Green Your Period

By Guest Blogger   |  33Comments|

Thankfully, in recent years tips to go green have become rampant, and environmental awareness is on the rise. Many of us have done everything from the simple — change out our light bulbs, use recycled bags at the grocery store — to the invested: go solar, give up animal products, and so on. However, the issue of feminine hygiene and the accompanying products are rarely, if ever, mentioned. Is this because the topic is too private? Makes people uncomfortable? Inconvenient?

It’s uncertain exactly how long disposable diapers take to decompose in landfills, but it’s upwards of 500 years. Pardon the parallel, but it isn’t a stretch to see the relationship between the duration of time it takes a disposable diaper to decompose and a disposable menstrual pad and its packaging. If you do the cave math, 4 pads per day x 7 days x 12 months x 40 years x 60 million women in the U.S. alone, the waste is estimated to be in the billions of pounds annually. Not only is the volume an issue, but the manufacturing process and the actual components of the average feminine hygiene productinfluence the health of the planet and our bodies.

What’s a gal do to? Green your period — go reusable! If this is too private, makes you uncomfortable or seems inconvenient, stick with me. We’ll take it in stages.

Educate yourself.

· Don’t already understand the specific detriments caused by disposable feminine hygiene products in landfills, for marine life and in the manufacturing process? Learn more.
· Unfamiliar with the components of feminine hygiene products and why some things are better than others for your sensitive lady parts? Do some research.
· Unsure about your own cycle? Begin tracking it, and come to appreciate this cleansing and special process.

Ready to jump in? Assess your current products.

· What are they made out of?
· Are the components listed?
· Are the fibers cotton? And if so, is it organic?
· Is the fiber chlorine-free?
· What is the absorbent “core” of the pad made out of?
· For tampons, if there is an applicator, is it plastic?
· Are there scents or perfumes?

Assess your needs

Light flow, heavy flow, pads, tampons? Determine what you use, when you use it, and what you prefer during your cycle. Think about what is important to you in a menstrual product: overall quality, absorbency, comfort, ease of use, and so on.

Go Shopping

Go online or to your local natural foods grocery or co-op. Find their feminine care section. See what’s available. Look for protection that matches what’s important to you and what you use in disposables. For example, if the first couple days of your period are heavy, you’ll need several reusable cloth pads with heavier absorbency. You know that during work days you prefer tampons, so check out menstrual cups. Then, toward the end of your period, the flow is light, so thinner pads will do. Up front this is an initial investment, but overtime the savings are so much more not only for our wallets, but our health and Earth.

It’s likely you’ll discover a new world of reusable menstrual products, brands and methods in stores and online. Over time you’ll find what works best for you, but don’t be afraid to experiment a little as you get used to a new process. You may also discover a source of fun. Never did you imagine the fabrics and patterns of your pads could be so exciting! Not able to make an investment? There are templates online that instruct you in crafting your own cloth pads.


Once you’re up and running with reusable pads, it is no big thing to rinse them after use and toss them in the laundry with your other articles. Or follow the manufacturer’s instructions in getting them clean. You can store your pads in a decorative basket on a shelf in your bathroom or under the sink and when you’re out you can keep them in a reusable baggie with a waterproof liner. Check out the website for the company from which you purchased your pads. Many times they offer storage solutions, especially when you’re on the go.

Taking interest in and control over our period in this way is empowering and ultimately a gift we not only give ourselves and the planet, but one we can pass on to generations to come by setting an example in conservation and sustainability.

Deirdre Hall blogs with humor and honesty about all things menstrual

Photo credit: Kris M

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33 responses to Green Your Period
  1. Mooncup! I’ve had mine for years and it’s marvellous! Could never go back to using tampons

  2. Yes menstrual cups are for sure the most ecological solution. They are becoming more and more popular but they stay unfortunatly quite unknown. I invite you to have a read on my website http://menstrualcup.co. I also have a pinterest page called Green your period as well: http://pinterest.com/menstrualcup/green-your-periods/

    • Most women do not seem to get that it’s not going to always be perfect the first day or even the first cycle. It takes a lot of trial and error.

  3. Mooncup’s are the way forward, I could never go back to tampons either – Sea sponges are apparently another good alternative!

  4. This is what I love- dialog- two votes for Mooncup- a product I hadn’t heard of before. Now I’ll open a new window and check it out. Thank you for sharing!

  5. KB said on May 30, 2012

    I just ordered The Keeper and some reusable liners. This is ALL NEW TERRITORY for me and I’m nervous!!

  6. Thanks for opening up this important conversation!

    Just learned about menstrual cups last week and am so glad to have made the shift. I had been using organic cotton tampons, and thought it was a great choice. The brand of cup here in Canada is called Diva Cup (it’s the only one any local store carried) and having tested it out now I can safely say it’s something I think every woman should know about and consider using as an option – not just for the environment, but also for your own health.

    It was a naturopath that recommended it to me. The way she explained it was that a tampon is kind of like a wick in an oil lamp – it draws moisture out and away. Absorbency is, of course, important – but tampons can shift the natural balance of things and draw out the moisture too quickly, causing imbalance and therefore some challenges like cramping and clotting that can be completely unnecessary to deal with. I wish my OBGYN had known this little piece of advice! Would have saved me years of problems which were attributed to childbirth alone.

  7. Tali said on May 30, 2012

    I bought my diva cup a year ago and never looked back! The first few months are a bit of a learning curve in terms of proper placement and just takes a bit of getting used to a new system…but hey, so did tampons on pads when I first got my period anyway right???? I am so much happier with the diva cup and highly recommend!!

  8. I second the comment about Diva cup..I am in my fifties and have to admit that it was a paradigm shift to learn to use something for feminine hygiene that wasn’t disposable. I am finding that my cycles are more regular and easier to handle with less cramping while using it. It is a little trickier to use in public restrooms, but, creates so much less waste.

  9. Love this article. But I was waiting for the tampon hygrometer discussion how literally bacteria permiates the female organs during menses. Maybe that’s another topic altogether? That’s the #1 reason I stopped using them….for my health then the environmment.

  10. I came across the Diva cup in a health food store about five years ago, bought it and have never looked back. Best thing ever for my health, my wallet AND the environment! It did take a bit of practice to learn to position it correctly, but in all this time, I’ve only had a slight leak twice (user error!). It’s great for even light flow days or even for when you just think you might be getting your period. A bit of an initial investment, but so worth it. I paid about $40. for it five years ago! Have tried to share this info with other women I know, but most seem too uncomfortable to discuss the issue…I hope that changes someday!

  11. jen said on May 30, 2012

    I love my Diva cup and reusable liners. I’ve been using them 6 years and counting.

  12. I have read that they used to make tampons with asbestos. I don’t know if they do that any more, but that would explain the rise of ovarian and cervical cancers. Also, there is a chemical added to tampons to make you bleed more…causing you to buy more tampons! I’m in the “change” and fortunately not reliante on these products any more. Prior to that, once I had read that I switched to pads and had a lot less bleeding. I wish I had read this information earlier.

  13. Lisa said on May 30, 2012

    I have a Diva Cup and I tried it many times, but could never get it to seal properly, so I gave up. Any advice?

  14. Mary said on May 30, 2012

    I heard about the Diva cup this year, went ahead and tried it and really like it.

  15. Kyle said on May 30, 2012

    I got a Diva cup two months ago, I can not believe I lived to long with out it. Take the leap, you will be so happy you did. The planet will too!

  16. I’ve been using a Mooncup for years. Totally brilliant.

  17. I am so pleased to hear such widespread success and satisfaction with reusable alternatives!

    KB- I encourage you to stick with it, there may be a “learning curve” as some readers said and it may take some trial to figure out what will best work for you and your cycles, but chances are you will find what works!

    Rachel A- Great contribution. You’d think this would all be common knowledge by now, but little by little we’ll break the taboos surrounding menstruation and there will be femine health for all!

    Lisa- I would suggest checking out the website (divacup) if you haven’t already. There is advice there and you could always contact them and see what they’d recommend for getting it to seal.

    Thank you everyone!

  18. Tampons do not contain asbestos or have a chemical to make you bleed more. http://www.snopes.com/medical/toxins/tampon.asp (as an aside, Snopes is a great source when I get fwded emails from well-meaning aunts claiming something that sounds suspiciously like a rumor…Snopes clears it up right away with good sources). There are a lot of dangerous chemicals in our everyday products but there’s no conspiracy theory by tampon manufacturers. I’m intrigued by the diva cup and natural options, but lets not spread rumors in the comments please.

  19. Anon said on May 30, 2012

    Diva Cup – woot woot! I also found my cramps are way less now that I use the Diva Cup. Magical!

  20. I’ve had my ‘Keeper’ cup and reusable cloth pads for over 10 years. Whilst helping the environment and saving money, I’ve never had to worry about ‘running out’ of supplies. As I’m now approaching peri-menopause, I keep my wee cup in it’s cute ‘moon purse’ in my bag and can relax.

    I’ve always kept a record of my cycles and for anyone interested, I recently downloaded an app called ‘P Tracker’ – an easy way to keep a log/record of your monthly cycle :)

  21. Dianne-
    Such good points! There are several apps that help keep track and if you have supplies on hand- no surprises! Thanks for sharing!

  22. I’ve been using my Keeper for about 10 years and just replaced it with a nice new one. Love to see other ladies using it. I haven’t been able to convince any friends to try a menstrual cup. But I couldn’t be happier with mine.

  23. I’ve used either a Mooncup or Keeper for the last 10 years. If you can get past the initial few months of getting used to it, it becomes a no-brainer!

    BONUS! What I noticed during that time is that my experience of cramps and irritability decreased a lot over the first year. Also, since eliminating dairy and cheese last year, my one day per month of feeling like my insides were coming out has disappeared. Now, I have zero physical pain associated with this time of the month.

    If you’re reluctant I’d encourage you to go ahead and give it a 3 month trial. I LOVE MINE!

  24. I LOVE my Diva Cup!!

  25. Lyis said on June 1, 2012

    Yup, Diva cup — would never go back to uncomfortable, drying, wasteful, messy tampons or pads. Plus, I use the smaller Lady Cup for lighter days later in my cycle.

  26. I brought a Diva Cup in Canada a few months back and love it!!!
    No more uneccessary waste for me – although the boyfriend still isn’t sure about its pretty little bag sitting in the bathroom!

  27. Christi- It is so good to hear the discomfort and pain you were experiencing has diminished!

    Three Cheers for Diva Cup!

    Thank you everyone for sharing :)

  28. I ordered a moon cup ages ago and it has not arrived yet :(

  29. Wish they made a reverse moon cup for birth control possibilities. Seems like a via option and much better than the IUD or the sponge.

  30. Maggie: I think what you’re talking about is a diaphragm for birth control.
    I read about the diva/moon cups a couple years ago, but have been reluctant to try them. I’m strictly a tampon user which I know is sooooo bad–especially since I buy regulary bleached, chemical-laden ones. This was a good article to push me to try something different. Maybe this summer…

  31. Fio said on July 8, 2012

    I used to love my Keeper, started using it after having two kids and it worked great Used it for years. But then for some reason, started having problems with it leaking, like it wouldn’t seat properly. After a few different episodes of this, and trying it again after months to no avail, I kinda gave up. Has anyone else had this problem?
    Lauren, there are several brands of non-bleached organic cotton tampons that can be found – even in some supermarkets these days, if you don’t go for the cup, try these…prices are actually good on them! And wayyy better for you:)

  32. I tried a diva cup, but changing away from home was messy. I ended up with blood all over myself, and on my outer clothing. Also, storing the used cup until I could wash it at home was problematic. I would like suggestions on overcoming these difficulties.