While we are still working hard to break down the shame and taboo surrounding our periods, there may be one step we can make to make sure that even this part of our life can be eco-sustainable. On a constant search for ways to limit how much plastic my family consumes, I have found myself at a crossroads with my trusty period products that are almost completely made of plastic (yikes). Tampons are wrapped in plastic, encased in plastic applicators, with plastic strings for removal. Pads are made with a leak-proof, synthetic base and plastic packaging. There is no getting around it: most commercial period products are plastic and synthetic.
Sustainable Period Products
Most women in America will menstruate for a total of about 40 years of their life, bleeding for about five days a month. This translates to about 2,400 days (six and a half years) over the course of a woman’s life during which she needs to dispose of her menstrual fluid. For the most part, we are accustomed to using a pad or tampon, which is then disposed of in the trash, then into our landfills.
It’s quite hard to get an idea of how much plastic waste comes from menstrual products, because it’s labeled as medical waste and therefore it does not need to be tracked where it ends up. Over the course of a lifetime, one woman can use between five and 15 thousand pads and tampons, which mostly end up in landfills as plastic waste.
Without a conscious, individual effort to choose organic and plastic-free products, it is a hard battle to remove the use of plastic from menstrual care. Starting even from ancient Greece, menstrual blood was seen as poisonous and dirty. Before the 20th century, women would use whatever excess materials were laying around that seemed to be absorbent, but were rather bulky and would need constant washing and drying for the public to see. The ridicule and shame led to the invention of the first disposable menstrual product in 1921. After many years of shame surrounding our periods and our cultures stigmatizing it, plastic made its way into the design of the products we use today. Now we may be still fighting the fight of the stigma menstruation unfortunately still holds, but we can work on making what we use a bit more sustainable. So here are some companies that are leading in the fight to make period products eco-sustainable.
Organic Pads and Tampons
Yoni offers tampons, pads and liners all made from organic cotton. Everything is certified by the SOIL Association – meaning that the raw cotton fiber meets organic farming standards and is processed through a supply chain that ensures safe working conditions and fair pay. By using products like Yoni, you can reduce your “plastic footprint” because all of their products are biodegradable. Yoni strives to be transparent by listing all of their ingredients on their packaging, which may seem odd since you would not think to look at the ingredients of your pads, tampons or liners – but then again, maybe that’s why the plastic-loving companies are not listing their ingredients.
You may think that most of the menstrual products we use are made of cotton, but the truth is that they are composed of synthetics, wood pulp and plastic. Organ(y)c uses only 100% organic cotton inside and out and uses hydrogen peroxide instead of bleach, which contains chlorine. Cotton is naturally absorbent, sustainable, and hypoallergenic. They not only offer tampons, pads and liners, but also beauty products such as baby wipes, cotton pads and cotton swabs.
The company Dame created the first-ever reusable tampon applicator. It may look like any other applicator that you’re used to using with your tampon, but this one has been tested to last up to 10 years – even longer if treated well. It is made of three parts: the lid, the applicator and the plunger, with every part containing natural antimicrobial elements to help keep your applicator hygienic. It has a self-sanitising technology and only needs to be rinsed under cold water between uses. If you can’t wash it right away, just wipe it off and rinse it at a later time: the self-sanitizing technology is always working to keep the germs at bay.
Organic Menstrual Cups
Organicup is a menstrual cup to replace tampons and pads made with 100% medical grade silicon. The benefit of Organicup is that you can use it for up to 12 hours before needing to empty it, and it contains more liquid than three super tampons can hold. Since most of us women may need different size cups, Organicup comes in three sizes: Size A is recommended for women who have not given birth vaginally, Size B is recommended for women who have given birth vaginally, and Mini is for teens or those who need a smaller size.
A few months ago, Shammara – our contributor from the ATPB flock – shared with us how she can no longer live without her trusted period underwear. Thinx offer reusable and washable underwear that can either be used in lieu of a pad or tampon, or as extra leak protection if you wear them with your trusty tampon or cups. They’re super absorbent – able to hold as much as up to four regular tampons – and also wick moisture. You can shop from their line of classic underwear in their signature period-absorbing styles (like hiphuggers, hi waist and thongs), organic cotton, activewear and Thinx air (ultra-thin, cooling micromesh).
Image Credit: Oh La La Macarons
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