4 Eco-Friendly, Sustainable Feminine Hygiene Alternatives
By: Casha Doemland
To the half of the population that requires sanitary products to get through their day-to-day life, determining the right one for you can be tricky. For some, the go-to option for sanitary products is tampons and pads. Others might not even be aware as to what other choices are available to them beyond the feminine care aisle at CVS.
The only downfall that comes with this convenience is the amount of waste accumulated.
Over 45 billion feminine hygiene products are disposed of globally, resulting in 3.2 million kgs of waste every year. During an International Coastal Cleanup in 2013, volunteers picked up 27,938 tampons and applicators in a single day.
So, if you’re looking for some sustainable options that are great for you, your wallet and the environment, we’ve got you covered.
Made from durable, top quality, and often medical grade silicones, menstrual cups serve as an eco-friendly alternative to pads and tampons— they’ve even been around since the 1860s and 1870s, although the first modern cup was made with a flexible rubber invented in 1937 by Leona Chalmers. Now, DivaCup, MeLuna and MoonCup serve as leaders in the menstrual cup movement offering different sizes categorized by whether your cervix is high or low, or if you've given birth to a child or not.
The best part, the menstrual cups generally holds three times more than a regular tampon and can be washed, sanitized and reused for up to five years based on preference and how well you take care of it.
Just imagine how much money you are saving.
To those who aren't down for the menstrual cup or simply prefer to keep things external, reusable underwear is a great alternative. Thinx, a popular and well-known brand selling "the only period-proof underwear" has a great selection of styles from bikini and hipster to boxer brief and thong. Styles vary upon flow, with light days holding one tampon's worth of blood, all the way to heavy days which can hold up to two.
Thinx also uses a patented 4-layer technology made of moisture-wicking cotton, antimicrobial linger, super-absorbent fabric and a leak-resistant barrier. Simply use, rinse immediately after use, toss in a cold wash and hang to dry.
Another great brand to explore is LunaPads which has a removable insert you change throughout the day like you would any tampon or pad that works with a variety of styles and flows.
The only downside of this option is finding the time and privacy to ring your bloody underwear in the sink if you’re working a long day or aren’t at home.
Unlike most pads made with plastic, artificial fragrances, and potential chemical gels, cloth pads are made of just that—100% cloth.
GladRags have a day and night collection, and they recommend a change every 2-6 hours. All of the pads have snap wings that perfectly fit around the gusset of your underwear, and they even give you a tote if you're on the go.
Equipped with a leak-proof panel and a removable absorbent insert to match the flow of your day, LunaPads are made of regular or organic cotton.
Charlie Banana Feminine Pads are from the same OG company who brought you cloth diapers. Their pads are easy to wash, super absorbent and work great even while you're exercising!
At first, the $100 - $200 investment may seem steep, but after a year, you'll start realizing the amount of money you're saving as cloth pads have a long shelf life (varies based on the individual due to the discoloration over time).
If you'd like to crunch numbers, let's say you buy a pack of tampons and pads every month, that's an average of $9 each or $18 for both. Over the course of a year, you're looking at $216 – which ends up directly in the trash.
If you cannot find it in you to rid yourself of the convenience of a tampon, companies are currently making moves to create a reusable applicator.
Dame launched a Kickstarter campaign earlier this year to fund D, a reusable applicator built by UK medical engineers with a self-cleaning technology, so all you have to do throughout the day is wipe, rinse and go.
A storage tin and travel wallet are also available, and all of their tampons are made with sustainable organic cotton, free of bleach, rayon and pesticides. To sweeten the deal, they're even biodegradable and leave no trace.
Another company dipping their toes into the reusable applicator world is Thinx with re.t.a. Unfortunately, it is not yet available in the US, but you can be placed on a waitlist. Just like Dame, they offer 100% organic tampons with no weird chemicals.
LA-based and Georgia-bred, Casha Doemland spends her days crafting poetry and freelance writing. Over the last two years, she’s been published in a variety of publications and zines around the world. When she’s not nerding out with words, you can catch her watching a classic film, trekking around the globe or hanging out with a four-pound Pomeranian.