Everyone’s got that one friend who’s evangelical about their switch to a zero waste period. That one friend who will tell you at length about how life-changing their menstrual cup, period proof underwear or cloth pads are. Let us tell you, that one friend is 100% right (she’s also us, hello!).
After switching to plastic-free period products, we wondered why we hadn’t done it sooner. We know that the menstrual cup isn’t for everyone, but there are tonnes of other options that suit your daily needs. It’s an amazing choice on so many levels, not only because it means we’re fighting waste.
What are the top seven reasons to make the switch? Read on to be convinced!
It was only once we stopped using them that we realised how much we hated disposable pads and tampons. They’re drying, uncomfortable, irritating and ugly (rant over!). Given you’ve got to use period products every month for several days, you want them to be comfortable.
Reusable cloth pads are made of soft cotton or bamboo, which feels much nicer between your legs than scratchy, plasticky pads, while if you opt for period proof underwear, you'll barely notice the difference with normal underwear. Most menstrual cups are made of silicone, which won’t absorb all the moisture inside you the way tampons do. There’s a knack to inserting them, true, but once you get the hang of it, they’re totally comfortable and can be left in place for up to 12 hours.
If you sit down and do the maths for how many pads and tampons the average woman goes through, the results are truly shocking. Worldwide, a terrifying 100 BILLION menstrual hygiene products are thrown away each year; these have plastic in them which will take centuries to decompose. When you think of all that floating around the planet, it’s enough to make you retch.
Committing to a plastic free period by using reusable products makes so much difference, and will make you feel less guilty, too. Plus, think about when you become as evangelical about it as we are: you’ll convert so many others and the good effects will ripple out.
Above: Sanitary products are the 5th most common on Europe's beaches. Photo credit @carolinesouth
#3: Convenient and great for travel
How many times have you been caught out by your period and had to make an emergency dash to the shop (or awkwardly whisper to every woman at work)? With cotton pads, menstrual cups or period panties, this stress becomes a thing of the past. You don’t even have to worry about packing a plentiful supply of disposables for every trip you take, and using up all that space in your bag!
We know that sometimes people think that the cleaning aspect is going to be time-consuming or icky, but it’s actually no more inconvenient that throwing stuff in the bin. Panties and reusable pads go in the washing machine; menstrual cups can be washed in warm water and sterilised regularly. So, having a plastic free period is never the hassle people say it’ll be.
Your disposable products aren’t only bad for Mama Earth, they’re also bad for you. Firstly, as mentioned above, the materials they’re made from dry you out, resulting in imbalanced pH in your vagina and nasty rashes or even thrush. Cloth pads and period panties are gentle and allow air in, meaning your vagina can breathe (it needs to, we’re not being weird!).
Tampons are often bleached with chlorine dioxide, while disposable sanitary pads can have artificial fragrances. These chemicals can cause allergic reactions, hormone disruptions and TSS. Let’s be honest: periods are bad enough without the danger of these side-effects. Actually, lots of women report less severe cramping once they make the switch, so it’s worth doing it on that gamble alone!
#5: Variety and style
Seriously, how boring are disposable sanitary products? Bleached white, sterile, synthetic – they definitely don’t bring a smile to your face. Whereas reusable options come in all kinds of patterns and colours that are bound to cheer you up when PMS strikes. Even menstrual cups, which might not be that much to look at, can have a stylish handmade storage bag (ours has hummingbirds in a jungle!).
ABOVE: REUSABLE PADS COME IN FUN PATTERNS AND STYLES
We promise we’re not going to start talking about the womb as a magical moon goddess or anything like that, but we really have found it rather empowering to know more about our menstrual cycles and having a zero waste period raises your awareness of your own body in such a positive way.
Sure, that’s through coming into closer contact with your period than society seems to think we should, but isn’t it about time we shrug off this misguided perception of a natural process as something ‘dirty’? Making this choice out of respect for yourself and the environment feels like such a powerful step.
#7: Save money
OK, it’s time for more maths. Think about how much your average packet of tampons or sanitary towels costs. Then think about how many you go through per period, and how many periods you’ll have in a lifetime and add it all up and… oh, goodness.
Studies have shown that, on average, a woman ― and transgender and nonbinary person who menstruates ― will spend around £5,000 on period products in her lifetime. That’s a hella lot of money for something that then goes straight to landfill (and don’t even get us started on the added tampon tax!).
While a menstrual cup or packet of cloth pads is initially more expensive, these are things that will last you for years. You’ll basically make your money back in a couple of months and it’s never a wasted investment because, like taxes and a superhero movie every year, your period is something you can rely on always being there!
Plus, this money isn’t going towards huge corporations making big bucks from your period, but often independent and female-positive companies that tackle issues like period poverty as well as make great products.
Have you made the switch to a zero waste period? How did you find it? Share in the comments to help others on their journey!