Most women of child-bearing age have a period once a month. It’s an indicator that your body is fertile, but whilst being able to bear children is a good thing, at least for many women, dealing with periods is not always easy. 

For one thing, periods are messy, painful, and very inconvenient, and for another, they are bad for the environment for reasons we will discuss below. 

If you would like to have a more environmentally conscious, ‘green’ period, read on for some tips and advice.  

Why are Periods Bad for the Environment?

OK, let’s clear one thing up: periods themselves are not bad for the environment. Menstrual blood is actually good for the environment! It can be used as a fertilizer because it contains three powerful nutrients: nitrogen, potassium, and phosphorous. You probably shouldn’t use your menstrual blood to fertilize your favourite orchid because it will smell in the long-term, but blood meal made from menstrual blood can be effective when used on outdoor plants.

The High Cost of Sanitary Pads and Tampons

Two hundred years ago, women used scraps of fabric to soak up menstrual blood. These were washed and reused again and again. The practice was time-consuming and not very discrete, but it didn’t harm the environment. 

Today, the average woman spends more than $4,000 on sanitary products over the course of her lifetime. That isn’t so bad when you compare what we spend on other non-essentials. Unfortunately, however, the cost to the environment is far higher.

Disposable sanitary products exact a huge toll on our environment. Tampons and sanitary towels are made from non-recyclable materials, mostly plastic. We are also encouraged to place used products in scented plastic bags to hide them from view. Tampon applicators have added to the waste problem.

It’s very difficult to know exactly how much plastic waste originates from sanitary products, as they are classed as medical waste, but it’s likely to be a significant amount. Most used sanitary waste from tampons and pads ends up in landfill sites. There it lies, leaching toxins into the soil and water systems. It’s a horrifying thought, but the crops we eat and the water we drink could have been contaminated by plastics from tampons and sanitary towels. 

As awareness of the environmental damage caused by sanitary products spreads, increasing numbers of women are making the switch to reusable products, such as menstrual cups

Reusable products are much better for the environment. They absorb the blood and can be washed, rinsed, and used multiple times. 

Menstrual Cups

Menstrual cups are the go-to product for women seeking to reduce their environmental impact during a period. Menstrual cups are made from medical-grade silicone or latex. They are designed to be worn internally, like a tampon. But unlike a tampon, they can be reused for months and even years. 

There are different sizes available, so it’s important to select the right size of menstrual cup. There are online guides to help you do this, but in general, older women and women who have had a vaginal birth will need a wider, larger cup. The height of a woman’s cervix is also important – some women have a low cervix and others have a high one. 

It’s possible that you will need different sizes of menstrual cups at various times in your life, but that’s OK, as you will need to replace your cup every couple of years or so, depending on how well you look after it.

There is an art to using a menstrual cup. It may take a bit of practice, but once you get the hang of inserting the cup, it will be easy to remove, empty, and reinsert it.

One of the advantages of using a menstrual cup is that they can be worn in place for up to 10 hours at a time. This means it is OK to keep your menstrual cup in place all day, so no more worrying about nipping to the bathroom at work. 

When properly in place, menstrual cups don’t leak either, so your laundry costs will go down when you have your period. Many women have to use a sanitary pad as well as a tampon when their menstrual flow is heaviest. Not only is this expensive and inconvenient, but it also generates twice as much non-recyclable waste.

Sporty women love menstrual cups, as they can use the gym or take part in outdoor sports without worrying about needing to change their cup. It’s a hassle-free process to empty a cup, even when you are miles from a bathroom. Use a bottle of water to rinse the cup and wash your hands. 

Reusable Menstrual Pads

Menstrual pads are just as eco-friendly as menstrual cups. They work in the same way as a disposable sanitary pad, but sitting inside your underwear and soak up menstrual blood. You change them as often as needed, but instead of discarding a used pad, you wash it instead. 

Reusable pads are available in a range of pretty fabrics and absorbencies. They are discreet, they look good, and can be washed along with other undergarments. 

Most women need around 8-10, so they have enough to wash and wear if they do laundry every day. 

Period Panties

Period panties look and feel just like regular panties, expect they have a built-in highly absorbent gusset. Different brands use different technology, but all period panties wick moisture away from your skin and block odors. They don’t feel bulky and even better, are available in a large range of designs, from boy shorts to bikini-style.

Even if you only wear period panties at the end of your period, rather than using disposable pads, it all helps the environment.  

Selecting the Right Eco-Friendly Product 

Every woman is different, so you may need to try a few different products out before you find one that suits your body and lifestyle. Read the reviews before you buy. What other women thought of a product is a useful way of gauging how effective it is.