Sustainable Period Products
What are sustainable period products?
There are lots of sutsable products available if you are interested in making your periods more eco friendly. Whether you are interested in saving Mother Earth or tackling Period Poverty, there are lots of reasons why choosing more eco friendly menstrual products is better for us and the planet.
Sustainable period products is the generic name given to all period products that can be resused multiple times. The most popular types of sustainable period products are Reusable Sanitary pads, reusable tampons, period underwear and menstrual cups.
Each menstrual product has its own sustainable credentials and choosing your sanitary protection is a very personal choice.
What are the types of sanitary products?
Cloth Sanitary Pads
Cloth sanitary pads can also be known as reusable pads, cloth sanitary pads or just cloth pads. They look like disposable pads and fasten to your underwear with either a popper or some velcro. They are available in many different absorbency levels from panty liners right through to post partum pads.
Reusable pads are made up of a variety of different materials, the most common being cotton, organic cotton, bamboo or polyester. We have a whole dedicated article to different materials in cloth pads and the reason you might choose one over the other.
Cloth sanitary pads are more breathable against our skin and contain far less plastic than disposable period products (that are up to 90%) plastic. Many people comment on how much more comfortable they are against their skin.
Cons of Cloth Pads
When using reusable pads you will have increase washing- but you can largely wash your pads in with your usual washing (depending on what detergent you use) and you are only washing an extra 10 pads every few days, it really doesn't add much bulk.
You have to wash blood in your washing machine- this is only really relevant if you have never leaked throug your period protection. I think we have all washed bloody bedsheets or underwear in our time. We recommend rinsing out your reusable pads too so there is even less blood in your machine.
Less convenient- I guess this is a matter of opinion. For most, you have to remeber to buy sanitary products every month and if your period starts early you could be caught short. With reusable pads, you always have a stash ready to go.
You have to carry dirty sanitary pads around with you. This is one of the most common concerns of using cloth pads. We have a whole dedicated article to show you how easy it is to go out and about with cloth pads and you never have to worry about there being a bin the bathroom either!
Reusable Menstrual Cup
A menstrual cup is an internal menstrual product that is usually made of medical grade silicone, latext or TPE. It sits inside the vaginal canal and collects menstrual fluid. You only need one cup for all of your period and they can typically last around 10 years making this a great economic and environmentally friendly choice.
Menstrual cups come in a variety of different sizes and to find the right one for you can take a bit of familiarty with your own body.
We need 3 key pieces of information when helping you to find the right menstrual cup.
How high is your cervix? Did you know that your cervix can move during your cycle. It is at its lowest just before your period is due and this is the measurement you need. Interested in how to measure your cervix? Read our article to help find your cervix height. This information helps us to choose how long, or short you cup needs to be.
How is your pelvic floor? This information is useful for the cup firmness. If you are very athletic then you might need a firmer cup. A softer cup might have difficulty opening up or staying in place.
What is your flow like? A menstrual cup is great because you can use the same one for your light or heavy days. Unlike tampons it does not absorb all fluid, just collects. However if you have a particularly heavy period then we can factor this in so that you don't have to empty your cup all the time. You might need to empty it more often on your heavier days though.
Cons Of Menstrual Cups
It can sometimes take a bit of trial and error to find the right cup which can get expensive and feel a bit wasteful.
It is an internally worn period product so doesn't suit everyone.
If you find the cup that suits you, you might need to change it after having a baby or as you get older and your body changes.
Also known as period pants, period underwear look just like normal underwear but they have a sewn in absorbent pad. They are usually quite absorbent and are available in Ligh, Medium, Heavy and Super heavy flow and absorb anywhere from 1 tampon to 12 tampons worth of blood. They can be worn for up to 8 hours at a time and have a whicking layer next to your skin to help to keep you dry. If you're on a particularly heavy day you might feel more comfortable changing through the day. They can be a great option for busy days or if you know you wont get a chance to change through the days. They are the most popular option among young people and teens for school days.
Cons of Period Pants
If you need to change your pants then it can be a bit of a faff as you will have to strip off your bottom half.
Most period pants come in black so if you don't like wearing dark colours this could be tricky.
A reusable tampon is looks exactly like a disposable tampon except it is usually made from cotton. You would use them just the same and they come in Light, Regular and Heavy flow. If you want to use internal menstrual product but can't find a cup to suit you then a reusable tampon might be the way forward for you. They come with a string and you can adjust how much of the string is on show. Theyre really simple to use and need washing and steralising between periods.
Cons of Reusable Tampons
Not Hugely absorbent so more suitable for a medium flow.
It requires some extra washing and steralising, unlike pads that just need washing and cups that just need steralising.
If you have had a lighter day then it can feel a bit dry and uncomfortable when you remove them.
Why Choose to reuse?
There are many reasons why you might choose to move to reusable products. The main reasons we have come across is
Using resuable products is much more eco friendly. Figures range from 100-150kg of period product waste over the course of your life time and 500 MILLION period products end up in landfil each month. Some ranges of dispsoable sanitary pads have up to 90% plastic and this does not breakdown in landfill, many will choose to move to reusable prodcuts to reduce plastic waste. We have written in more detail about the environmental impact of single use products and the carbon footprint you create by menstruating.
Period poverty is a global issue and relates to the lack of acccess to clean and adequate access to sanitary products. It is estimated that 2 million girls have missed atleast a part of a school day due to their period and 1 in 10 UK teens cannot afford period products. It can cost you around £10 a month to menstruate if you use disposable products. The average stash of Cloth pads will cost you around £100 and last you around 5-7 years.
Menstrual Health Reasons
Some dispsoable products contain a very high amount of plastic. One dispsoable pad can have as much as five plastic bags worth in it. It has also been reported that there is a high amount of toxic chemicals in dispsoable prodcuts much of which has been included to help conceal the smell. Many women report finding disposable pads uncomfortable and irritating. Moving to a more eco friendly materials like organic cotton can really help with irritation you might feel. There is a huge growing movement to have palstic free periods.
What about Eco Disposable products?
There is a growing trend for Eco Disposable products like organic tampons, reusable tampon applicator or biodegradable tampon applicators. This does help to be plastic free but doesn't eliminate period waste completely. Most biodegradable products require specific enviornments to brake down and this often isnt achievable in UK landfill sites. If you want to use biodegradable feminine hygiene products then I recommend looking into what is needed to help them compost. Using reusable options like reusable pads and tampons, period pants or menstrual cups are more sustainable alternatives and helps prevent any unnecessary waste.
What is the most eco friendly period products?
The most sustainable option is a reusable menstrual cup. One menstrual cup can be used for all flows and can be used for up to 8-10 years making it incredibly sustainable. Nothing comes with zero carbon footprint but some reasearch shows that using a menstural cup produces only 0.4% CO2 emissions. However, a menstrual cup isn't suitable for everyone and it is important to factor it what will be best for everyday lives and any reusable product is better than single use.
Want to know what will suit you? How you can get a sustainable collection of period protection? Fill in our Menstrual Product Recommendation Questionaire and find out what period care will suit you.