general (sorry, I’m late!). When my period rolled around, I started noticing a lot.
As primarily a tampon user, I began to realize how much waste came along with tampons. First, you have the cardboard box they all come in. Then, you have the paper pamphlet inside with the instructions (who needs ‘em) and scary TSS info. Then you have the applicator for the tampon — plastic or cardboard — and the tampon itself. If I decided to throw on a pantyliner for extra measure, there’s the box they come in, the liners’ individual wrappers, and then the liner itself.
I realized I was throwing out a lot, over and over again. It’s not like having your period is a one-time thing. It’s a monthly occurrence of bleeding for 3-5 days on average for about 40 years of life… fun.
It’s actually kind of scary to think about how many tampons someone goes through in a lifetime. Studies have shown women use anywhere from 11 to 30 tampons each cycle. That amount adds up to a lifetime usage of roughly 14,000 tampons (!!!)
It’s estimated that period-havers throw away 250 to 350 pounds of wrappers, tampons, applicators and pads in their lifetime. That’s a lot of trash.
The scariest part? It can take centuries — yes, centuries — to decompose pads and tampons made with plastic. We’re talking 500+ years here.
We can’t help it that we have periods, and we can’t necessarily just stop having them, but we can be more educated about the products we use and more aware of the amount of waste we create when we’re menstruating. Even making little changes can make a big difference in the long run.
Here are some four options for more sustainable periods:
Biodegradable Bamboo Pads
In the ideal microbiological environment, these pads will break down in about 180 days, a great far cry away from the 500 years it takes to break down a more traditional menstrual care product. Additionally, growing bamboo requires less water than growing cotton, so it’s more sustainable in that way, too!
By switching to this option, you won’t be skimping on protection. In fact, bamboo is actually 15% more absorbent than typical cotton and plastic pads. Plus, it’s super soft!
Organic Cotton Tampons
Ditch the tampons with mysterious ingredients and spring for ones made out of organic cotton. Cotton without added synthetic fibers is more eco-friendly, and not to mention, more friendly to your vagina!
The law doesn’t require tampon brands to fully disclose what is in their tampons, even potentially harmful ones. Isn’t that crazy? There are no surprise ingredients here, just 100% cotton.
If you want to go the next step and be even more eco-friendly, try out our tampons without applicators for less waste. While you might be used to tampons with applicators, it’s possible to get the hang of applicator-free insertion.
Yep, there are panties made specially for absorbing menstrual blood. There are a few options on the market, but the fan favorite and industry leader is THINX. They’re washable reusable panties made with moisture-wicking fabric and a super absorbent inner layer, so you’ll feel fresh and dry. Certain styles can hold up to two tampons worth of blood, allowing you to be worry free all day.
If this isn’t your style, you can use period panties as a panty liner alternative when you want some backup protection against leaks, or simply on your light days. This strategy can help you eliminate some single-use product waste. Throw the panties in the wash (yes, they’re machine washable!) and wear them again and again.
Many activists completely eliminate single-use products by making the switch to a cup. It’s not for everyone, but there are some really great benefits. First, of course, you’re doing away with single-use disposable products. Reusable menstrual cups usually last a whole year if you take care of them properly.
Regardless of how heavy or light your period is, you can wear a DivaCup for up to about 12 hours, considerably longer than the average tampon wear time of 4-8 hours. Cups can easily accommodate heavy flows and are leak-free when inserted correctly.
After removing a cup, you empty it and rinse it before reinserting. One of the most popular cup brands is DivaCup, which has three different size models.
Small Changes, Big Impact
Remember, making any of these changes — even if they seem like little changes — makes a big difference. Use your next period as an opportunity to be more eco-friendly. Aunt Flow’s sister Mother Earth with thank you.
Download Our Free Guide to Sustainable Living.
From reducing waste to recycling and upcycling, our e-book shows simple ways to make choices you can feel good about.