Let's talk about periods. If you are a menstruating human, this post is for you. And if you aren't, it is still important for you to be educated on things like this. During my zero-waste journey, addressing my period was one of the very first tasks on my list. I hated how much waste I produced during 'my time of the month,' and to think that I would be creating this waste for decades to come, BLEW MY MIND. However, I didn't immediately switch to all reusable menstrual products. Let's face it - it is super intimidating.
It was probably in 2013 when I started to look at more 'environmentally friendly' options for menstruating. And then a full year after that until I switch to all reusables in 2014. Below is my 'Good, Better, Best' model for zero-waste periods. This also happens to be the exact step-by-step process that I followed when starting my zero-waste period journey.
Regardless, I hope this meets you where you are at on your zero-waste journey. Please understand that incorporating any of these techniques is better than none at all.
GOOD Use menstrual products that are made with organic cotton, recycled, or plant-based plastics like Sustain Natural. Please beware, these applicators are NOT recyclable in general recycling curbside pickup. It does state that they are 'recyclable' on their website, which is hugely frustrating. I confirmed this with multiple recycling facilities and not one of them takes these. So please do your research. A general rule of thumb to go by is, all recyclable products have to be AT LEAST 2 in. X 2 in. (which these are not.) AND since these are plant-based plastic applicators (yay), plant-based plastics are neither compostable or recyclable. However, let's focus on the positives. They are organic cotton, made from some recycled content, and are plant-based. Again, this is the 'Good' option for those not ready to dive into reusable products yet.
BETTER Use menstrual products that are made from organic cotton and have no applicator to save on waste like o.b.
These produce very little waste, only a small plastic film surrounding the tampon. Since there is no applicator, this will help you get ready to start inserting a reusable menstrual cup, without the 'all in,' right away. If no applicator is still too much for you, o.b. has now come out with a low-waste applicator. This way, you can ease yourself into it.
BEST Use washable and reusable menstrual products made from earth-friendly materials like organic cotton, food-grade silicone, and are BPA free. I really can't recommend reusable menstrual products ENOUGH!!!! I love, love, love my period underwear by Thinx.
They are my first choice whenever I bleed. My flow has become more regular, my cramps less intense and I overall feel extremely more connected to my body.
Since these do run for just under $30 a pair, I recommend setting a little money aside every week to then buy a full week's worth, which gives you the biggest discount on their website.
How I was able to save up was putting $5-10 a week, until I eventually had enough.
I also love my menstrual cup! Although I prefer to 'free bleed' with the underwear, the cup comes in handy whenever I don't have access to change throughout the day. The cups itself is usually only a $30 investment and pays for itself within 3 months - incredible!
However, to be honest, it does take a couple of periods to get use to inserting it. I recommend wearing a pair of period underwear or a liner. Don't be too hard on yourself because you do get the hang of it. Just give yourself time and know there is no shame in switching back to tampons every once in a while.
And to put it out there, since I know you are probably thinking it - it really isn't that gross at all. You will come to find a whole new appreciation for your body. It's truly remarkable.
To put things in perspective, I have not had to pay for period products in over 5 years! Yes, initially, these products cost more upfront, but you do save money along the way.
I hope you enjoyed this article!
To sustainability & beyond!
- Marina M. McCoy
Good - Better - Best: Throughout the upcoming blogs, I will be using my 'Good - Better - Best' model. I will display an adaptable sustainable timeline to accommodate all stages of your low-waste journey. Truthfully, even I don't hit the 'Best' suggestion in all of the different waste categories. It's a timeline, so enjoy the process :)
The 'Good' suggestion is not the 'most' environmentally sound option but don't let that discourage you, it's still environmentally friendly. These are typically the suggestions where you have to buy new products or produce a little more waste than normal.
The 'Better' suggestion is somewhere in the middle between 'Good' and 'Best'. Typically you are using the resources around you but may not have the most sustainable alternatives accessible to you.
The 'Best' suggestion is the most environmentally sound option - for now - since it is ever-changing. This doesn't mean that it is the most expensive choice either. These are typically when you are reusing what is around you, buying secondhand, making your own products, and producing little to no waste.