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I have mentioned before in my posts on zero waste and cutting down on plastic that I have been trying to find ways to reduce the amount of plastic I use and trash I produce. While it’s not possible to live completely zero waste, I think any serious attempt at harming the environment less in our day to day life is helpful. When you become more conscious of your negative impact on the planet you genuinely start to enjoy the ways in which you can decrease the damage you cause.
One major way women can contribute to a more eco-friendly world is by using feminine hygiene products that are not designed to be trashed immediately after a few hours.
The average woman will use about 11,000 tampons or pads in her lifetime, add to that the boxes and wrappings they come in. Billions of feminine hygiene products end up in landfills every year. Let alone the money we spend on these products: The average woman will spend several thousands of euros on feminine hygiene products in her lifetime.
There are alternatives, however: The two main products on the market are the menstrual cup and reusable pads. Many women worry that reusing pads might be unhygienic. However, these pads are made of 100% cotton and washing them is no different than washing your clothes. If washing machines were not enough to clean our clothes we would certainly not wash and then re-wear our underwear, would we? Yet, somehow, the industry has told us that using plastic pads or bleached tampons is the only way of handling our periods. We also need to ask ourselves if it’s really more hygienic to “store” the used products in the garbage and then discard them in landfills for hundreds of years to decompose. The idea that it would be somehow gross to reuse hygiene products is quite recent. We have become so far removed from our bodies and how they function that we don’t want to be reminded of their natural processes and would rather toss away any reminders.
The systems are very simple. Cloth pads have wings like disposable pads, but they snap instead of having the adhesive. There’s no need to worry about them moving on regular underwear, but they don’t work very well with thongs. (There are, however, pantyliners for thongs.)
Once you replace a pad you should rinse it with cold water and possibly an organic soap. You can then let it soak in cold water (changing the water daily) until you throw it in the washing machine.
Menstrual cups are made of medical grade silicone and need to be folded before you insert them after which they pop open to absorb the blood before they have to be rinsed. They can be left in for up to twelve hours, unlike tampons which need to be changed more frequently to avoid toxic shock syndrome.
While both cloth pads and menstrual cups are initially on the pricier side they pay off fairly quickly because you don’t have to buy new products again every single month for years on end. This is probably one of the major ways women can save money and not only help reduce their ecological footprint. Another advantage is that once you buy them you simply have them. You don’t have days where you don’t have a product at home and need to rush to the drug store.
Cloth pads are a lot more comfortable than disposable ones as you don’t feel them at all due to the material. Disposable pads are made of about 90% plastic, and you tend to feel them which can make wearing them a bit uncomfortable.
I will admit that there are some struggles with using cloth pads, as staining can occur until you really learn how to take care of them, but once you get the hang of it they completely change your life.
Have you ever tried any zero waste period products? What did you think about them? Let me know in the comments below.
Half Bulgarian Turk, half German living life as an expat in Greece.