Today’s climate crisis is so wide and multifactorial, it is SUPER normal to feel completely overwhelmed and discouraged to think we, as an individual, can combat this with a menstrual cup.
But, actually, menstruation has really been given an eco-friendly makeover in recent years, with much of it aimed at the individual to take action and make an impact.
And, from people being shamed into giving up tampons, to adverts that promote using menstrual cups if you’re a woman who “cares about the environment”, it can feel like a lot of pressure in today's world to have an ‘eco-friendly’ period, on top of the rest of the climate crisis pressure that we are fed through news, media, and from those around you.
So, you may be wondering what environmental difference can we actually make through our visit from aunt flo? Well, actually quite a bit.
The impact of period waste
In the United States alone, close to 20 BILLION sanitary pads, tampons and applicators are sent to landfills every year. And with disposable period pads containing up to 90% plastic, and tampons up to 6% (excluding applicators if they have them), this waste isn't going anywhere anytime soon.
On a more individual level, it has been estimated that women use around 20 tampons per period, with an average of 456 periods in their lifetime, that's over 9,100 tampons total… and that's just tampons.
And it's not just landfills that these plastic-packed products are filling up. A concerning quantity also ends up in our oceans and waterways after being flushed down the toilet. In fact, in Britain alone, it's estimated that approximately 2 billion sanitary items are being flushed every year!
The popular “flush it out of sight” approach has resulted in the products making up about 6% of Britians’s beach litter -which I think we can all agree is not what we visit the beach to see!
And we hate to keep being the bearer of bad news, but we haven't even touched on the waste associated with producing these products. The plastic and polyester used are made from fossil fuels and turning these materials into pads, tampons and applicators often involve the use of endocrine disruptors and other environmentally destructive chemicals. Conventional cotton is farmed with pesticides, and even organic cotton demands water-intensive processing.
We understand that this has been an avalanche of heavy information, and although these facts are a little depressing, don’t lose hope! This eco destruction isn't inevitable, and further down this blog, we have a few solutions! There are an array of amazing brands working to move away from the single-use standards for periods.
So why disposable in the first place?
Because none of this, of course, is the fault of the period-havers. It wasn't today's tampon purchasers who proclaimed that disposable menstrual products become the norm. In actual fact, periods were relatively low-impact for centuries, all until the dawn of disposable living… the 1960s. Where single-use became the holy grail of convenience…and hygiene!
Advertising throughout this time actually promoted throwing things away, emphasising the low cost and convenience of cheap plastic products!
During this time, “chemists were busily developing sophisticated plastics and other synthetics,” Alejandra Borunda reports for National Geographic. “The technologies leapt forward so quickly that manufacturers found themselves searching for new markets into which they could incorporate their new materials. One of the markets they found was menstrual products.”
While this ensured convenience to the (then) modern woman, it also ensured on the business side, that women would continue to stock up every month, thus locking them in for decades of repurchasing. Alongside this, single-use menstrual products, in general, became the more 'hygienic' way to deal with your period…since, obviously, periods are SO dirty and unnatural 🙄.
So, we now know why single-use period products are today's norm, and we understand the basis of where these products are coming from and where they go (and stay for ages).
And we are also aware that the individual menstruator bears no blame for the catastrophic amount of waste caused by the products we use.
But even still, we care about the future of the planet that our children will inherit and are ready to make individual changes that will ultimately lead to big progress.
Well, what's a girl to do?
Flush ONLY the three P’s: Pee, Poop & toilet Paper! Even if you decide to use disposable products, we urge you to never flush them. Pads, tampons, applicators, or even Q-tips, wet wipes, floss, cotton pads and condoms are an absolute no go!
If you are looking to take matters into your own hands there are SO many new eco-conscious options available, there is literally something for everyone, even you!
Option One: Reusable menstrual cups
These little silicone, rubber or latex beauties have been popping up everywhere recently as they have become increasingly reached-for. The popularity of these cups is understandable, due firstly to their eco-friendly nature of investing in one cup every 5-10 years, over trashing a tampon or pad every few hours.
The long lifespan also saves you a dime or two in the long run, as you wont need to continue to monthly tampon & pad restock - if you have ever bought period products, you'll know, they don't run cheap!
Another positive is that you are able to wear them for 6-12 hours, rather than having to change a tampon say, every 4-6 hours! (that will take you through a marathon…)
There are honestly so many more amazing benefits to these cups, from helping some women strengthen their perineum after birth, to providing more comfort than alternative products for other women - we can't recommend you to try them enough!
Our top pick: Hello Cup
The Hello Cup was named the ‘best menstrual cup’ by Cosmopolitan Magazine in 2021, so you can bet that this is a bloody brilliant product!
Hello is also a fellow kiwi brand, made 100% in New Zealand from the highest quality medical-grade TPE available.
Option Two: Eco Pads
Just like a pad, but instead of binning post-use, you can wash, dry & reuse! Eco pads or cloth pads are usually made from layers of absorbent fabrics such as cotton or hemp and most have a leak-proof PUL (Polyurethane Laminate Fabric) layer which stops menstrual blood from soaking through the pad.
As mentioned, cloth pads are reusable, making them a clear winner for the environment. They’re also biodegradable and require no additional water to clean, as they can just be chucked in with your regular washing. It is estimated that one eco pad will save a whopping 200 disposable pads from entering landfills!
Our top pick: Rudie
Rudie cloth pads won't cramp your style, with their cute patterns & comfortable design! Rudie is an Aussie brand that is looking to say good-bye to waste! Their eco pads are made from natural bamboo and microfiber and are super absorbent. The pads also neutralise odor & are perfect for sensitive skin - what's not to love!
Option Three: Menstrual undies
If the idea of sticking a silicon funnel inside of you isn't too appealing, and you are looking for something even more convenient than a reusable pad, menstrual underwear might just be for you!
Period pants are great, they feel like you’re wearing an extra pair of underwear - except these can hold about four tampons worth of blood! In their design, they have moisture-retaining fabric so that you don't feel any wetness! Alike the other products we have discussed, you can wear your period undies again and again - once you’ve finished using them, just rinse them in the sink or shower to disperse the blood, then throw them in the wash with your other clothes!
Our top pick: Modibodi
Modibodi is another AMAZING Aussie company created by Kristy Chong because she felt “we deserved something better”. And Modibodi has done just that, with a wide range of sizes, absorbency levels and styles! They even do period-proof swimwear, along with maternity wear, reusable nappies and even menswear! We highly recommend you check them out as we can almost guarantee there will be something perfect for you!