RED IS THE NEW GREEN
How to have an eco-friendly period
By Lena Blacker
Illustration by Hebe Diggens
We all know that last-minute stress when you start your period and hurriedly text the group chat to ask if anyone’s got a pad, or the dash to Sainsbury’s, where a box of tampons and that questionable looking sandwich you bought in a panic comes to £9.89 and your bank account weeps.
I can’t promise to magic away the unexpected period, but what if you could minimise the stress by never asking your friends again and saving that corner shop trip, whilst reducing your environmental footprint?
Here’s your answer: Reusable period care! And before you collapse this tab - It’s really not as messy and uncomfortable as it sounds; you’ll save money, whilst helping your vagina, and the environment. In fact, If everyone switched to organic cotton or reusable period care, it could save the equivalent of 180 billion plastic bags from ending up in the landfill every year.
So what's actually going into your body?
Tampons and pads are not considered to be “medical devices” by the FDA (!!!) and therefore not required to list ingredients, however a medical report by WVE found that conventional tampons and pads contain non-organic cotton, farmed using toxic pesticides and insecticides. Many have been found to contain residues of hazardous ingredients such as dioxins and furans (from the chlorine bleaching process). Exposure concerns may include reproductive harm, endocrine disruption, and allergic rash.
Conventional pads have also been found to contain around 90% plastic. When heavily used in period care, plastics can trap heat and bacteria which can lead to infection.
Money wise, if you're spending on average approximately £6 on period care a month, that’s £72 a year, and assuming you’ve got around 30 years of periods ahead of you that’s up to £2160. Think of the dollar you’ll be saving!
4 ways you can make the switch
- MOON CUP/ MENSTRUAL CUP
Easy to insert (once you figure out what works best for you) and you can leave in for up to 12 hours leak-free. There’s even the new Ziggy Cup which can be worn DURING sex (!!!)
But what if…You have to change your cup in a public bathroom?
You can either tip the cup out and replace, or bring a bottle of water with you and rinse it out before replacing - but the up to 12 hours should help you avoid this situation so it becomes a rarity!
Tip: There are many cups out there so research what's best for you (although they are all mostly the same) and make sure you get the right size. Read the instructions carefully before so you feel fully comfortable with the different ways to use, insert and remove. Don’t panic if you feel you can’t remove it! It can’t go anywhere, so just relax your muscles.
“The main difficulty for me was actually being brave enough to try the Mooncup in the first place. I had one for years before I tried it out; things like washing it out and emptying it intimidated me. Once I used it I felt really good about it. I found it far easier to scrunch up and put up there than I'd imagined. Also it made me feel more in touch with my body, my cycle and how I was. Ultimately it was the thing that made me come off the pill and seek a non-hormonal contraception because it ignited in me the desire to be more in touch with my health and my cycle.”- Maya
2. REUSABLE COTTON/BAMBOO PADS
Soft and more secure than disposable pads as they clip together and come in pretty fabrics.
But what if… You have to change your pad when you’re on the go?
Reusable pads fold up and clip together with leak-proof material and come with a reusable pouch so you can pop it in your bag without having to worry, and wash when you get home.
Tip: Make you sure purchase enough for one cycle so that you won't run out if there's no time to wash!
“Switching from plastic-ridden and consequently guilt-inducing sanitary pads and tampons was personally an easy step to make for me. Always slightly dubious about the ease of Mooncups and the like, I decided my first step into more eco-friendly periods was the reusable sanitary pad route. At about £15 on amazon for 7 pads, it’s a bit of an investment, but for me it was definitely worth it! For a medium flow lady like myself I find that they’re super absorbent, and haven’t had any issues with leakage at all - and they come with a cute lil bag so you don’t have to carry used and messy pads around all day. Big fan” - Tara
3. THINX/ REUSABLE COTTON UNDERWEAR
Strip it down to your underwear with knickers that protect you from leaking. The closest way to free bleed without the mess.
But what if... You have a heavy flow?
Thinx can hold up to 2 regular tampons’ worth of fluid (10 mL), but absorbency levels vary depending on underwear style. They can replace liners, pads, tampons, and cups, or be worn with tampons or cups for extra protection.
Tip: Try them out at home before so you can work out what works best for you on the go.
“After losing my faith with reusable products for a good while, I tried out period pants - a leak-preventing lifesaver. These were so amazing (and not as Bridget Jones’ underwear as you might think!) that I branched out to washable sanitary pads. They take a bit of getting used to as they are thicker than the plastic alternatives and you do have to carry used ones around with you out and about, but they are my new holy grail. Plus, no last minute costly runs to Tesco when you’ve run out!” - Beth
And if you really can’t part with the trusty tampon ...
4) Go ORGANIC without applicators or use a REUSABLE TAMPON APPLICATOR
Organic cotton is farmed without the use of toxic pesticides and herbicides. It’s also seen as a sustainable alternative due to its soil benefiting farming methods which produce less greenhouse gas emissions and makes better use of water.
It’s also GM-free and has a naturally soft, breathable texture.
If you're not so comfortable living that no-applicator life you can purchase a reusable one!
Available at DAME
A self-cleaning applicator made from medical grade materials and comes with 6 organic tampons, a tin and pouch to keep everything safe and secure when you’re on the go!
Happy eco(nomical) period!
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