Getting your period sucks, worse still when you think about how much plastic we throw away that eventually ends up in our sewage systems and landfill sites. According to Friends of the Earth, menstrual pads are made up of 90% plastic, and these plastics are then broken down and reabsorbed back into our food chains through animal consumption. On top of that, as if environmental destruction wasn’t bad enough, manufacturers often add fragrances to menstrual products and studies show that there can be up to 3000 chemicals (containing many harmful substances like carcinogens, allergens, irritants, and EDCS - endocrine disrupting chemicals) in the pads and tampons we use on a monthly basis.
It's scary stuff, right?
Managing cramps, nausea, fatigue, and a plethora of other symptoms is already tough, let alone having to source menstrual products that are less harmful. Well, I’ve got you covered! Here are my recommended pad alternatives to Always (the brand) that you can find in your local drugstore:
My favourite recommendation has to be first. TOTM sets out to produce organic menstrual products that are good for both menstruators and the environment. They don’t use damaging artificial substances and they opt for biodegradable/recyclable packaging where they can. On top of that, they’re cruelty-free, vegan, and donate to Endometriosis UK. Prices range from about £3.10 - £3.50 for a pack of pads which are often reduced in drugstore deals, and there are also many more products sold on their website.
Another great option is Luna, a line of sanitary products created by Superdrugs, who caught my eye when they used non-gendered language in their advertising (“people who menstruate” to include transgender and nonbinary people, rather than just cis women). Their pads are made from renewable, plant-based materials and are fragrance-free, with an average price of £4.19 for a pack.
Available at Superdrugs.
Flo give us fun packaging with eco-friendly products, what more could we ask for? Their sanitary towels are made from bamboo and cotton, free from harmful chemicals, and are wrapped with biodegradable material. Average price starts from £4.99 depending on your subscription choice, but discounts are sometimes found in stores. They also donate products and profits to charities that fight period poverty and help vulnerable women around the world.
Available at Boots.
- 4. Kind organic
Kind aim to produce organic, non-irritating sanitary products that are also “kind to the environment and kind to farmers” - hence, the name. All of their products are made with materials suitable for sensitive skin, are hypoallergenic, and contain no artificial fragrances. A pack of pads costs about £3.79 but they have loads more options for menstrual products in store.
Available at Boots.
Of course, this is only a small selection of products available on the market. There are so many other sustainable options, even outside of period pads – cups, underwear, plastic-free applicators, discs, sponges, the list is honestly endless. As students, we also have a limited budget and it can be difficult to find affordable and accessible environmentally-friendly products (sidenote: the website https://www.sanitarysaver.co.uk/ is a really useful resource for anyone looking to find the cheapest products on the market). These changes can be difficult and will take some adapting, particularly as the burden of environmental protection shouldn’t be left up to consumers. Regardless, it’s important to remember that any small effort we make can go a long way for our bodies and the natural world.