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periods

Health & Beauty, Life & Style

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Conventional period products harbour a dirty secret.  Did you know that the average sanitary towel is 90% plastic?  This equates to the plastic equivalent of a shocking five plastic bags per packet of sanitary towels.  If you consider that the average person who has a period uses over 11,000 disposable menstrual products in their lifetime, then this adds up to a whole lot of plastic.  Many of these products wrongly get flushed down the toilet and end up damaging our oceans and the creatures that inhabit our seas.  

When it comes to tampons, it also turns out that even ‘plant-based’ applicators, often sold by organic brands are not actually biodegradable, and therefore act exactly the same as regular oil-based plastics would after use. 

What’s more, most conventional period products are packed with chemicals and fragrances that are also unkind to our skin, especially in the most sensitive areas. 

With all of these issues, it’s understandable and also great news that interest in eco-friendly period products is growing.  I’m personally a big fan of reusable period products – I’ve written before about eco-friendly period options, and encourage the use of reusables where possible.  However, I’m also painfully aware that many reusable period options are not accessible to all – through cost aspects, limited sizing, lack of washing facilities, and through mobility and/or dexterity impairments.

Today I wanted to look at some of the accessibility problems of the most common reusable period protection options, before looking at what you can do if reusable options aren’t accessible to you, but you are still concerned about the environment.

The Accessibility Issue When It Comes to Reusable Period Protection

Menstrual Cups

Menstrual cups aren’t suitable for everyone – particularly those with motor-skills impairment, as insertion and removal can be tricky. At around £20+ per cup, a cup can be a steep upfront investment for some, particularly if there is more than one householder requiring a cup. 

Cleaning can be tricky – many people aren’t comfortable washing out their cups in public bathrooms.  In order to keep your cup hygienic, you also have to boil it every month. This could be tricky in a shared household, let alone for those who don’t have access to basic facilities. 

Cloth Sanitary Towels

Having a cloth sanitary towel stash can be expensive, with pads varying between around £5 and £12 per pad.  I personally find having around 8 pads to be the optimum amount of pads required to comfortably see you through a cycle, and that upfront investment can be prohibitive. 

Period Pants  

Period pants are expensive.  At around £30 a pair, the initial investment in purchasing multiple pairs could be cost-prohibitive.  Price aside, period pants are available in limited styles, colours, and crucially limited sizes. Whilst new options and sizes are arriving as period pants are catching on, it’s still limited in comparison to standard underwear.

And moving away from price – having to change your pants in public toilets can also be problematic, particularly for those with reduced mobility levels.  Remember you will have to remove your trousers/tights and shoes to be able to remove your pants, before getting dressed again in a small cubicle. 

What If Reusable Period Options Are Inaccessible to Me?

natracare

If reusable period options aren’t accessible to you for whatever reason, then be assured that eco-friendly disposable period products (that aren’t greenwashing you) do exist!  A good environmentally friendly option would be to choose a disposable brand that is certified organic, vegan, plastic-free and compostable, like Natracare.  

Natracare’s period products are all plastic, perfume, dye, pesticide, and chlorine-free.  Made from soft, breathable, natural materials, their pads, liners, and tampons are kind to you and kind to the environment.  What’s more, their products are not tested on animals either for extra peace of mind.

Natracare is widely available on Amazon, Ocado, Waitrose, and in health food shops.  Expecting to pay more for their products compared to their plastic counterparts?  You’d be wrong: Natracare’s prices are comparable with big-name sanitary protection brands, with a box of 14 sanitary towels costing around £2.

The only plastic I could find was on the plastic wrapping of Natracare’s non-applicator tampons.  I asked Natracare and they told me this is made from BPA-free, recyclable plastic. They use this to meet legal requirements as tampons are considered a medical device. Some other brands have begun switching to paper wrappings, but until Natracare are confident this is a safe and more sustainable option, they will keep using their current packaging. 

I personally tested a few different products from the Natracare range out – their ultra super period pads and curved panty liners – and found their period products very comfortable and highly absorbent.2 Crucially they stayed in place too, which is always very important!

Beyond the basics, I felt reassured by the fact that Natracare’s products contain no nasties, such as chlorine and perfumes, in the very place where you don’t want anything nasty. The lack of plastic is a huge plus point too. Don’t just take my word for it – Ethical Consumer also recommend Natracare in the disposable tampons and pads category. Definitely one to check out!

Health & Beauty, Life & Style

How To Have An Eco Friendly Period

how to have an eco friendly period

how to have an eco friendly period

I’d like to talk about something that I feel isn’t talked about enough – periods.  And specifically, how to have an eco friendly period.

Before you roll your eyes and click off the page I want to make it clear that when it comes to periods (and most aspects of life to be honest) I’m firmly of the belief that people with perods should do whatever works best for them, so there is no judgement at all in this post if none of these ideas are for you.  I just wanted to put some ideas out there that you may or may not have heard of with no expectation that you have to give them a go.

Ideas for Having An Eco Friendly Period

Menstrual Cups

To be honest, and perhaps to your surprise, I was never really on board with the idea of a menstrual cup.  I would go as far to say I was a bit grossed out by the idea.  So I understand if you are too.  It wasn’t until after I had my first child that I became a lot more relaxed about the idea.

It does takes a bit of practice to insert and remove a menstrual cup properly, and to start to feel comfortable using it (much like the learning curve when you first start to use tampons) but once it’s in the cup can stay there for 12 hours, so there’s no need to take it out when you’re not at home.  It’s easily cleaned, and there’s no risk of Toxic Shock Syndrome, even if you forget to take it out.

There are a few suppliers of menstrual cups in the UK.  The most popular one is Moon Cup, which come in two sizes – one if you’re under 30, and one if you’re over 30 and/or have had a child (which makes you feel really good about yourself and your body!), but there are heaps of other brands I hadn’t heard of at Feminine Wear.

Period Pants

Period Pants are a new concept to me and something I haven’t tried.  Essentially they are absorbent pants you wear during your period, without the need for any other sanitary protection, that you then just pop in the wash and re-use time and again.

The only draw backs I can think of are it may be slightly awkward/annoying having to remove trousers or tights in order to change your pants, and it may get expensive having to buy multiple pairs of pants.  As I’ve not tried them I don’t know how many pairs would be required to see you through your flow.

I’m having trouble finding UK stockists – I can find plenty stockists of period pants that require the use of a sanitary pad as well – but no pants that you can wear without a sanitary pad.  In the US Thinx Pants lead the way (these are designed to be worn without a sanitary pad and hold 2 tampons worth of liquid), and they do offer international postage.

eco friendly menstrual products

Washable Sanitary Towels

Washable sanitary towels are exactly as the name implies.  If you’re akin with washable nappies these will be a walk in the park to you.  You just need to carry around a wet bag with you to place your towels in when you’re done using them, and then pop them in the washing machine.

I’m used to carrying soiled/wet washable nappies in a zipped wet bag in my nappy bag so personally I wouldn’t have a problem with carrying washable sanitary towels in a similar fashion, but I know not everyone is into the idea.

If you are, I found a few UK stockists – Plush Pants, Cheeky Wipes, and Earthwise Girls.  Meanwhile on Etsy I found New Zealand based Moon Cloth Mama who makes some rather funky washable sanitary towels, and offers worldwide shipping.

Sea Sponges

Essential a natural tampon.  In our modern world this is probably considered the most ‘out-there’ option in terms of eco friendly period options, and not one that I’ve tried, but I’d be keen to hear from readers who have tried or do use sea sponges about their experiences with them.

From what I’ve read you just wet the sponge, insert, and then remove, rinse and re-insert when you feel them drop down a bit.  At the end of your period they can be washed in the washing machine and stored for the following month, and should last roughly a year,

My gut feeling is that sea sponges would be a little trickier to use as you would need to rinse them on a regular basis (as much as you would need to change a tampon or a pad) so may be difficult to use when you’re not at home.  And as they are natural sponge rather than synthetic then if you’re vegan, sea sponge probably isn’t for you.

If you’re interested in sea sponges there are a few UK stockists – the rather ethereal Moon Sponges,  the rather cringe worthy named Jam Sponge, and Luxury Moon.

Organic Tampons and Sanitary Towels

If you’re not convinced by any of the options above then an alternative eco friendly period option would be switching to organic tampons or sanitary towels.

Conventional tampons are typically bleached with chlorine, and conventional tampons and sanitary towels have been reported to contain cancer causing dioxins and even have traces of pesticides and insecticides.

If you are looking for organic alternatives try Natracare or Naty Nature Womancare – both available at Ethical Superstore.  What I like most about Ethical Superstore is that they have dropped their prices on sanitary products by 5% in response to the 5% ‘Tampon Tax’ continuing to be levied on sanitary protection.

I’d be interested to hear your experiences of eco friendly period management.  What have you tried and what do you swear by?  And what pain relief methods do you use?  I’m a hot water kind of person myself!