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By Lora O’Brien
Ladies, the patriarchy has taken over our periods! I mean, seriously – tons of plastic and cardboard packaging, plastic applicators and loads of chemicals in stuff that literally goes into one of the most sensitive areas of our bodies – would a woman have dreamt that up? (well actually, yes – the inventor of the OB tampon was a woman, but I digress).
The fact is that our periods are damaging not only the planet, but our own health, too. The average female goes through 12,000 sanitary items in her lifetime, which pile into landfill that pollute our soil and water, or get burned in incinerators, causing air pollution. And we absorb all the toxic bleach, pesticides, fragrances and other nasty chemicals contained by most menstrual products right into our bloodstreams every time we use them. It’s time to take the power over bodies back!
Luckily for us, the market is catering to those wanting to green up their period, and there’s a plethora of safe, non-toxic and environmentally friendly period products out there today. From silicone cups to reusable sanitary pads, here are 5 ways to have a greener period every month.
Looking to keep your period both healthy for your bod and the planet? Reusable pads are a great option, as you just wash, dry and reuse them every month. Gladrags and Lunapads are two popular brands that are both pretty to look at, but you know what? Given the info I’ve read recently about toxic fashion, I’m not so sure I trust their fabrics and dyes. I’d suggest going for the super-green option: that is, organic cotton or bamboo pads, instead.
One brand I’ve tried and trust is Hesta – they make pads in all kinds of sizes and absorbences, and they’re easy to use, thanks to little snaps that shut around your undies, and when you’re done, just pop them in the wash with your usual laundry. No plastic packaging is needed, no perfumes are added and they allow your lady parts to breathe naturally.
Best bit: Soft, sustainable and easy to use.
Worst bit: For each cycle, they recommend you’ll need at least 6 day pads, 1 night pad and 3 panty liners, so you’ll need to stock up.
Price: Around $39 for a pack of 3.
Menstrual cups have recently become a popular alternative to mainstream period products such as tampons and pads, but they can take some getting used to. You put it in like a tampon, more or less, and the little plastic-and-dye-free silicone cup collects (rather than absorbs) your menstrual flow. Brands such as The DivaCup offers up to 12 hours of leak-free protection, but this all depends on the size – if you’re over 30 or have had kids, this may not stay in place all that well. Luckily, these do come in different sizes, though – just be sure you get the right one for you.
Best bit: Small and easily re-used.
Worst bit: Kinda nasty to clean out, and they may leak a bit if not the proper fit.
Price: Around $25.
It came as a surprise to discover that there are just about as many kinds of period panties as there are underwear! Bikini cut, French cut, cotton, Spandex, you name it. Basically, these are undies with a built in pad that you need to wash every day. Be careful what you buy, though – some are meant to help absorb only a little liquid and act as a backup to your menstrual or sponge on heavier days, whilst others are more heavy duty and can take pretty much whatever you throw at them.
Best bit: Super easy to use! Just slip them on.
Worst bit: Again, you’ll need to buy more than 1 pair, as they take time to dry.
If you want to get all Paleo about your menstrual situation, you’ll be happy to know that these brainless, spineless sea sponge creatures have been used by women pretty much since the beginning of time to help their flow from making a public statement. This is about as natural as it gets, and of course, they’re 100% reusable and renewable. All you have do is wash it out before you pop it in. Sounds easy….but getting it out may be anything but. Why is there no string on these things?
On the plus side, these are one-size-fits-all products, and quite honestly, you won’t feel it in there at all. They’re so flexible and spongy, you can carry on as usual with virtually any activity and not know it’s there – and that includes sex.
When the sponge has come to the end of its useful life, (which is probably a very, very long time), just pop it in the compost. These give a whole new meaning to Spongepants Bob living in Bikini Bottom….
Best bit: You can wear these when you have sex – plus they’re very eco friendly.
Worst bit: Not easy to get out, not really really vegan friendly.
Price: Around $25 but you just need to buy it once.
5. Eco Tampons
It’s a scary fact that most mainstream tampon brands are loaded with so many chemicals like bleach, dioxins, perfumes, pesticides and fertilizers (from when the cotton was grown) that you can actually get Toxic Shock Syndrome if you leave a tampon in too long. And that white colour? When you consider a woman can use between 11-12,000 tampons over a lifetime, that’s around 6-7 years of intimate exposure to harsh chemicals – not to mention a whole pile of nasty, toxic rubbish. And did I mention that you’re exposed to the same chemicals if you use sanitary pads?
Luckily, there are a few brands now creating sanitary pads and napkins from organic cotton. For example, Freda makes organic, biodegradable tampons and sanitary pads without chlorine, synthetic, or oil-based pesticides. If you’re not into hitting the drugstore to buy your menstrual products every month, they also offer a door-to-door subscription service.
Best bit: Easy to use, super convenient.
Worst bit: The tampons and cotton pads may be biodegradable, there are definitely more eco-friendly options considering the plastic applicators and packaging are not yet environmentally friendly. It’s also a pretty pricey option.
Cost: From £6.99 a month for Freda; $15 for a pack of 18 Cora tampons