Just because we flush them or toss them into the trash doesn’t mean that they’re gone! Pads and tampons certainly do have an environmental impact.
An average woman will use around 16,000 or more tampons or pads during her lifetime. That’s 7 billion tampons and pads landing in landfills each year. Most of them contain chemicals, toxins, additives and synthetic materials such as plastic. The plastics, first of all, take a very long time to breakdown. Second, they also end up leaking into nature, thereby polluting our rivers, lakes, streams and world.
So here are the better plastic-free options:
The first green menstrual products you’ll probably want to check out are menstrual cups. Designed to replace tampons, they’re usually made from medical grade silicone. Although some companies say to replace them every year or two, most people get 5-10 years out of them over a lifetime, which equals 4-8 cups vs. thousands of tampons. It really does make a big difference for Earth!
Reusable sanitary pads are very similar to disposables, except that they’re made with cloth, bamboo, charcoal and other natural materials. As with menstrual cups, they can last 5-10 years, and a single pad potentially can replace thousands of disposables.
The major negative is that you have to wash them. However, if you don’t care about staining, just throw them in with your regular laundry: it really is that easy. If you do care about staining, soak them in cold water after use. I wash mine with soap nuts and line dry them in the sun, which naturally bleaches and disinfects them. I use these pads, which I bought from Life Without Plastic.
These are my daughter’s favorite because period underwear look and feel almost identical to regular underwear but can absorb several tampons’ worth of blood, depending on the style you choose. Organic cotton and other sustainable fabrics can offer better breathability. There are many brands, but we like Everie and Bamboo.
Plastic-Free Pads and Tampons
If reusable just seems like too much of a challenge, there are also plastic-free pads and tampons. The plastic-free options usually are organic as well, and they have a number of advantages over conventional pads and tampons.
Although organic pads and tampons are a bit more expensive, many people find that they’re worth it for the advantages listed above. Here is a good plastic-free brand of tampons and pads.
Ready to Make the Switch?
Beyond being better for the environment, green period products are better for your health. And, in the case of menstrual cups and reusable pads, they will save you a ton of money. I made the switch over 10 years ago. Now I have a teenage daughter using reusable products, so I estimate that we have saved over $2000 so far.