When we remove the waste from our periods, how does this change our time of the month? Let's take a look at the options for an eco-friendly period.
In this guide:
- How wasteful is your period?
- How much do we spend on period products?
- What is a sustainable period?
- 3 reusable period products you'll want to try
- How to wash reusable period products
How wasteful is your period?
Let's go back to how most of us grew up, when reusable period products (or periods at all) weren't really a thing anyone talked about.
For most of us, periods meant a stash of pads and tampons you kept in your bag and under the bed which you needed to keep topped up. This meant a bathroom bin full of plastic wrappers, applicators and used plastic products.
Of course, all of it had to go somewhere. In the UK, we send 200,000 tonnes of menstrual waste to landfill every year. How much of it do you think is yours?
And all this waste not only harms nature - it also comes at a cost to us.
How much do we spend on period products?
Sadly, period poverty is still a thing. In the UK, 1 in 10 teens can't afford to buy their own sanitary pads.
When you look at how much periods cost us, you might see why. On average, if you're buying disposable products, you'll spend £128 a year on your period. That's £4,800 over a lifetime.
Does this have to be the case? Well, that's where reusable period products come in. Eco friendly period products might be more costly to invest in, but they're designed to last for years, even up to a decade.
What is a sustainable period?
For us, a sustainable period is any method you use that:
- Reduces plastic waste
- Reuses period products
- Uses sustainably-sourced materials
- Chooses ethically-made products
- Most importantly, works for you
Whether you end up going for period underwear or menstrual cups, keeping these points in mind will help you make the best choice when it comes to reusable period products. As with all things sustainable, you might not be able to tick every box but, in the words of Maya Angelou, 'Do the best you can until you know better. Then when you know better, do better.'
And, if you ever needed any more inspiration for a plastic free period, just remember a pack of 14 disposable pads contains as much plastic as 5 shopping bags and can be 90% crude oil. Ew!
3 reusable period products you'll want to try
Before writing this guide, I did some research of my own and asked you which eco period products you'd choose. Here are the results:
- Period underwear - 36%
- Period cup - 31%
- Reusable pad - 20%
- Plastic-free disposable pads - 13%
Reusables are a clear favourite, with period underwear topping the list!
The kind of sanitary products you use will depend on your own cycle, the way you live and how heavy your period is. You might also combine products in a way that works for you, like using a cup with a pad on a heavy flow day.
With this in mind, I've put together my top 3 recommendations for reusable period products:
Period pants are probably the ultimate fuss-free option for a sustainable menstrual cycle. They look and feel like regular underwear, and have built-in layers to keep you dry when it's your time of the month.
Period underwear can hold 1 to 2 tampon's worth and keep you leak-free for 8 to 12 hours. They're growing in popularity, and you can use them for all kinds of activities including sports.
As with all period products, you'll learn what's best for you over time. Generally it's time to change your pants when you see blood around the seams or they feel slightly wet. All you'll need to do is give them a rinse and put them in the laundry basket.
When you look at the options, you'll see period underwear is the most expensive and the biggest investment when it comes to a sustainable period. Generally, you'll need 3-4 pairs to get you started. If you look after them well though, they can last you for years.
As period pants need to be leak-proof and hold blood, they aren't entirely plastic free. Our AllMatters period pants are made from waterproof polyester, TENCEL™ Lyocell from sustainable wood and VEOCEL™ Specialty Viscose - a more sustainable viscose with 50% lower emissions.
They're made in Sri Lanka, in a factory that complies with the Ethical Trading Initiative. This means the makers are paid a living wage and work in safe conditions with a right to unionise.
"Period cups are life changing!!!" It's something I hear again and again, and it's the same story for me.
Menstrual cups have been around for years and are increasingly catching on now because of one brilliant quality; they make your period something you can almost completely forget about!
You can wear a period cup for up to 12 hours, which is twice as long as a tampon. This means, unless you have a very heavy flow, you'll only need to empty your cup once in the morning and again in the evening.
Of course, there's one aspect that puts people off. Menstrual cups are a lot more daunting than period underwear and reusable pads! Are they worth it? I really think so.
If you're thinking of trying a menstrual cup, here are 3 tips to get you started:
- Pick the right size for you
- Practice on a low-stress day
- You know you've placed it well when you can't feel it
- Use a pad or period underwear as back up when starting out
- Persevere for 3 cycles - you'll be surprised how you eventually get the hang of it
Also, if you're wondering, silicone isn't plastic. It's made from sand, not petroleum. Our AllMatters menstrual cups are made in Germany from medical grade silicone.
How to wash reusable period products
And lastly, how do you wash your reusable period underwear, pads and cups? If you're new to these, you'll probably want to know!
A menstrual cup is the simplest, especially if you don't want to add to your laundry load. All you need to do is rinse it with water when you empty it and boil it for 10 minutes at the start and end of your period. You don't need any soap at all for a cup but, if you really want to use it, make sure to wash it out really carefully before inserting the cup again.
When you finish using period underwear, you'll need to rinse it out under a tap till the water runs clear. These products can be washed by hand or machine washed around 30°C, but be careful not to tumble dry or use fabric softener as this can damage the absorbency.
A leak-proof storage bag can come in handy to store your products ahead of a wash, in-between periods, or when you're away from home.
And that's it! I hope I've given you a good basis in what to look for from sustainable period products, as well as some inspiration for your next period.
If you have any questions or would like some tips, please do get in touch. Likewise, I'd love to know what's your favourite plastic-free period product? Tell me in the comments.