The majority of women receive a monthly visitor in the form of their period. Most of us are also taught how to manage their periods in ‘conventional’ ways – with tampons and pads. Using tampons and pads creates an incredible amount of waste, It’s estimated an average woman throws away 250 to 300 pounds of menstrual products in her lifetime, up to 16,800 tampons, which remains in the landfill for hundreds of years. Improperly disposed menstrual products can also cause plumbing and sewage problems, and require treatment in sewage treatment facilities, likely ending up in the landfill. They can cause health problems – highly absorptive tampons can lead to Toxic Shock Syndrome (TSS), and bleached tampons contain dioxins (suspected carcinogens), among other concerns. Pads made with plastic (about as much as 4 plastic bags!) and various chemicals can irritate our skin and chemicals can be absorbed straight into the bloodstream and accumulate over time.
This is compounded by the fact that manufacturers are not required to list ingredients used because these products are considered “medical devices”. What we do know is that the fibres used to make tampons are typically grown conventionally, with pesticides, and often comprised of GMOs (Genetically Modified Organisms). Producing the plastics for tampon applicators and conventional pads contributes to climate change, and releases sulfur and nitrogen oxides which contributes to acidification.
I have used a Diva Cup for over 10 years now, and am very happy with its benefits. Menstrual cups collect fluid until removal and disposal. The cup is then washed and placed back in position. Besides being reusable which creates less waste, I have found that by using a menstrual cup my periods are shorter, less painful, and cleaner. General guidelines recommend you replace your cup every year, but with proper care they can last 5-10 years. Menstrual cups cost $30-$40. In ten years, a woman can spend about $500 on pads and tampons.
Whereas a pad or tampon needs to be changed every 4-6 hours, a menstrual cup can last up to 12 hours depending on flow. It does take some getting used to and practice to get it right, but once you have it you can’t even feel it’s there. I have definitely forgotten about it once or twice, which isn’t a problem like it would be with a tampon. If it is placed properly, the risk of leakage is extremely low, therefore negating the need for pads (for me anyway). If you do want the back-up, there are reusable cloth pads available as well, including local companies that produce them. They come in funky patterns or organic which is plain.
Another great, local option is to purchase reusable menstrual pads and pantyliners from Tree Hugger Cloth Pads. They offer a wide variety of sizes, patterns, and fabrics, and even sell Colibri’s (another local company) purse and clutch-sized wetbags.
Organic menstrual products can be purchased at health food/supplement stores, organic/natural grocers or online. If a menstrual cup is not your cup of tea, look for options with less packaging and organic cotton instead of bleached cotton or rayon. Tampons without applicators or pads that are not individually wrapped are a good start. Pads are not sterile so there is no need for them to be individually wrapped.
Please consult with your doctor if you have an IUD as a menstrual cup could cause problems. Also, if you have a latex allergy, be sure to pay attention to what the menstrual cup is made of [one is made of natural gum rubber (latex)].
For more information visit:
Women Beware: Most Feminine Hygiene Products Contain Toxic Ingredients
Young Women’s Health Organization
Greening the Crimson Tide
Your Guide to Alternative Menstrual Products
There’s No Delicate Way To Put This…
Great article. I would recommend caution with the use of sea sponges, as they are not easily cleaned or sterile. They will often have residues in them, such as sand etc, which could potentially cause issues.
Thanks for linking to our post – it sure got us thinking about green options for menstruation!
I found this to be very informative. I have often wondered if there were options other than the pads I purchase. I was amazed at hearing how much waste is created in a lifetime. I’m definitely going to look at some new options.