How to Have a Sustainable Period

by CodeKiwi Collaborator

Women menstruate. They shed their uterine lining. Every month. And life goes on. Period.

Periods are a natural cycle for any lady. Around the same time each month, the body sheds the lining of the womb. It’s a sign that the body is working normally, even with additional symptoms like period pain, moodiness, bloating or breakouts. For some, periods are low maintenance. For others, periods require a robust arsenal of products to make those few days of bleeding tolerable. 

And those products you’re putting ~up there~? Unless you habitually reach towards eco-friendly period products, you’re exposing your vagina to a combination of plastic, rayon, bleach, and other chemicals. Skin is highly permeable, meaning that anything in close contact will easily seep into the bloodstream. In addition to crude plastic oils, common additives to products include DEHP (which can lead to organ damage), phthalates (known to disrupt gene expression), bleach, fragrances, and other toxins. Many tampons and pads are bleached beforehand and created from pesticide-rich non-organic cotton and rayon. 

Worldwide, over 100 billion menstrual products are disposed of on a yearly basis. On average, a woman will have 350 cycles in their lifetime, using upwards of 20 products per cycle. A woman will throw away between 10,000 to 15,000 pads and tampons in her lifetime. Period products are non-recyclable since they’ve been in contact with human waste, meaning they are directly deposited to landfills. Because a majority of items contain plastic, products take at least 400 years to decompose. If incinerated, products release toxins fumes such as carbon dioxide. 

We breeze over the topic of tampons and pads because they’ve been established as a cultural norm. Since period products are considered medical goodies, manufacturers aren’t technically required to disclose the ingredients. As individuals become more aware of what actually goes into period products, we’re seeing a delightful transition from wasteful and synthetic products to sustainable products. Not only because period products are unsustainable, but because they’re full of synthetic and potentially damaging ingredients that sensitive skin should not be exposed to. 

It just makes sense to stick to natural products. Rather than putting our sensitive skin at risk and creating a substantial amount of waste, stick to natural alternatives that prioritise safe ingredients and responsible end of life. 

Menstrual Cups 

Strange in theory, awesome in practice. 

Menstrual cups, a sustainable alternative to pads and tampons, is simply a flexible cup that collects blood inside the vagina. Typically made from silicone or rubber, menstrual cups need to be changed and washed every 12 hours. They’re an affordable alternative that significantly reduces landfill waste, balances pH and bacteria, and relatively easy to use. Those new to menstrual cups may believe it’s messy and gross, but after a learning curve, they’re easy to love. While it’s a bit more of a commitment than tampons or pads, we’re big fans of menstrual cups for traveling, outdoor activities, and the day-to-day. 

Period Undies

Innovation is great - it pushes boundaries, asks important questions, and creates space for new period undies. 

Periods are synonymous with leaking and general discomfort. Enter period undies. The name may be cringeworthy, but the idea is gold. Period undies are absorbent underwear composed of multiple layers to collect and protect from leaks. They may not be enough for heavy days, but they provide that sense of security we so desire. After shimmying in them and carrying on with your day, you just give ‘em a wash and they are as good as new. 

Cloth Pads

Reminiscent of something created out of necessity rather than choice, cloth pads are reusable, soft, and more absorbent than regular plastic pads. They’re also less wasteful in the long run. It’s a quaint idea, but be wary that once the pad has been used, they’ll need to be deeply cleaned and dried. 

Sea Sponge Tampons

A bit more on the earth mama spectrum, sea sponge tampons are an innovative approach to periods. They are sustainably harvested, biodegradable, and delightfully easy to use. When harvested, divers leave a section of the sea sponge to regenerate, ticking our environmentally-friendly box. Sea sponges contain enzymes that discourage odours and bacteria growth, while providing beneficial sea minerals. 

Tampons (w/o applications) 

Traditional tampons live in a plastic applicator, likely enveloped in additional packaging. Ditch that. 

Embrace life as a purist with tampons without applicators. Most women prefer tampons because they’re discreet, comfortable, and do the job. Transitioning from tampons with applicators to without can be strange, but it’s pretty simple. It’s just the act of inserting a tampon with your finger as the applicator, as opposed to plastic. As long as the string is left hanging outside the body, you’re good to go. Although tampons do unfortunately create waste, there are now some amazing organic and sustainable options available on the market. 


Written by Katherine Guerrero

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