Truth be told, having a low-waste period without any disposable products was something that worried me for a long time. I was intimidated! It wasn’t until several months into my low-waste journey before I decided to give it a go. To my amazement, reusable period products are now one of my all-time favourite Zero Waste swaps! I looooove not buying disposable, mostly plastic, period products every month. So here, I’ll offer some tips and tricks for those just starting out.
Menstrual product waste
It’s estimated that a menstruating person goes through anywhere from 10,000 to 16,000 period products over their lifetime. That’s a staggering number! Most disposable menstrual products are made with plastic, which means that they don’t biodegrade, and they typically require fossil fuels to create. They’re even found on beaches and in our waterways. And they can also be full of potentially hazardous chemicals such as fragrance. No thanks!
(Transparency: these photos depict menstrual products, including some previously gifted products from HannahPad for a sponsored post. This post is not sponsored.)
Is it possible to actually enjoy using period products? Truly, I think so. I’ve sworn off annoying tampons and crunchy plastic disposable pads and haven’t looked back. What I use now is way more enjoyable, as well as more eco-friendly.
First, a note: as I always say, not every swap is right for everyone. That’s okay! Do what works for you. Without further ado, these are the main low-waste period options.
Reusable cloth pads
Soft and absorbent, cloth pads can feel really lovely while being effective. They’re easy to use (typically with wings that “snap” around your underwear), and not-so-scary to wash. Plus they come in countless sizes, absorbency levels, and patterns. Yes–pads can be absolutely beautiful! There are also smaller liners, and ones made specifically for postpartum. I especially love that there are some wonderful organic options.
Honestly, my favourite option when it comes to comfort. I especially love wearing some heavy-flow ones to bed. It looks much like regular underwear, but can absorb period blood without the bulk of pads. They also don’t need readjusting, which is lovely. There are different types for different flows, and lots of different styles as well!
I’ll admit right off the bat that I’m no expert in menstrual cups—truthfully, I’ve never used one. For me, I was never a fan of tampons, so I always veered toward the other options. However, if you typically used tampons, you may adore cups. I’ve heard such fantastic things about them! Basically, a menstrual cup is a small device that is inserted into the vagina to catch period blood. They’re typically made from medical-grade silicone, and they come in a wide variety of sizes based on your body. From everything I’ve read, they may take a wee bit of trial and error and they’re not right for everyone, but can be a fantastic, convenient, and comfortable option. People who use them swear by them!
Mix and match
The beauty of these options is that they can work together well. I’ve heard that many people use a cup with period underwear or pads for added security depending on their personal flow and comfort.
Period poverty and period shame
When we make decisions about period products, it’s important to understand that not everyone has this ability. Many people near and far around the world don’t have access to menstrual products. To read more about period shame, period poverty, and what we can do, please read my article in alive magazine: “Let’s Talk about Periods.” As an added note, if you make the transition to low-waste period products and have a surplus of disposable products kicking around, consider donating them to a women’s shelter.
There you have it! Good luck, and have fun.