Ah periods, our dreaded time of month, when we have to go out to buy our pads or tampons, the painkillers and fill the kettle a million times for the hot water bottle.
Each month we have to buy period products to get us through the week, but a majority of those products are disposable and contain a lot of plastic, contributing to climate change.
We should all try to make a small step towards being more sustainable, and if it works for you, period products are one way to do that.
Why should I buy sustainable period products?
All period products contain plastic, with pads being made of up to 90% plastic.
According to Organi Cup, tampons, pads, panty liners and their packaging and wrapping produces more than 200,000 tonnes of waste per year.
The average person throws away 125 to 150kg of pads, tampons and applicators in their lifetime – this is roughly the same weight as a South African fur seal.
This is contributing to pollution and climate change, as a year’s worth of period products can have a carbon footprint of 5.3kg CO2 equivalents.
Reusable period products are a lot safer for the environment as you don’t need to dispose of them as often.
So let’s take a look at our options.
A menstrual cup is a small flexible cup made of silicone that you insert up there (like a tampon) and it catches and collects your period as you go about your day.
When you first look at a menstrual cup, they do look a bit intimidating. But, they have so many benefits both personally and environmentally.
Essentially, a menstrual cup is an eco-friendly alternative to a tampon, however, the cups hold blood rather than absorbing it, so you are at less of a risk of toxic shock syndrome (TSS). Nurse Shelley explains more on toxic shock syndrome in our Ask Shelley series.
In the long-term cups work out much cheaper as they are a once-off purchase that will last you for years. Not only does this save you money, it also contributes to less waste and CO2 emissions in the environment.
Depending on your flow, you can wear a cup for up to 12 hours, which is super handy for school or work, so you don’t have to keep going to the bathroom to change.
The switch between period products, especially from pads to tampons or menstrual cups, is something you might have a lot of questions about, so if you can talk to an adult about your options before changing over to ensure you keep yourself safe.
Reusable pads are exactly what they say on the tin! It is a pad, just like a regular cotton one, except you can wash these and wear them time and time again.
In your lifetime, you will throw out on average 11,000 pads or tampons with their packaging. This waste ends up in rivers and oceans causing a lot of pollution, so why not make the switch?
Eco Dreams, for example, make reusable pads and say that just one of their cloth pads replaces the waste of 500 disposable pads.
Eco Dreams and many other places make reusable, cloth pads with a variety of designs in different sizes to ensure you’re comfortable during your period.
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While they sound like high maintenance, you simply rinse them off and wash them in a mesh bag in the washing machine and hang them to dry.
Because of this you might need to buy a bulk of products to get you through your period, most companies sell pads in a multipack. Eco dreams explain that you can wear a higher absorbency to avoid changing them as often.
Most cloth pads don’t have wings, instead they clip together around your underwear making them more secure than a wing that could lose its stickiness.
There are loads on the market and the price really varies, but period underwear are simply a replacement for tampons or pads, that have built in absorbency.
Thinx underwear for example, can hold up to five regular tampons worth of blood without feeling bulky. Some people wear them with a menstrual cup, but others just use them on their own.
They even have a special range for tweens and teens, so you know they’ve got you in mind.
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They are breathable cotton that draws away wetness so they dry past, they neutralise any smells, so you feel fresh, and prevent leaks.
The only downside is that if your period lasts a few days, you’d need a part for every day. If you’re only starting out on your period underwear journey, perhaps use them on your last few days of your period, when it’s a little lighter, and see if you love them enough to get more pairs.
We can all do something to help save the environment, even if that is alternating between reusable and disposable period products to begin with! Having a sustainable period allows you to cut down on how much waste you’re producing each month, and who knows you might even find a new favourite product!
By Emily Clarke