Happy Earth Day – Alternative & Reusable Menstrual Products
Of course I was going to bring up reusable menstrual products on Earth Day – what other women’s health-related topic fits so neatly? There are definitely environmental issues associated with your choice of menstruation product, considering how often we need such items over our lifetime. I haven’t touched on this in a while, so I thought it might be time to revisit your earth-friendly and earth-friendlier options.
Some women like traditional, disposable pads and tampons but are concerned about production issues of more familiar brands such as the use of agricultural pesticides and genetically modified crops to produce the items. Natracare is probably the best known provider of organic/natural versions of tampons and pads; I used these when I lived in the co-op, because that’s what we bought for the house. Seventh Generation also offers organic cotton tampons.
Other women, like myself, are concerned about the cost, shipping, and disposal of so many products that simply get thrown away or flushed. In this case, you have several options, including absorbent cloth pads and cup-like devices, each of which can also be washed and reused.
If you prefer using pads, reusable cloth pads are an options, and can be purchased in a variety of patterns, sizes, and absorbencies (some allow an insert for heavier days). Lunapads and GladRags are probably the best known among cloth pad providers. Sckoon, which I wasn’t aware of until I started this post, sells cloth pads in some lovely colors and patterns. LunaPads also offers the all-in-one LunaPanties, where the cloth pad is basically part of a pair of panties rather than a separate item. Both of these companies also sell DivaCups/Keepers/Moon Cups, which we’ll get to shortly.
To be truly frugal and earth-friendly, you could just make your own cloth pads from things you already have. If you have old flannel pajamas around, that would probably do the trick. There are several websites that provide instructions, and the Cloth Pads Wiki has links to patterns and instructions, but you can find more online if needed (such as this very detailed page from the Hillbilly Housewife). If somebody comes up with a pattern for an all-in-one period panty like LunaPads sells, please let me know, because that is just cool.
I love the idea of these (I never could stand the irritation of “normal” pads), but I haven’t gotten around to trying to make them myself. If you’re not so handy, you can buy homemade pads on Etsy and perhaps elsewhere and support a crafter in the process. Some of the creations on Etsy are so damn pretty I want to buy them and not even use them.
Now for the cups! There are basically three products out there: the Keeper, the Moon Cup, and the DivaCup. They’re all basically the same thing – a flexible cup worn internally to catch menstrual flow that you just dump/rinse and reuse. When I say “reuse,” I mean you buy one and keep it for about ten years. I use a Keeper myself, and I absolutely love it. The Moon Cup and Diva Cup are the same, except they’re made of silicone for those with latex allergies, while the Keeper is latex. Don’t be alarmed by the stems on these things – you can cut them to whatever length is comfortable to you, and I’ve removed mine entirely.
If you’re really serious about this, some women do “free bleed,” or use none of these products for protection. I also found someone suggesting rolled up baby socks as makeshift reusable tampons. There are a lot of earth-friendlier options out there – choice is yours.