- Jenica Barrett
Zero Waste Periods 101
Updated: Oct 29, 2020
For all you bleeding humans out there, switching your menstrual routine to a zero waste one can seem daunting. The good thing is, people have been using reusable pads and various versions of menstrual products for hundreds of years - so we have a lot of history behind us to ease our minds!
There are many different kinds of zero waste menstrual products. I'll introduce you to the big three here today: reusable pads, menstrual cups, and period panties. Within each category there are a million different brands and customization options depending on your budget, style, period intensity, and location. Hopefully no matter what though, you'll find one that fits for you!
This article contains affiliate links. Purchasing from these links provides me with a small percentage and doesn't cost you any more! Many of these products were also originally provided to me, free of charge, and I have later returned to purchase more.
Why switch to reusable options? Here's three reasons:
1. It's a lot of trash!
Tampons are trash. It's that simple. If you've been flushing them down the toilet, you definitely shouldn't be doing that! And as I have talked about before, even organic material like cotton and blood won't break down in the landfill. So your period waste is just sitting there, taking up space, and becoming fossilized. It's weird to think about people hundreds of years from now digging up your tampons...
The average person will have 456 periods throughout their life or about 2,260 days on their period (and that's only assuming you have a period for an average of five days!). If you use four tampons per day, that's 9,120 tampons over your lifetime! That's a lot of trash! By switching to reusable versions, you can make NO trash each month. Using a reusable option will also cut down on your period's carbon footprint and water footprint since tampons are typically made from cotton, a plant requiring a lot of water..
2. Chemicals don't belong in your vagina!
As crazy as it seems, tampon companies are not regulated as to what they can put in their products. On the outside of the box there is no ingredient list telling you exactly what you are sticking inside your body. Most tampons aren't organic either, which means even if they're cotton, they could have been grown with pesticides.
By choosing reusable options, you are not only reducing waste, but also taking control of what you expose your body to and limiting the chemicals you come in contact with.
3. Overtime, you'll save money!
When scrolling through reusable menstrual options, you'll notice that the price tag can be pretty high! Many undies can cost upwards of $45 for a single pair! Given that I tend to need at least eight reusable pads to get through a period (washing every two days!) that is a whole lot of money in order to invest in them upfront. However, you don't have to invest in the priciest ones and you can also make them yourself!
The great thing is, reusable pads are REUSABLE, so therefore you won't be having to dish out the cash over and over again. People spend an estimated minimum of $1,035 in their lifetime on tampons, assuming they purchase the cheapest option available. So by investing in reusable menstrual products that only have to be replaced every couple of years, you'll most likely save hundreds of dollars! If you take care of your reusable pads, they can last five or ten years!
The Big Three Options:
Let's get down to the nitty gritty - and what you should actually use instead!
Reusable Menstrual Pads
Designed similarly to disposable pads, reusable menstrual pads snap or velcro on to your undies. They can be used just as a precaution in combo with a menstrual cup or used as your sole absorbent.
Menstrual pads come in varying sizes and thicknesses. Gladrags even makes one for nighttime that is the largest pad I have ever seen. It covers all the areas to keep you from staining your sheets! You can also buy reusable menstrual pads designed for thongs, light flow days, heavy days, and more. Wearing a reusable menstrual pad doesn't have to feel like you have an elephant in your pants!
When purchasing reusable pads, I recommend starting with just two or three and introducing them into your period overtime. This helps you adjust to the experience of
Some of my favorite menstrual pads can be purchased at:
Instead of putting a reusable pad in your underwear, period panties are designed to replace them entirely! It's basically a pair of underwear with a pad built in! The tricky part about these is that, unlike with a pad, if you start to leak through it's your pants that will get marked up. I also find that it's hard for me to judge when they are getting closed to leaking, unlike with a reusable pad.
I do love period panties though as an extra precaution in addition to my menstrual pads. On really heavy days, I'll double up to make sure that, if I leak, it won't be leaving a big red mark where someone can see! I also have a few on hand for the end of my period when I don't really need a whole pad, but still spot a bit. It saves me from having a bulky pad in just for that!
Some of my favorite period panties can be purchased at:
Menstrual cups are great if you don't want to worry about anything lumpy in your undies. Designed to fit comfortably inside of you, you shouldn't even know it's there! They are also the only reusable menstrual option if you want something to swim in (and yes, you can definitely use them when swimming!).
Which one should I get?
Deciding which reusable menstrual product to get is the hardest thing to figure out. Because they are also a financial investment upfront, you'll want to think carefully before you purchase.
There is a great website Put a Cup In It that will help you determine which menstrual cup and brand is right for you by answering a few key questions. Full disclosure, I haven't yet used a menstrual cup myself - but I am looking for one that feels right! So I will defer to your own research before recommending specifics. This website though will give you great recommendations!
You can find menstrual cups for purchase on various sites including Gladrags, Tiny Yellow Bungalow, and Life without Plastic.
It may take time for you to get comfortable with reusable menstrual products, because it requires you to get comfortable handling your menstrual blood. That can be a totally new thing for most people! But over time you will learn to appreciate your body more and understand your flow.
Please share - why did you start using reusable menstrual products? Which are your favorites?