This is the second part in my Easy Zero Waste Swaps series. Each part covers a different aspect of zero waste-ing your life. Read the first part, Zero Waste On the Go, here!
I’ve finally achieved it – a zero waste period! And I couldn’t be happier about it.
I’ve been using a MoonCup, a menstrual cup, for 3 + years now. I can safely say I will never go back to using tampons. Not only is the MoonCup exceptionally comfortable (I genuinely forget that I am on my period!), it doesn’t leave any fibres behind, and is completely free from chemicals, perfumes etc. Within a few months, my menstrual cup paid for itself, and from then on, no monthly tampon tax! And of course – less waste! However, even while using the MoonCup, I was still throwing producing a lot of plastic waste each month in the form of sanitary pads, and spending a lot of money on these additional items. It was so depressing. Although there are “natural” brands of disposable sanitary pads out there that are biodegradable, such as Natracare (in the UK) they are normally much more expensive than the more common brands. Plus, the energy and resources required to continually produce these disposable items means that they are not a truly waste-free solution, nor are they brilliant if you want to minimise your carbon footprint.
I did consider washable sanitary pads, but the idea, if I’m honest, kind of grossed me out at first. How could you keep them hygienic? Wouldn’t I feel “dirty”? Wouldn’t they stain? Would I really be able to reuse the same pads every month? Looking back, all of these worries actually stemmed from my feeling of disconnection with what is a completely natural process for my body. I was very out of touch with my body’s natural cycle, and I saw my monthly period as something to simply endure – something that needed to be sanitised and controlled out of fear of embarrassment.
That was when I discovered Eco Femme, an amazing women’s social enterprise from India that make beautiful, reusable cotton pads. I bought my first set of pads, and it is no underestimate to say that my life was changed for ever! No more disposable sanitary pads, no more waste and chemicals, just simple, washable cotton. EcoFemme pads are super comfortable, soft on the skin, very easy to wash, and are so pretty, they genuinely make me feel excited about getting my period! Plus, through their Pad 4 Pad programme, for every pad that is sold, Eco Femme are able to donate one pad to a woman in rural India.
Once I started using washable sanitary pads, I noticed other things about my period, as well as how I felt on the different days of my cycle. Without the fear of leakage from poor quality, plastic sanitary pads, I was worrying less and less about how to “control” the “symptoms” of my period. Instead, I now know which are my heavier days, and which are my lighter days, and adjust which pads I use accordingly. The cycle of washing my pads and my menstrual cup are part of my routine now. It’s become a comforting ritual, a monthly meditative practice that makes me feel like I am really taking care of, and respecting, my body.
Menstrual Cup FAQ
Menstrual cups are not hard to use, nor are they unhygienic. To me, they feel much more hygienic than using tampons and are much easier and safer to use. Once you’ve started using a menstrual cup, it’s really hard to go back! However, they are very different to using tampons, and so using one might take some getting used to at first. Most menstrual cup brands, such as MoonCup, Diva Cup, and Luna Cup, are made from silica, a very hygienic material. There is no need to use nasty chemicals to “clean” your menstrual cup. About once a month, I simply sterilise mine by boiling in water for 3-5 minutes. As I say, I’ve been using mine for 3 + years now with absolutely no problems.
Putting together a Zero Waste Period Kit
Every woman’s flow is different, and so the amount of reusable sanitary wear you will need to buy will vary. In addition to my MoonCup, I bought 3 sanitary pads to start with – 1 night pad, and 2 day pads, which I use on the heaviest days of my flow along with my MoonCup. I recently also bought a pack of 3 pantyliners for lighter days, and another night pad. You might not need as many as me! My advice would be to start with using a menstrual cup, then buy a few sanitary pads if you need them, and add more as/when you discover you need more. This may mean that you won’t eliminate sanitary product waste overnight. Be kind to yourself: it’s a journey, and you’re discovering what the most sustainable solution is for you.
Of course, if you are a crafty person who likes to sew, you can also easily make your own cloth pads – there are several patterns available online. This would definitely be a cheaper option!
I wish you the best of luck on your zero waste period journey!
Where to buy reusable sanitary products (UK/Europe)
Some menstrual pad brands:
And some Etsy sellers…
Menstrual product stockists: