If your periods are as hellish as mine can be, then you probably spend more time worrying about managing cramps, mood swings, bloating, and blood stains than you do about finding ways to make your period more sustainable. I totally get that, because I do the exact same thing. Even though I know how disconcerting the stats are on the environmental impact of periods, (the average woman will throw away between 10,000 and 15,000 pads and tampons in her lifetime), I have yet to switch from regular old tampons with plastic applicators to the wide array of eco-friendly period products available to me.
But after learning that over 20 billion used menstrual products end up in landfills on a yearly basis here in North America, I’ve finally decided that my next splurge purchase is going to be on a pair of THINX period panties — and you might want to consider making a similar switch. Yes, it may see like a hassle to try alternative menstrual products when you’ve probably been using the same trusty, inexpensive pads and/or tampons since you were 12 — but spending a little extra cash to make your period more sustainable will cut down on unnecessary waste — and it’ll save you money in the long run.
You should probably do your research, though, because not all environmentally-friendly period products are the same. For starters, check out these five ways to make your period more sustainable.
1. Switch To Organic Pads & Tampons
If you want your period to be a more eco-friendly experience, but splurging on period panties and/or menstrual cups just isn't an option for you right now (though it will save you money in the long-run), then maybe you should start off your period revolution by switching to organic pads and tampons. Yes, you'll still be creating waste, but you'll still be making a difference, too. Unlike most major brands, feminine hygiene companies like Maxim and Natracare use only 100 percent organic, chlorine-free cotton. Both of these companies participate in fewer environmentally harmful manufacturing processes, too — so not only can you feel better about what you're putting inside of/on your vagina, you can feel better about how your period products are being produced as well.
So even if you do decide to invest in some THINX period panties or The Diva Cup, you might still want to consider keeping some Maxim products at work and/or in your car — because no matter how regular your cycle typically is, sometimes periods are downright sneaky.
2. Give Period Panties A Shot
OK, so I've never actually tried period panties before, but they sound like a damn dream for us menstruating folks. I was skeptical when they first came out, because free-bleeding on a pair of $30 underwear just didn't sound like a great way to spend my money or time, but every article I've read about THINX period panties describes them as super comfortable and perfectly hygienic. Moreover, THINX is an incredibly ethical, feminist company that provides jobs for both Western and Non-Western women. They also donate a portion of their profits to the charity AFRIpads, which trains women in making and selling washable pads so that girls don't have to skip school when they get their periods.
THINX isn't your only option for period panties, though. Dear Kate and Be Girl have some gorgeous period panties to choose from as well. Both companies are run with women in mind, too. Dear Kate's team is totally female, and if you buy a pair of period panties from Be Girl, they'll ship another one to a girl in a developing country.
3. Invest In A Menstrual Cup
You've no doubt heard all about menstrual cups by now, but let's talk about them anyway, shall we? Menstrual cups cost about $30, but they're probably the most environmentally-friendly period product out there. While some sources suggest replacing them once a year, others say they can last up to 10 years. (That will only happen if you take really good care of them, though.) Either way, menstrual cups take the gold when it comes to sustainability — because whether you chose to replace yours annually or not, you'd be significantly reducing the amount of tampons and pads that end up landfills, and you don't have to put them in the washing machine. Evidently, menstrual cups are great for lazy girls, too; they don't need to be changed more than a few times a day, and you can safely wear them overnight.
4. Consider Subscribing To Cora
If tampons are your menstrual hygiene product of choice, and you can afford to spend between nine and 18 dollars a month on your period, then you might want to look into subscribing to Cora. Founded by Molly Hayward and Morgan Newman, Cora is all about de-stigmatizing periods and providing, "all women access to safe and effective period products as well as valuable and trustworthy information to educate and empower." Pretty awesome, right? Oh, and not only are their products organic — they're also 100 percent biodegradable.
As if all of that weren't incentivizing enough, Cora's monthly subscription corresponds with your menstrual cycle, and it's tailor-made to meet the specific needs of your usual flow and financial situation. (You can pay for your tampons monthly, quarterly, or annually.) Plus, for every box of Cora tampons you receive, the company donates a box of sustainable pads to a girl in a developing country.
5. Try Reusable Pads & Tampons
You've probably heard of reusable pads by now, because companies like GladRags and Lunapads have been offering them for years. (You can also find them on Etsy, just FYI.) Reusable pads are a great option if you usually use regular pads, because they work in almost exactly the same way but create zero waste. Most reusable pad sets come with a base that wraps around your panties and a removable insert that functions in the same way that a disposable pad would. Also, as you can see above, they're super cute.
Believe it or not, reusable tampons are a thing, too. You can buy them from independent sellers on Etsy — or, if you can sew/crochet, you could just go out and buy a soft, absorbent material and try making some of your own. They work pretty much exactly like an applicator-free tampon, and as long as you thoroughly soak and wash them after each use, they should be perfectly safe to stick up your hooha. It's a brave new sustainable world out there, that's for sure.