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Who Saves the World? Girls!

Reusable Menstrual Products Reduce Environmental Impact

By L.A. HancockPublished 2 years ago 5 min read
Who Saves the World? Girls!
Photo by Inciclo on Unsplash

It's no secret that our planet is in crisis. Climate change caused by carbon emissions driven by human-fueled consumption causes glaciers to melt, oceans to rise, atmospheric and air quality issues, and an undeniable trash problem in our communities and oceans.

I am a child of the nineties, and when I hit elementary school in the early 2000s, global warming and climate change were still hotly debated, not yet widely accepted. But even in 2001 and 2002, we increasingly understood that our planet had a big trash problem. To combat this, my school had a robust recycling program, carefully planned Earth Day celebrations, and volunteer days for community clean-up and beautification. Recycling and trying to live sustainably has always been a big part of my life.

It makes little sense then that I rarely stopped to question the impact that my purchase of menstrual hygiene products, like tampons and pads, had on the environment. I mean, periods are a part of life for many people with uteruses. My monthly purchase of tampons and pads was just something I accepted as a matter of course.

National Geographic writes that:

In 2018 alone, people in the U.S. bought 5.8 billion tampons, and over the course of a lifetime, a single menstruator will use somewhere between 5 and 15 thousand pads and tampons, the vast majority of which will wind up in landfills as plastic waste.

By Natracare on Unsplash

That's a lot of plastic waste left to decompose over vast amounts of time in our landfills...and that's in just one country alone. And it's not just on land that menstrual waste is a problem. British organization Friends of the Earth writes on their website that:

Figures from the Marine Conservation Society reveal that on average, 4.8 pieces of menstrual waste are found per 100 metres of beach cleaned. For every 100m of beach, that amounts to 4 pads, panty-liners and backing strips, along with at least one tampon and applicator.

They go on to note that the plastic in menstrual products found along beaches and in oceans breaks down into even smaller plastics over time, known as microplastics. Microplastics are a growing problem that scientists are still studying, but they are known to negatively impact marine life and their presence is increasingly detected in the human body as well.

So what do we do to combat this problem? It's not as though people with periods can simply stop having them.


Reusable Menstrual Cups

It wasn't until after I had my son and began looking for different solutions for my newly returned cycles that I discovered my favorite reusable menstrual product.

Menstrual cups are easy to use, easily washable, and can be worn up to twelve hours before need to be emptied, rinsed, and reinserted. When inserted properly, they are painless and unnoticeable. I find that many people who are on the fence about menstrual cups are squeamish about the mess factor, but they feel much cleaner than tampons and pads...and certainly cleaner for the environment!

Made out of medical-grade rubber, silicone, or latex, they last up to ten years and produce "0.4% of the plastic waste that single-use pads build up, or 6% of that created by tampons in the span of 10 years" according to a study published by The Lancet Public Health.

Here are four menstrual cups I recommend trying if you are interested in a hassle-free, mess-free (seriously, you just wash it all down the toilet or sink!) period and reducing your environment impact on the planet.

Best All-Around Option

The DivaCup is my cup of choice. Available in three sizes (Model 0, Model 1, and Model 2) which correspond to your age, these come with incredibly easy-to-use instructions and a discreet carry bag to keep your cup safe inside your purse or backpack. Retailing for up to $39.99, they are on the pricier end of the menstrual cup market, but with their associated foundation DivaCares, which works to address period poverty through gifts of menstrual products and financial support, the investment is well worth it.

Best Budget Option

At just $12.99 for a pack of two smalls and rated Amazon's Choice for menstrual cups, Dutchess Cup is a great brand to try on a tighter budget. I love that these cups come in a two pack in pink and purple. The colors are fun, but also functional, as you can easily remember which cup is already sanitized and ready for use and which ought to be sanitized before further use. These also come as a one pack in size large for $9.99, so read the descriptions carefully to decide what's right for you!

Best Organic Option

With OrganiCup, you are purchasing a product that is environmentally friendly not just in the sense that it will reduce your plastic menstrual waste, but also because OrganiCup is thoughtful right down to their sustainable cotton and organic cotton storage bag. This award-winning product is vegan and allergy certified, comes in three sizes, and falls into a middle price-point at $27.95.

Best Easy Removal Option

If you are new to menstrual cups or if easy insertion and removal is otherwise important to you, Flex makes excellent options in two sizes. The company bills this product as the only cup in the world with a pull tab for removal. Traditional cups require the user to reach and pinch the stem of the cup for removal. I have not tried this product personally, but I know that there is a bit of learning curve at first with any menstrual cup and I can see how this product would make it easier for people who have just started menstruating, or people who have just started using cups. At $34.99, it is a great investment on your journey to living more sustainably!

What About Other Options?

In the ever-growing market for sustainable period products, there are also reusable pads and period underwear available. The ideas linked here are just a brief glimpse into the world of sustainable menstruating. I encourage readers to do your own research, find a solution that works for you, and make the investment for more sustainable menstruating! It might seem like just a small change in the grand scheme of helping our communities, oceans, and planet, but your wallet, body, and planet will thank you in the long run.

By Antonino Visalli on Unsplash


About the Creator

L.A. Hancock

I'm a wife and mom, and this is my creative outlet. I am experimenting with lots of different writing styles and topics, so some of it is garbage, and I'm totally fine with that - writing is cheaper than therapy. Thanks for stopping by!

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