JAM | Jun 22, 2023

A few sustainable period products to consider using

Candice Stewart

Candice Stewart / Our Today

Reading Time: 4 minutes

If you are a person who menstruates, then you understand all too well how much you have spent and will spend to deal with the natural occurrence of experiencing your period. You may have even considered how you could spend less and use less during that ‘time of the month’.

It is said that on average, people who menstruate use between 5,000 and 15,000 pads and/or tampons in their lifetime.

Menstrual fluid has to go somewhere, but the use of the more popular products adds up financially and they are not sustainable or environmentally friendly as they also end up in landfills, waterways and the sea.

There are, however, other options that you could consider if you are looking for a less financially taxing, healthier, and more sustainable way to experience your period.

Reusable sanitary menstrual pads on a light pink background

Below is a list of some of the product option alongside a few pros and cons.

Reusable pads

Reusable pads are made of highly absorbent cloth, and are more expensive than regular pads.

Though they cost more up front, they offer a more economic option than the disposable types because they can last three to five years and replace the use of hundreds of pads and tampons.

Despite the fact that reusable pads are more sustainable than their disposable counterparts, they also have their downsides. Cleaning reusable pads requires water, which is not as accessible as many believe it is. For people who lack access to water, sanitation, and hygiene, reusable or cloth pads might not always be the best solution.

A plus is that they biodegrade faster than plastics.

Menstrual Hygiene products, menstruation underwear panties cloth pads and silicone cup.

Period underwear

Period underwear is reusable underwear that contains multiple absorbent layers of fabric that soaks up menstrual blood. Depending on a your flow, the underwear may be worn all day. However, there are varied types that are suitable according to period flow.

Similar to reusable cloth pads, period underwear requires having access to water and sanitation for safe use. Without adequate water and sanitation, a major barrier presents itself for people living in poverty. Additionally, since multiple period underwear are necessary per cycle, they are not as economical as other more sustainable product options.

Two Menstrual cups of different sizes and colours

Menstrual cups

Menstrual cups are bell-shaped devices with a stem made of medical-grade silicone, latex, or thermoplastic isomer that are inserted into the vagina and collect menstrual blood. They are, arguably, the most environmentally friendly and cost-effective option when it comes to sustainable period products.

Though the initial cost is higher than the your usual spend on regular tampons and pads, menstrual cups may be left in for up to 12 hours, used with limited access to water and sanitation, and last up to six years with proper care. Additionally, they come in varied sizes depending on period flow.

It is said that menstrual cups can save a person who menstruates 2,400 pads or tampons in their lifetime. Despite the benefits of menstrual cups, many people who menstruate are still reluctant to adopt them due to stigma and misinformation that they will impact their virginity, or are unsafe.

Female medical tampons and cotton flower on blue paper background close up

Other sustainable period products include the following:

Organic tampons

Organic tampons are made from organic cotton and are free from dyes, fragrances, and bleach.

Organic pads

Organic pads are sanitary pads that are made with 100 per cent natural products such as hemp, wood pulp, bamboo pulp, or cotton, unlike regular pads that constitute plastic, other polymers, and toxic chemical additives. Unlike their regular counterparts, organic pads are biodegradable.

Menstrual Disc

Menstrual discs

A menstrual disc is true to its name in shape and is designed to collect menstrual blood within the body, rather than absorb it like a tampon. It makes for a healthier product option as there are no chemicals to increase absorption, bleach, or pesticides. Depending on period flow, they can remain in place for up to 12 hours. Additionally, depending on the make, some are reusable while others should be disposed of after a one time use, which may rank it relatively low on the sustainability scale.

The products mentioned all come with their pros and cons and each pose some kind of barrier to menstruating people who may consider using them. The barriers can range anywhere between the cost, accessibility and misinformation about the products.

Weigh the pros and cons according to each product and determine which one would be right for you.

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