How to Have a Zero Waste Period
Over half of the world’s population menstruates, but period products have remained virtually unchanged for decades. Traditional pads and tampons have been proven to be hazardous to our health, terrible for the environment, and cost us thousands of dollars over the course of our lifetimes.
It’s time to disrupt the cycle and make some changes, starting with a shift to zero waste sanitary products.
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Why switch to zero waste period products?
With zero waste options available for almost every area of life, it only makes sense that personal care and health products have begun to shift towards zero waste solutions.
But apart from doing your bit to reduce waste, there are other reasons to switch to a zero waste period! Let’s discover them below.
The price of your period
It is clear that zero waste solutions are needed when examining the lifetime impact of single-use disposable pads and tampons. The numbers are shocking. Did you know the average woman uses more than 9,600 tampons over the course of her lifetime?
Recent studies on the “pink tax”, have revealed the painful truth. Between pain relief medication, heating pads, birth control, pads, and tampons, period products cost an average of $18,171 per woman!
On average, women endure over 450 periods during their fertile years, spending a total of over 6 years of their lives on their period. That translates to years spent exposing sensitive skin to the plastics, bleached fibers, fragrances, dioxins, and even pesticides that are used to produce pads and tampons.
Some of the harmful substances like dioxins and furans are proven endocrine disruptors, though they are not required to be listed on tampon labels according to FDA definitions of medical equipment. These chemicals can worsen cramping and other period symptoms.
When considering these negative health effects, it makes sense that women should opt for less harmful period products. No one should spend six years of their life inserting plastic products with harmful chemicals into their bodies. Especially not when doing so is also detrimental to the environment and outrageously expensive.
Zero Waste sanitary products for the planet
And of course, there are the immense environmental impacts of using traditional period products. The total number of pads, tampons, and applicators being disposed of annually has continued to skyrocket, reaching an average of 20 billion products disposed of in North American landfills alone.
Even more concerning is the direct link between the production of the plastic used in tampon applicators and global warming.
The answer to solving the health, environmental, and cost concerns pertaining to traditional period products is simple: switch to zero waste menstruation products. With more zero waste solutions available today than ever before, there is a product out there for every woman.
Let’s look at some options below.
Zero Waste Period Alternatives
There is an incredible variety of new waste free period products that make excellent alternatives to single-use, disposable options. From novel choices such as the menstrual cup or period panties to zero waste versions of traditional pads and tampons, there is a zero waste period product to accommodate every woman’s comfort level.
Zero Waste Menstrual Cup
Menstrual cups aren’t a new concept, but they have just started to break into mainstream offerings for period products. Period cups are a great solution to replace tampons.
They have also had proven health benefits over traditional tampons; zero waste period cups eliminate concerns over toxic shock syndrome, and don’t dry out the vaginal walls like tampons do.
Zero waste menstrual cups are made of bell-shaped silicone or latex. To use one, the cup is folded and inserted into the vagina like a tampon. When the cup is in place correctly, you can’t feel it.
The cup will then expand to form a seal with the walls of the vagina, where it collects blood and prevents any leaking. It can be left in all day, and emptied periodically. Once removed, it can be washed with soap and water or sterilized with boiling water.
Many women prefer zero waste period cups for their ease of use, their durability and comfort, and cost-effectiveness over traditional products (great for going zero waste on a budget!). Though removal can be messy and sizing may take some time to figure out, menstrual cups are a great zero waste option that are loved by many.
Some women have even expressed a reduction in odor related to menstrual fluid, as well as a reduction in the severity of their cramping after switching to a zero waste period cup.
Where to buy your zero waste menstrual cup
- Diva Cup from Thrive Market (USA)
- XO Flow Cup from Life Without Plastic (USA & CAD)
- OrganiCup direct (UK & Europe)
Reusable Period Pads
If you don’t feel quite ready to make a shift to using a menstrual cup, or you just prefer pads, switching to reusable period pads may be a better option to start out. Zero waste menstrual pads are a comfortable, long-lasting alternative to traditional pads, and they don’t include any of the hazardous chemicals, plastics, perfumes, or bleaches found in most pads.
Reusable period pads are exactly what they sound like – pads sewn out of cotton cloth that are used in the underwear just like a disposable pad. The wings of the pad snap into place, and the pad collects blood. Once the pad is changed, it can be washed in the washing machine and re-worn time and time again.
Zero waste menstrual pads are far more comfortable than the plastic pads that can lead to chafing, and they are said to breathe better since they don’t have a plastic lining. This also allows moisture to evaporate more readily, reducing potential odors.
Though zero waste reusable pads might cost slightly more than disposable pads upfront, they can be used for years and save hundreds of dollars over the lifetime of the pads.
Where to buy your reusable period pads
- Buy Reusable Pads from Etsy (Worldwide)
- Buy Gladrags Washable Pads from Life Without Plastic (USA & CAD)
Zero Waste Period Panties
For women looking for the perfect combination of comfort, zero waste principles, and peace of mind, zero waste period panties are an excellent choice. Period panties vary greatly from company to company, but many can be worn in place of a pad or tampon.
Alternatively, they can be worn in conjunction with a menstrual cup, tampon, or pad for added protection. Period underwear is leak-proof, machine washable, and can be re-worn for years.
Some zero waste period underwear manufacturers offer different options based on your flow level and different cuts, so you can try everything from basic boy shorts to lacy bikinis or thongs. There are light, moderate, and heavy absorbency options suitable for coverage throughout the entire cycle.
Zero waste period panties are just as sanitary as tampons, and they feature anti-microbial fabric that prevents germs. Many women love the freedom and lack of bulkiness associated with pads and tampons, not to mention the ease of being able to wear the underwear all day without changing.
However, others were uncomfortable with wearing the underwear as blood continued to collect throughout the day. Also, these panties cannot be dried in the clothes dryer; they must be air-dried (which is a plus for the environment). Zero waste period underwear is definitely worth a try, but may not be the perfect solution for everyone.
Where to buy your period panties
Organic and Biodegradable Tampons
Uncomfortable with shaking up your period routine just yet? It’s okay to stick with what you know- but you can still strive for zero waste by shopping smarter and using waste free tampons.
Organic tampons are made from chemical and pesticide-free cotton that is naturally biodegradable. Waste-free tampons can decompose in around six months, compared to the hundreds of years needed for the plastics in traditional tampons to break down.
Waste free tampons typically contain no fragrances or dyes either, which makes them a great option for people who suffer from allergies or sensitivity.
They are inserted and discarded just like a normal tampon. Organic tampons are just as safe to use as traditional tampons, but they still need to be changed every several hours.
Though they are better for your health overall, the risk of toxic shock syndrome associated with wearing tampons does not disappear when you use waste-free tampons instead. TSS is caused by bacteria in the vagina and can occur when a tampon is left in for too long. This applies to any tampon, even organic cotton ones.
Reusable Tampon Applicator
Disposable tampon applicators pose the largest impact to global warming out of any period product manufactured worldwide. They are made from a thermoplastic that is produced with fossil fuels and takes centuries to break down.
If you’ve already decided to switch to organic, biodegradable tampons, it only makes sense to eliminate the worst environmental aspect of period care, and purchase a reusable tampon applicator as well.
Reusable tampon applicators come in a variety of forms and materials, from antibacterial medical grade polymers to cardboard. They are made to be compatible with waste-free tampons and are easy to wash and reuse for years to come.
Where to buy your reusable tampon applicator
- Buy direct from Dame
When it comes to period care, we can do better. Women deserve to use products that are not harmful to themselves or the environment. By switching to zero waste period products, it is possible to diminish the effects of the “pink tax” while also reducing environmental impacts and making periods more pleasant.