Conventional pads and tampons are also made from a combination of rayon, bleach, and other chemicals plus the plastic packaging, all of which end up in landfill or waste water streams.
I feel it’s a conversation we don’t have enough and the information about sustainable period products and solutions should be made more readily available so we can make better choices.
When trying to live more sustainably we often consume less, reduce our plastic use and eat less meat. But we tend to overlook areas such as personal care as another way to reduce our impact. Using sustainable menstrual products is just one more thing we can easily do to live a little greener.
There is a whole world of alternative menstrual products out there, you just need to choose one that works for you.
1. Menstrual Cups
Menstrual cups are bell shaped reusable cups made from medical grade silicone which are inserted into the vaginal cavity to collect menstrual fluid. When they’re full, you simply remove them, wash them out and reinsert.
Menstrual cups are not for everyone.
I personally don’t use them so I can’t offer advice but 1 Million Women have a great article here with the author sharing her experiences.
The brands listed below are some of the most common and popular ones I found.
JuJu – The JuJu cup is made from high quality medical grade silicone, and designed in consultation with ergonomists and gynaecologists.
Diva – Diva Cups use silicon the same material and grade approved for healthcare for over fifty years, and is free form latex, plastic, PVC, acrylic, acrylate, BPA, phthalate, elastomer, polyethylene, and colours and dyes.
Lunette – Lunette cups are 100% medical grade silicone, hypoallergenic and latex-free. They come in different sizes and have a sizing chart to help you find the right one.
2. Period Underwear
Period or menstrual underwear are underwear with wicking fabric built in that absorbs your menstrual blood. They can be used on their own, or in conjunction with other menstrual products. When you’re done with a pair, you wash them as you would regular underwear ready be used again.
If you need to to change them during the day there is the issue of having to carry the soiled pair around with you. I’ve had a few suggestions from readers such as carrying a ziplock bag or small container to store them in.
The beauty of period underwear is that they come a variety of styles ranging from high-waisted and boy short styles to cheeky cut and g-strings so there’s usually something for everyone.
THINX – THINX are a US brand but they ship to Australia. Of all the brands I’ve tried, I found these to be the most flattering and comfortable. I have a full review here from when I worked with them a few months ago. Since then I brought four more pairs because I love how streamlined they are. They also offer nude styles so I can wear lighter clothes without my underwear showing through.
Modibodi – Modibodi are an Australian brand and they use natural fabrics such as wool and bamboo. Modibodi are all about female empowerment, inclusivity and body positivity. One look look at their ads showing beautiful women of all sizes and colours, you know they walk their talk.
I tried Modibodi last year and in terms of function, they work really well and I’ve never experienced any leaks with them. I love Modibodi for nights and at under looser clothing such as dresses and THINX for form fitting clothes such as jeans as they have a nice line.
3. Reusable pads
Reusable pads are liners for your underwear which have a waterproof coating on the inside of the outer layer to provide secure protection against leaks. Reusable pads work just like disposable pads. The only difference is that you need to wash them after each use.
Hannahpad – Hannahpads have a range of reusable pads in cute, floral prints with a range of absorbency and they claim to have a higher level of absorbency than disposables. They also sell pouches to store your pads when your out or travelling.
JuJu – JuJu are better known for their menstrual cups but they also make reusable organic cloth pads. The pads have dual snaps to allow you to adjust the size of the pad according to your underwear gusset size. They offer a range of Mini, Regular, Large and Night pads.
4. Organic Tampons & Pads
Yes, tampons and pads are products you throw away and not sustainable but I understand that the above mentioned solutions are not for everyone. If you prefer to use tampons then opt for an organic cotton brand.
Conventional tampons and pads contain pesticide residue, are commonly bleached with chlorine, many have synthetic fragrances and most contain endocrine-disrupting elements such as dioxins.
Not something you want coming into contact with your most sensitive lady parts.
From an environmental perspective, growing conventional cotton is chemical-intensive and compromises the health of the land and the farmer. Conventional cotton crops are grown using synthetic pesticides and fertilisers. Organic cotton is grown using methods that have a low impact on the environment. Organic production systems replenish and maintain soil fertility and reduce the use of synthetic chemicals in the growing process. If you want to learn more we have an in depth article about organic cotton here.
The below brands are much the same in terms of price, quality and effectiveness.
TOM – TOM were my go before I started using period underwear and I still keep a box handy just in case I need a backup solution and for swimming. TOM was founded in 2009, before organic cotton tampons were readily available in supermarkets. I admire their founder Aimee Marks and impact TOM has had on the industry which is why I continue to support them.
Tsuno – Tsuno operates as a social enterprise that sells organic cotton tampons and bamboo fibre sanitary pads. They also donate 50% of profits to charities that focus on empowering and educating women.
Natracare – Natracare tampons were created by Dr Philip Tierno due to health and environmental concerns about dioxin pollution caused by chlorine bleaching, pesticide spraying on conventionally grown cotton.
The Periodical – The Periodical is a monthly subscription service for your period. Handy right? Each month you will receive a box with organic cotton tampons (plus some other little goodies) which are delivered straight to your door, one week before your period is due.
Do you have any products to add to this list? Leave your thoughts in the comments below.
Kira Simpson is an environmentalist and sustainability educator. She started The Green Hub in 2015 and has since grown to become one of Australia’s largest education platforms dedicated to helping people live a more sustainable life, talking about the big environmental issues like climate change, plastic pollution, and fast fashion – showing people how they can have an impact through their own small daily actions and how to be part of the bigger environmental movement.