Since the mid-20th century in the Global North countries (traditionally named developed countries), menstruation products have been acquiring more and more plastic elements in their production. Menstruating people usually have their menstruation for 38/40 years with an average of 5 days a month. That means that we menstruate around 2,400 days in our life, 6 and a half years. Can you imagine the amount of plastic and non-plastic waste that we create during all that time? The National Geographic tells us that a single menstruating person uses between 5,000 and 15,000 pads and tampons, most of which will end up in our landfills, and also in our oceans.
After much research on the topic I have put together some ideas for reducing our waste during our menstruation days. Not only our planet will notice it, but also, in many cases, our pockets.
1. Reusable cloth pads
In the Global North countries (traditionally named developed countries), we go back in time, when compresses and fabrics were used, washed and reused. Reusable cloth pads are a top discovery to be much more sustainable during my periods if I don’t want to use tampons or cups. Reusable cloth pads work like a normal pad with the only exception that you don’t throw it after use. You can change the reusable pads depending on your period flow and just throw them in the washing.
|Important: If you can, I would recommend to pre-rinse them with cold water before throwing in the washing (that is a general recommendation for everything that is related to blood).|
There are many sustainable stores and initiatives that sell them, they are beautiful, and you can find them in different styles, colors, shapes… and they have a clip to make sure that they line up with your usual underwear.
|Important: Pay attention and try to buy them in 100% cotton fabric, as it is always the better option for everything. And also remember that organic, fair-trade and/or small business support is really important.|
2. The menstrual cup
The cup was invented in 1937 by American actress Leona Chalmers. Ahead of her time, she was ironically put out of business by the emergence of disposable menstruation products. One cup replaces approximately 528 tampons/pads over two years.
Like many other people, I have been very skeptical about the menstrual cup. But it is definitely one of the best options without residue (Zero Waste) for our menstruation.
They are made of silicone and they can be worn from 8 to 12 hours. On top, they will save us A LOT OF MONEY, since they are reusable and can last roundabout 10 years.
But let’s be honest… The change to a menstrual cup can take a bit long and requires a bit of patience. It takes time to master the technique, but, let me tell you: you are not alone in this! Don’t give up!
Here’s a few tips on how to use a menstrual cup:
– Find the appropriate size
Every company has different styles and size-chart, and every women is different. The size of your perfect cup will depend on different factors. The main ones are going to be your age, and if you gave birth (vaginal) or not. Both points are directly related to the elasticity of the vaginal muscles, which over the years can lose strength.
Weight, height or amount of menstrual flow will not be taken into account when choosing the correct size of a menstrual cup.
I would recommend to go to the official brand website from the cup you are interested in buying and follow the steps to find the perfect size for you. After deciding which size could fit better to you, double check that the Cup is made out of 100% medical silicone and that has a long stem (you can always cut it after trying it, if it doesn’t fit to your cervix).
On one hand, there are many different ways to fold the cup for it’s application. You can do a bit of research and also check my Instagram Reel to get to know some of the folding techniques. Try them out and decide which one is working for you. (Most loved ones are C-Fold and punch down fold.) On the other hand, you have to find the right bodily position, the one that works for you. You can get into a squat over the toilet boil, a deep squat or put one leg up on the toilet. After that, insert the cup (stem included) while holding the fold you chose. The fold should release and make a seal with a small “pop” sound. If it’s inserted properly, you should not feel that it is there, or at least not more than with tampons.
|Important: It can help to use lubricant or water to insert the cup the first few times, and of course the relax the muscles.|
Basically, to remove the cup you must break the seal.
You can find again your preferred position and have to find the stem. Then, using a finger, punch the cup aside and pull down.
|Important: The removing of the cup can become a bit messy, so try to do this over the toilet boil or in the shower at first, until you get used to it.|
After that you can wash it with water and insert it again.
– Boil and save at the end of each period
3. Menstruation underwear
Recent studies of various brands have made possible the so-called “menstruation panties”. They are a pretty new discovery and they are basically panties/underwear that allow women to just free bleed. They have different layers to prevent leaking and odor, making you feel safe when wearing them.
My menstruation panties, for example, have an inner and outer layer made of 100% organic cotton, and in between, an antibacterial and breathable layer made of various technical fabrics to ensure that the menstrual blood is collected safely and odors are neutralized.
They are suitable for the first and last days of the period, as well as for being at home and if your are not sure of when your period will come. They are also a great companion for the first menstrual cup trials, and when tampons and cups are worn on the strong days of the period (safety first!).
4. Pads and tampons made of organic cotton
Did you know that 9 out of 10 menstruating people do not know what the pads and tampons currently on the market contain?
Nearly all non-organic period products contain chemicals like toxic bleaching and lots of non recyclable plastic. They can be even toxic for our bodies!
Therefore, if pads and tampons are your choice, try to buy them made of recyclable materials and not harmful to the environment. Every time there are more brands and companies that sell pads and tampons made from 100% organic cotton, with paper wrappers and, in the case of pads, with organic glue.
In case you need to use applicators when using tampons, try to avoid the single-use plastic ones and buy a reusable applicator. Those can be used, washed and reused, avoiding a great amount of plastic waste.
Think about it:
One in a hundred pieces of plastic in our oceans is an applicator, pad, tampon or wipe, BUT talking about our menstruation is still a taboo nowadays. That is the reason why we talk even less about the amount of waste that comes with it. However, it is a very important topic, it concerns over half of the world’s population, menstruating people.
I hope I could help you in your journey towards a Zero Waste Period and that I helped breaking the “talking about menstruation” taboo.
I fully recommend the store of menstruation products My Lily*, and they make international shipments. Get a 15% discount using my code: CONNECTED_CONSCIOUSNESS15
If you are struggling with which type of cup to choose for your first time, Curexcup provides exploration bundles of cups in different shapes, strengths and sizes. Get a 50% discount using my code: LAURA
What are you waiting for? Get started today!
|If this topic was of interest to you, check out the article [Is your Period Plastic-Free?] by Katie White.|