Zero-Waste Period 101: How to Manage Your Cycle in a Sustainable Way

Given the ever-growing climate crisis, it seems like the right time to make some changes to reduce the waste we produce in all aspects of our lives. For many people, this includes their menstrual cycle, and it means turning to waste-free alternatives to deal with their periods. Here's a guide for how to do so. 

Ditch Single Use Plastic:

When it’s that time of the month, many women use products such as pads and tampons to manage their flow. While these may be convenient, they unfortunately are not the most eco-friendly: they’re often packaged in plastic or come with plastic applicators that you discard almost immediately. Here’s the thing, though: tampons and pads are still taxed in many states as luxury products, which means they are not considered a necessity. This is often referred to as the Pink Tax, which means anyone who menstruates overpays for period products anyway. Suddenly overtaken by a need to burn those pads sitting under your bathroom sink? Believe me, I’m with you. It’s all the more reason to try out some more sustainable alternatives!

Alternative #1: Period Underwear

You’ve probably heard of this one! That’s right, several companies, including women-led ones, started making underwear that has a built-in absorbent lining to collect blood. They make several different sizes and styles, which will absorb different volumes of blood. These are typically great to sleep in or to wear on lighter flow days, so that you don’t have to change them throughout the day. When you’re done with them, you can simply throw them in the wash and they’ll be ready for your next cycle. Nothing goes in the trash, and while they may be pricey at first, they will be a worthy investment, as they’re meant to last you at least several years. However, if that’s not your jam, read on for more ideas.

Alternative #2: Reusable Pads

Reusable pads have also made their appearance on the market. They’re typically equipped with velcro wings to attach on to your underwear, and can also be washed after use, so that you can reuse them for each cycle. Now, these are not as simple to change when out-and-about, but you might be able to rinse your pad with cold water into the sink if it’s a single-stall restroom, then put it in a ziplock and carry on with your day. If no single-stall bathrooms are in sight, you might simply roll it up into a ziplock bag and wash it when you get home. It takes a bit more effort, I know, but saving the planet takes a bit of effort and change, and everyone needs to do their part. If this still doesn’t sound like it would work for you, check out option number three. 

Alternative #3: Menstrual Cups

If you were never a fan of pads anyway, this option might be the one for you. Menstrual cups have become big in the last few years, with many different companies producing them in different sizes and shapes. You’ll just need to find the one that works for you! Menstrual cups work by sitting inside the vagina, where they collect blood. They’re often made of medical grade silicone, and a lot of models don’t have to be changed for about twelve hours, which makes them very convenient. When you need to empty it out, you can dump the collected blood into a toilet, rinse it off with water and soap, and it’s ready to be reinserted. It’s also recommended to soak your cup in boiling water for a few minutes regularly to sterilize it. As you know, this is a little more work than using a regular tampon or pad, but again, menstrual cups will last you upwards of five years (think of those savings!) and produce no waste. So, it might be worth thinking about!

Disclaimer: I am not a doctor or any kind of medical professional. These eco-friendly alternatives are simply methods that I have tried and that have worked for me. If you’re ever unsure or notice differences in your cycle, please consult a doctor.