Better At Menstruation: Three simple swaps for a healthier, more sustainable period

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Tampons, applicators and pad wrappers — there’s a lot of waste that goes hand in hand with having your period. National Geographic estimates that menstruating individuals go through anywhere between 5,000- 15,000 tampons and pads in a lifetime, and in the U.S. alone, period products create 200,000 metric tons of garbage every year.

But it’s not just the products themselves that are the issue. Over the course of a menstruator’s lifetime, environmental organization Friends of the Earth predicts menstruators will throw away an estimated 400 pounds of packaging.

If you're looking for a more sustainable way to tackle your next period, we’ve gathered three simple swaps to make it not only more eco-friendly, but a little healthier too.

Upgrade your tampons

These days, most plastic tampon applicators are made out of low density polyethylene, which requires a lot of energy to make, and typically can’t be recycled because they are considered medical waste.

Besides the environmental factor, conventional tampons can contain things like pesticides and fragrances. Because the vagina is a very permeable organ, the concern is that those substances can then circulate in your body and cause harmful effects over time.

If you don’t want to wonder about the potential ingredients in your tampons, switching to organic tampons can be a great fix. They work the same way, but the body and string is made of organic cotton or bamboo, which can be composted. You can also shop for tampon kits that come with a reusable applicator to further cut down on waste.

Eco sanitary reusable pad with white delicate flower and black underpants on washing line, grey background. Health care and zero-waste, no plastic concept.
Reusable pads and period underwear are a sustainable swap for single-use pads. (Getty Images)

Swap pads for period underwear

As another low-waste option, period underwear and reusable pads are a great alternative to single use menstruation products. With the ability to hold up to 8 tampons of blood, they can definitely be used on any day of your period. However, depending on your flow, they can also be used as a back up to using a cup or be worn on their own on lighter days.

If you have never used reusable pads or period underwear before you might be a little intimidated by the washing situation, but it’s as simple as rinsing the product thoroughly in cold water, tossing it into your laundry and running the load on cold.

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Try a menstrual cup

Menstrual cups have become extremely popular in recent years thanks to their low-waste appeal, but they do come with a learning curve. They can also be slightly pricier up front, but they will end up saving you a ton of money in the long run as a single cup can last up to 10 years. Plus they hold almost five times more than a tampon (depending on the cup).

If you are new to the menstrual cup game or if you have a sensitive bladder, the Lena Cup is a great option for newbies. For experts looking for a customizable fit, the Me Luna menstrual cup is available in different sizes that allow you to find the perfect fit.

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