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Jenna Spray

Reusable What??: Eco Friendly Period Products

This article is written by a student writer from the Her Campus at CWU chapter.

“Shark week”, “Aunt Flo”, “Surfing the Crimson Wave”, all popular terms for when we have our period. When thinking about your period you probably think of tampons, pads, cramps, and irritability. But have you ever thought of using a reusable period product?

According to Slate.com, “the average American women menstruates for 38 years” approximately 500 periods. On Divacup.com they state that the average woman creates 300 pounds of period waste over the course of their life. Which comes out to about 8 pounds per year. On downtoearth.com they report that one sanitary pad takes between 500-800 years to decompose because the plastic that is also used in it is non-biodegradable and leads to potential health and environmental hazards. The average tampon takes about 6 months to biodegrade, but that doesn’t take into account the plastic that it comes in or the plastic for the applicator. While these statistics are quite frightening, there is good news too. There are lots of companies on the rise trying to promote more sustainable alternatives for menstruation.

Kristine Mahan / Spoon

Way back before single-use pads were a thing, women used cloth as pads, and they were reusable. This idea has been gaining momentum in India where just last May it was reposted that “only 12% of women and girls have access to sanitary napkins” resulting in the majority of women and girls resorting to “outdated, unhygienic methods” for dealing with menstruation.

One company that sells reusable pads is GladRags. One purchase of a full set of reusable pads from GladRags lasts up to 5 years! Their regular cloth sampler kit rings in at $68 which includes 1 panty liner, 1 panty liner plus, 1 day pad, 1 day pad plus, 1 night pad, and a cute carrying bag. GladRags standard period kit rings in at $75 and includes 5 panty liners, 1 menstrual cup, a cute carrying case, a mesh laundry bag, and stain remover. They all have the option of coming in cute prints as well! While both options seem a bit spendy up front, remember these products are made to last up to 5 years. So, with the standard period kit you’re spending about $15 per year which is the equivalent to one dinner out.

Another company that has been getting attention lately is Knix, known for its leakproof underwear, able to absorb up to 3 tsp of liquid. They are known for comfortable underwear and activewear. But the thing to keep in mind is that they do come with a high price tag. One pair of their leakproof bikini underwear rings in at $23. Knix is definitely an investment, especially since they don’t do returns, for obvious reasons. Even with the higher price tag, I hopefully will try a pair of Knix out before the end of the year.

While I haven’t tried the reusable pads or leakproof underwear, I have tried the reusable menstrual cup. The brand I tried was the Diva Cup when it came in our HC spring box of goodies! I will be completely honest I was a bit nervous but knew I wanted to cut down on my environmental impact so I figured why not. Before trying my Diva Cup, I talked with a friend who already used it and loved it and she gave me the reassurance I needed. Then I watched about 4 YouTube videos about how to use a reusable menstrual cup. I was surprised to learn how many different brands are out there! The videos helped with how to use and care for the Diva Cup along with tips on how to insert and remove it. My first two attempts were ok, though I knew I didn’t have the hang of it completely and I had issues with leaking. It was not uncomfortable, but I knew if I had it in right, I wouldn’t feel it at all. Removing the Diva Cup was a learning curve all in its own, and requires you to be completely comfortable and relaxed. The next time I got my period I tried the Diva Cup out again, determined to be successful. I learned that the key to using the Diva Cup is getting it in high enough. Diva Cups sit higher up inside than a tampon, which is why there is a bit of a learning curve. But I am telling you, the comfort I got with the Diva Cup was amazing and I don’t see myself using tampons again.

If the environmental impact isn’t enough to sway you, Diva Cups give you up to 12 hours of protection before you need to empty and clean it. It is Latex and BPA-free, has no added chemicals, plastics, or dyes, and is made of medical grade silicone. The Diva Cup Model 2, recommended for women 19-30 years old with medium flow holds just over once ounce, about 2 tablespoons. One of the best parts is that one Diva Cup rings in at $38 at Walmart and one will work for the entirety of your period each week. A Diva Cup is so low maintenance you’ll wonder why it took you so long to try it!

Just like all other reusable things you use to reduce waste like reusable shopping bags, produce bags, and reusable food storage containers, you should think about trying a reusable period product.

Current CWU student. Business Administration major specializing in Supply Chain Management. PNW Native. Vintage clothing enthusiast, animal lover, world traveler, and Thanksgiving is my favorite holiday!