Updated: May 5, 2021
Periods are the worst. Nearly 26% of the world population is of reproductive age and experiences getting their period once a month, along with all the annoying baggage that comes with it, like cramps, bloating, lethargy, mood swings, and so on. But with the stigma that comes with talking about menstruation and periods in public comes the fact that a lot of people don’t consider how unsustainable the products we use during our “time of the month” actually are. With the recent wave of people moving towards more sustainable lifestyles, it makes sense that your habits in relation to your periods should also be reviewed to see what changes you can make to reduce your environmental footprint. So if you, unfortunately, suffer from getting periods once a month and want to learn how you can make more sustainable choices with regards to your periods, this blog post will explain why incorporating sustainability into your periods is important and tips on how you can do just that.
Why Does it Matter?
Why does being sustainable during your period matter? Well, it is estimated that the average woman uses more than 11,000 disposable menstrual products in her lifetime, which is a lot of plastic ultimately forming the garbage patches located in the world’s oceans or numerous landfills worldwide when it is all added up. A study has also shown that “one year’s worth of single-use sanitary products [is equivalent to] 5.3kg of carbon dioxide produced”, which means that all the single-use sanitary products you use throughout your life not only produces plastic pollution that ends up in the water or land but increases your carbon footprint as well, contributing to air pollution and the breakdown of our ozone layer. That being said, these staggering figures should be enough to convince you that the impact single-use period products have on the planet is negative and that more of us should start to consider switching to more sustainable alternatives in order to reduce how much plastic we are generating every time we are on our periods.
How to Menstruate Sustainably
Sustainable Substitutes for Period Products
In the past few years, a number of sustainable alternatives to conventional single-use period products have popped up, each with their own pros and cons in terms of sustainability and tailored to your individual preferences in using tampons, pads, or other types of products.
One of the most popular substitutes in the market is menstrual cups. Not only are they reusable, due to the fact that they are generally made of rubber or silicone and can last anywhere from 6 months to 10 years, cups can also hold more blood, with the average amount being 1-2 ounces, whereas tampons can only hold up to ⅓ of an ounce of menstrual flow. Moreover, once menstrual cups reach the end of their lifetime, you can recycle your cup by burying it in the ground, donating the medical-grade silicon at your local hospital, or even by burning the cup as it is not toxic and will not produce toxic fumes.
Another alternative period product is period underwear, which brands like Thinx sell, as they are washable and reusable, can hold up to four tampons’ worth of liquid, and will significantly reduce the amount of plastic waste you generate. Reusable cloth pads are also similar, with the only difference being that they are shaped more like the traditional pads that you see and can be attached to your regular underwear. Some reusable cloth pads are also made of organic materials such as cotton, making them much better alternatives for your skin and the earth compared to the traditional pads that generally have some form of plastic incorporated into the cotton as well.
If you would still prefer to sticking with the traditional single-use pads and tampons, consider using brands that create biodegradable products, such as DAME — which produces organic tampons that come with a reusable tampon applicator — or Freda — who’s manufacturing plant has a zero-carbon footprint and produces both pads and tampons from eco-friendly materials. Switching to these products will allow you to maintain using single-use period products while reducing your plastic pollution contribution, as these period products will be able to break down in the earth.
Sustainable Products to Alleviate Period Cramps
Studies show that approximately 80% of women experience period pain during their lifetime, which means chances are you have or will experience period pain at some point. The question is, how are you handling that pain? While it is scientifically proven that heat will help alleviate pain, most people tend to buy electric heating pads, but when they break these products will just end up contributing to the 40 million tons of electronic waste being thrown away each year.
So as an alternative to electric heating pads, shops like HandMade Heat create microwaveable heating pads that are made of low-toxic, natural fiber materials and fabrics sourced from companies that are committed to reducing waste and chemical exposure. Alternatively, if you’re the type of person who likes doing arts and crafts, maybe consider creating your own homemade heating pad using uncooked rice or walnut shells, or experiment with different types of filling to see which one works best for you. Using these homemade heating packs also has the added benefit of repurposing organic waste you might have in your home, such as walnut shells or cherry pits, and if the organic material deteriorates over time you can just add it to your composting bin!
Sustainable Comfort Food
Last but not least, who doesn’t love some comfort food to help you get through your period? While there are many types of snack brands for almost any type of snack in the world, ranging from your sweet chocolates and candies to your savory chips and crackers, the next time you go to stock up your snack pile, consider buying from companies that have Fair Trade certification. If a company has Fair Trade certification on its products, it means that they advocate for the ethical treatment of their workers and the creation of their products in environmentally friendly conditions, and this certification process is rigorous to ensure that the companies that are certified fulfill these standards. Some brands, like Endangered Species Chocolate, also donate a portion of their profits to conservation efforts and the protection of endangered animals or other equally important global and environmentally-focused causes. So the next time you’re craving a snack, take some time to research brands that support causes you care about and look out for the Fair Trade certification symbol on the packaging to ensure that the products you are buying are advocating for their labor force as well.
These are just some of the ways you can incorporate sustainability into your periods so that your “time of the month” is a little less painful and a lot more considerate of the impact it has on the environment. But you aren’t limited to the suggestions made here, so take some time to conduct your own research and evaluate your own menstrual habits to see how you can convert to a more eco-friendly lifestyle. If you want to learn more about incorporating sustainability into other aspects of your life, want to know more about Fair Trade products and certification, or just want to stay updated on environmentalism, be sure to subscribe to our newsletter, stay tuned for more blog posts, and follow us on Instagram @wellmadewrld !