How to Have an Environmentally Conscious Period

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There are many reasons why so many women are turning towards more environmentally conscious period products these days.
The environment is a very strong backing force for a lot of women. For many years, the modern convenience of disposability has long been marketed as the answer for discreteness and hygiene for women. Unfortunately, this has come at a huge cost to the environment.

Did you know that a pack of conventional pads contains up to five plastic bags worth of plastic?

Yep. Conventional disposable pads and tampons, plus their packaging are often made entirely out of plastic. That’s a lot of plastic going into the landfill per period, per woman.
Worryingly so, these period products will live longer than us! Yes, you read that right. The plastic in period products will remain in the environment unchanged for hundreds of years.

Due to the fact that these products are non-recyclable, ultimately, they end up in the landfill and/or in our water systems such as rivers and the ocean.
In fact, period products are the fifth most common item found washed up on Europe’s beaches. Plastic tampon applicators wash up on beaches in their thousands!

As we know, plastic does not biodegrade but instead breaks into smaller pieces until it eventually becomes microplastics. This is severely detrimental to the ocean’s ecosystem and aquatic life.

Naturally, here in Nourish, we recommend period products that are safe for you and the planet. That’s where this blog post comes in. Today we’re going to cover a variety of planet-friendly options for you to have an environmentally conscious period. Let’s get to it!

Environmentally Conscious Period cup

A Menstrual Cup

A menstrual cup is a small, foldable, reusable device, most commonly made from silicone. The cup is inserted into the vagina and collects the menstrual blood rather than absorbing it like pads and tampons.
It’s incredibly eco-friendly since you buy it once, reuse it at each period and it lasts of years! It’s also a really easy way to dramatically reduce the waste you produce.

Let’s unravel the mysteries of the menstrual cup a little further.
Here in Nourish, we stock the Mooncup. You’ll notice straight away that there are two sizes.
Size A is for those who are 30 or over and all who have given birth vaginally.
Size B is for those who are under 30 who haven’t given birth vaginally.

Pro’s

  • Environmentally-friendly
  • Save money (since it’s a one-time investment vs. purchasing period products each month)
  • The Mooncup holds three times more blood than a regular tampon. This means you won’t need to empty it as often as you would have to change tampons or pads
  • It can be left in for 12 hours so you don’t need to worry about changing it at night (depending on your flow)
  • It’s comfortable. In fact, when you insert the Mooncup correctly you shouldn’t be able to feel it at all
  • You can do sports including running, swimming etc. without having to worry about leaks
  • The cup contains no toxins, bleaches or other chemicals
  • It doesn’t cause skin irritations or rashes
  • Since the cup collects the blood instead of absorbing, you don’t experience the uncomfortable ‘drying out’ that can be experienced with tampons
  • It’s really easy to disinfect your cup by simply boiling it for 3-5 minutes in clean water before and after each cycle.

Cons:

  • Since we’re all unique, one cup brand/size may not be for you. It can take time to find the right fit and you might need to go through a couple of cups to find your match. Luckily, most companies have size guides to help you out. It may also just be a matter of practice to get it to fit right.
  • It can take some time to get used to and learn the hang of it. Using a Mooncup can take a little practice, sometimes up to 3 cycles; although many people will get the hang of it straight away. But take your time because once you’ve got used to it, your Mooncup will last for years and years
environmentally conscious period moon cup

How they work:

Menstrual cups are inserted into the vagina and collect blood into the cup. Don’t worry, the cup comes with instructions, plus there are a lot of Youtubes on it!
After 4-12 hours, depending on your flow it can then be removed and emptied. Then you simply wash it in the sink or wipe it (depending on the scenario). Then it’s re-inserted and you’re good to go.

What if I’m out in public?

Because the Mooncup has a much larger capacity than pads and tampons and can be worn for up to 12 hours, you may not have to empty your cup when you are out. However, in the case that you do, try the following:

  • Wash your hands before removing and emptying your cup
  • If there is no sink within reach, simply wipe your Moon Cup clean with a dry or damp tissue
  • Reinsert it
  • Next time you’re able to use a sink or are back home, you can then wash and rinse your cup with water.
  • Another option is that you take a small bottle of water with you to rinse the cup over the toilet.

If you’re struggling to insert your cup and water isn’t helping, try natural lube. One of the best lubricants to use with a menstrual cup is a water-based lubricant such as Yes water-based lubricant.
It’s not recommended to use oil-based lubricants as these may degrade your menstrual cup.

natracare tampons and pads

Organic Plastic-Free Pads and Tampons

Natracare pads, tampons and wipes are made from renewable, biodegradable and compostable materials. They are the period products you’ll find stocked on all of our shelves dedicated to your monthly cycle. That’s because unlike conventional brands, they won’t be polluting the earth for the next 500 years.

Pros:

  • All the cotton used is 100% organic. It’s the only ingredient in Natracare tampons. Their pads and liners all have an organic cotton cover making them soft, and gentle to your skin.
  • Natracare products allow the skin to breathe. Pads and panty liners made with plastic are not as breathable and wearing them all day (or even all week!) can create a sweaty and uncomfortable environment for your skin.
  • Natracare use compostable cardboard applicators for their tampons
  • They’re compostable! If you use menstrual products that are plastic-free (like Natracare) and made from natural biodegradable materials such as organic cotton and plant cellulose, then you can compost pads and tampons!
    If you’re interested in how you can compost natural pads and tampons head over to Natracares page.
  • Both pads and tampons are convenient and discreet in public bathrooms. They’re generally comfortable and sports such as swimming are ok when using tampons.

Cons:

  • There’s a high cost because products need to be purchased each month
  • There is still waste being produced
  • Tampons are associated with a risk of toxic shock syndrome 
  • Pads can cause skin rashes for some women
  • Tampons may cause drying out
  • Some women find them uncomfortable
environmentally conscious period cloth pad

Cloth Menstrual Pads

Cloth menstrual pads are another option for those who like to use pads but are looking for a more environmentally friendly option.

Essentially, they serve the same purpose as a disposable pad and look almost identical. but they’re made of washable fabric such as cotton cloth. You can also find them made out of bamboo.
They’re a really comfortable and cost-effective alternative to disposable pads, and often come with cute pattern prints too 😊

Pros:

  • You save money over time. Buying/making enough cloth pads to cover an entire menstrual cycle may at first set you back more than a pack of disposables ones but then you’re set for at least 5 years. Maybe even longer.
  • They’re better for the environment. Naturally, by not using disposable products that end up in landfill you will be helping the environment immensely. Reusable products last much longer and stand up to multiple uses. They also don’t contain the toxic chemicals that conventional disposables can have.
  • You won’t experience that irritation often associated with disposables. Reusable cloth pads are made from soft, breathable fabrics that allow for airflow. This means there is less sweating, irritation and chafing – Yes, please!
  • Cloth pads have wings that snap into place instead of an adhesive like with disposable pads.
  • They’re very easy to care for and don’t require much extra work than your normal laundry.

Cons:

  • You have to splurge out quite a bit at first to cover your whole cycle.
  • They may not be so convenient for everyone. Mostly for those that will have to change their pads throughout the day and carry them around in a wet bag until they’re home.
    For those worried about this – here’s what you do:

    When you need to change your pad, hold it with the absorbent side face up, then fold in the top and bottom and snap the wings together. Put it in your small wet bag and when you get home, rinse the pads and wash as usual. Another option is to wear a higher absorbency pad so you don’t have to change it as often.
environmentally conscious period products

How to clean them:

For panty liners and lightly soiled pads:

  • simply wash them with your normal laundry as no special treatment is required.

For soiled pads:

  • Rinse out your soiled pad/s under cold water under the sink, then fold the pad into two and gently rub the pad together. Repeat this until the water runs clear. You can also do this whilst you’re in the shower.
  • If you find there is still visible staining, apply a stain remover such as Ecover Stain Remover. Apply a tiny amount on the soiled area then fold the pad into two and gently rub the pad together.
  • Then, place the pad in your wet bag or designated period bucket until laundry day.
    When it’s time to do laundry, pop your pads into a mesh laundry bag and wash with your normal laundry. 
  • It’s generally not recommended to use fabric softener or fabric conditioners as they will decrease the absorbency of your cloth pads. Equally, it’s best to hang dry your pads instead of using the dryer to extend their lifespan.
environmentally conscious period pants

Period Pants

Period pants are exactly what they sound like. They are a pair of pants that are designed to absorb blood. There are several companies making them and they come in various absorbencies. Some are for use on heavy days and others for light days.
They’re also great to use in conjunction with another period product such as the menstrual cup, especially when you’re new to using it and are worried to have the occasional leak.

Pros:

  • Environmentally-friendly
  • Comfortable – it’s just like wearing regular underwear
  • You save money over time (one-time investment vs. purchasing products each month)
  • You can wear them over a long period of time without the worry of toxic shock syndrome
  • They can hold a lot of blood – this also makes them fantastic for wearing at night as you don’t have to worry about changing your pad.
  • They’re great as a back up when using a menstrual cup
  • Washing them is easy

Cons:

  • To buy enough for a cycle can set you back a fair bit at first (but of course, you then don’t need to buy disposables again)
  • When you’re changing your knickers whilst out, you have to take everything off which isn’t always convenient.
  • You’ll also have to carry your soiled knickers around in a wetbag until you’re home.

How to clean them:

Washing them is easy. It’s a similar method to the cloth pads, except you rinse them with cold water and leave them in your designated period bucket and wash them COLD. Follow the instructions from the company for how to wash their specific product.

And there you have it!

Your environmentally conscious period is incredibly easy to obtain 🙂
You can use pads, tampons and panty liners made from 100% organic cotton; menstrual cups, cloth pads and period pants!
Choose one or use them all, it’s up to you!
Experiment, have patience and do your research. It’s just one simple way we ladies can help our planet, by choosing to have an environmentally conscious period.

If you’re struggling with period pain, check out my previous blog posts:

Emily Nöth

Any questions? Drop into your local Nourish store to chat with our expert team and explore our full range of foods, supplements and skincare. You can also find our full product range in our online store.

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*Please note that while we are knowledgeable about our products and nutrition, this blog should never be a substitute for medical advice and attention.

Please remember that you should always obtain the all-clear from your doctor before starting any new supplement plan or diet if you’re on any medication