How to have an eco-friendly period

Having a period can be a massive pain, both literally and metaphorically at the best of times, but unfortunately, many period products are really bad for the environment.

Woman body

I had no idea how much plastic was used in sanitary products as before changing to a menstrual cup, I used non-applicator tampons and sometimes panty liners, thinking they weren’t that bad.

Annoyingly, sanitary ware that seems like it’s made from cotton, is predominantly plastic, as you can see from the ingredients listed on the Kotex website.

I don’t wish to single out Kotex, but I’m using it to illustrate the point. That’s the bad news, but as with every depressing statistic about plastics, there is good news!

There are now companies producing organic and plastic-free sanitary ware, which is excellent news for us and for the planet! *

*This post contains affiliate links

The cheapest and most eco-friendly way to have your period is to use a menstrual cup, this market used to be dominated by the Mooncup, but designs have much improved since then.

The great thing about the menstrual cup is that you only need to buy one or two and you don’t have to buy another one, unless you change sizes.

There are two sizes, one for if you’re under 30 and haven’t had a child, and one for if you’re either over 30 or have had a child. The difference is very marginal and it’s to ensure the cup fits correctly.

To insert the cup, you fold it in half into a smiley shape and then insert it inside your vagina so that it pops into position. It can take a few tries but you can feel if it’s in the right position like a tampon. There is a small ‘tail’ that you can cut depending on your preference which helps you to take it out. Make sure you keep it upright to avoid spillages and don’t let it spring open until it’s pointed at the toilet bowl (trust me, I know!).

The pros of using a cup are that they are cheaper than buying single-use products, they hold more blood than a tampon and they smell less as the blood isn’t exposed to air.

The downsides are that the cups cause irritation in some women and you have to wash them between uses and sterilise between cycles. Wash with soap and water and sterilise in a pan of boiling water. WebMD has more information about using a cup safely and looking after it.

There are some claims that menstrual cups are safer than tampons but that is not necessarily the case. There are still risks, and one study claimed that the risk of bacteria-growth could be greater with cups. I’ve included the article in the interests of full disclosure, as it’s important to make your decision based on all the facts.

Testing is ongoing and unfortunately there is no perfectly safe method of absorbing blood from inside your vagina. Experts are currently recommending using your cup for no longer than six hours, don’t wear it overnight, sterilise between uses and use alternate between two different cups.

Technology improves all the time and hopefully there will be a cup that is guaranteed to be safe. (If you don’t want to use a sanitary product inside your vagina then skip to the bottom to read about period pants!)

I find the Mooncup a bit hard, as the plastic is too thick and it’s hard to bend it when inserting for me. I recommend both the Diva cup which has thin plastic and is easy to use or the TOTM cup below.

Beware of using natural sponges for your period as they shouldn’t be put in your vagina as they are not sterile. You can get medical grade sponges but they are single-use only, expensive and bad for the environment so I do not recommend them.

If menstrual cups aren’t your thing, then never fear, because tampons have gone eco too, and there are several brands to choose from. If you have a local organic supermarket then they usually stock them.

It’s important to note that organic tampons aren’t safer than regular tampons, they’re just better for the environment, vegan and cruelty-free. They also come without plastic packaging that is harmful to the environmental and regular tampons have not been proven to be ‘toxic’ as some sources claim.

Using tampons and cups can cause Toxic Shock Syndrome so be aware of the signs, don’t leave a tampon in for more than 8 hours and use an absorbency suitable to your flow.

One way you can help the environment is simply by switching to non-applicator tampons as applicators aren’t really necessary when you have fingers. Someone has developed a reusable applicator but I’m not convinced that will catch on.

You can also subscribe for a period box, which delivers everything you need by clicking on the link below.

Some organic supermarkets and online stores sell cloth sanitary towels that you get clip onto your knickers using a press stud. While I think these are a great idea in theory, I don’t trust them not to leak or fall during the day and I prefer period pants.

If I’m having a lighter period day or want extra protection when I’m wearing a menstrual cup then I use the bamboo period pants below. When I first tried them, I was surprised that they actually worked but I’ve brought them travelling and they haven’t let me down!

Even though they’re thin, they’re surprisingly absorbent but I wouldn’t recommend them for a heavy period day! They are much bigger pants than I would normally wear but I much prefer them to pantyliners or sanitary towels.

They work really well for lighter days, when wearing a menstrual cup would be too much, but sometimes they can become stained even with regular washing.

Overall, using the combination of a menstrual cup, period pants and occasionally organic tampons works really well for me. An added bonus for me is that I don’t have to have a bin in my bathroom which is a winner!

What are your recommended eco period brands? Let us know in the comments below!

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