A couple of decades ago, the vast majority of people used tampons or disposable pads during their period. Sure, there were a few other options available such as homemade cloth pads, sea sponge tampons, or the first modern-day menstrual cup (The Keeper), but they weren’t widely available.
These days, we’re spoilt for choice. I’ll give you a brief rundown of the major options available to you, including menstrual cups, period panties, reusable cloth pads, leak-proof swimwear, and organic disposable options.
Option #1: Menstrual Cups
Menstrual cups are usually made from medical grade silicone and are designed to replace tampons. What makes them so eco-friendly is that they can last for years.
They also have some other benefits, including the following:
- Will save you thousands of dollars over a lifetime
- They come with a low risk of Toxic Shock Syndrome
- Menstrual cups don’t contain any toxic chemicals in them like some brands of tampons
- 3-4x the capacity of a jumbo tampon
- Can be worn for up to 12 hours
If you live in the UK, an excellent option is the MoonCup. It’s made locally, is affordably priced and it’s also a top-quality menstrual cup. It has some great user reviews, and most people find that it’s really easy to insert, and also doesn’t leak.
The only real downside to a menstrual cup, in general, is that there’s a learning curve to using them. It takes most people at least a few cycles to really feel confident when inserting them.
Option #2: Period Underwear
Next up on our list of the best eco-friendly period products is period underwear (aka period panties). They come in two different styles:
- Leak-proof only, with no absorbent padding in them
- Absorbent padding, plus a leak-proof barrier
Either option is fine, but just be sure you know what you’re buying. The ones with only the leak-proof barrier need to be used with a pad, menstrual cup, or tampon.
The ones that have padding in them vary in their absorbency levels, but some of them can hold up to 10 ml or so (the same as a jumbo tampon or heavy pad).
Many people who have vaginal discharge issues or light incontinence also like to use period panties because they’re cheaper and more comfortable than something like disposable pantyliners.
Option #3: Reusable Cloth Menstrual Pads
If you’re handy with the sewing machine, you can turn old scraps of fabric into reusable cloth pads. Otherwise, you can easily find them on a place like Amazon.
Reusable menstrual pads are very similar to disposables except that they don’t have a sticky backing on them. Instead, they stay in place with snaps on the wings. They come in a wide range of absorbency levels from panty liners to heavy, overnight pads.
Cloth pads are an eco-friendly option because they can be used for at least a few years. They’re also made largely from natural materials and will biodegrade easily once you’re done with them.
Option #4: Organic Disposables
If you’re going to stick with disposable pads or tampons, consider making the switch to organics. They’re better for your health because you’re not exposing yourself to toxic chemicals that are found in some brands of non-organics.
What’s great for the environment is that the majority of organic pads and tampons are not made from plastic, including the packing. This means that they biodegrade easily, unlike regular pads which will still be hanging around the landfill in a thousand years from now.
Quick tip: You can often find organic pads and tampons more cheaply online than at your local health food shop.
Option #5: Period Swimwear
The last environmentally-friendly period product you might want to consider is period swimwear like these ones from Modibodi. They can absorb up to 10 ml of fluid (same as a jumbo tampon) while keeping pool or ocean water on the outside.
They make a nice choice as a back-up to a menstrual cup or tampon when spending a long day at the beach or waterpark. Or, they’re ideal on their own for a short swim during a heavy flow, or for a longer time when you’re spotting or have a light flow.