For those of us who experience – more like endure – our periods every month, it can often be inconvenient, expensive, messy and pretty wasteful. Affecting about half the world’s population, one would think there would be a broader discussion about the whole process. And believe us, it is a process. It can be such an ordeal that sometimes we don’t have the time, energy or capacity to even think about how we could be more sustainable with the inevitable waste. For such a long time options, other than pads and tampons, were not readily available – or just not that appealing. Yeah. This month’s blog is for the girls. Well, the boys are more than welcome to read on – don’t worry you’re not cramping our style – you might just learn something!
Let me hit you with some facts and figures. According to the Huffington Post 70% of women, who use tampons in the US, go through roughly twenty per cycle. It’s generally accepted that women have an average of 500 periods in their lifetime, which translates to 10,000 tampons used per woman in their lifetime. And that’s just tampons. A 2022 study from Science Direct found that an estimated 28,114 tonnes of waste is generated annually in the UK from menstrual products, of which 21,094 tonnes are produced from disposable pads alone! Suffice to say, we need to do better. Thankfully sustainable menstrual products such as; period underwear, menstrual cups and washable pads, have become much more popular in the last few years.
Period underwear is a game changer for women of all ages who are looking for a simple and comfortable option. Modern day period panties are designed to look and feel just like regular underwear, while being able to hold 1-4 tampons worth of your flow. Manufactured from highly absorbent fabric, the material wicks moisture away from the top layer of fabric that is in direct contact with your lady parts, keeping you dry, hygienic and comfortable. There are plenty of stylish homegrown options to choose from too! AWWA, Love Luna & Hello are a few New Zealand companies that offer fantastic reusable, sustainable and stylish options. AWWA offers single pant options ranging from $35 - $47, Hello ranges from $50 - $ 60 and Love Luna, which seem to be the most popular, range from $17 - $41.
Washable pads are another sustainable solution, maybe slightly more old school – but hey, who doesn’t love a vintage option? They are a great sustainable alternative to all those disposable pads that pile up in our landfills. Did you know that one disposable pad takes 500 - 800 years to break down! Duquense University and School of Nursing claims that a woman, on average, will go through 350 packs of plastic disposable pads in her lifetime. The washable pads work much the same way as your disposable pad. Except rather than throwing it in the bin when you’re done, you rinse, wash, dry & repeat. Voila! Made from highly absorbent natural fabrics, they also come in some fantastic prints and – you guessed it – are readily available in New Zealand. Bear & Moo are made using layers of bamboo & waterproof PUL and are priced at $9.95 per pad. Aku is a small home based business in Leigh that makes quality washable pads that should last you up to 5 years. They have ditched the funky prints for a sleek black option that starts at $15.81 for a single pad. MyCup use organic hemp and cotton for their pads which start at $15.
Menstrual cups – or moon cups as some fondly call them – are small bell shaped cups that can be inserted into your vagina to collect menstrual blood when you are on your period. The good quality ones are made of a hypoallergenic material, such as silicone or latex rubber, and collect your red river flow instead of absorbing it like a tampon. Just like a little mystic chalice, collecting its blood toll! Moons and mystics aside, they have come a long way since the bulky and awkward models of the 90s. You can wear a cup comfortably for up to 12 hours and nowadays there are a range of sizes to choose from. No matter your age, length of your cervix, vagina physiology or how heavy your flow is, there is a cup size just for you. According to one of the largest menstrual cup distributors in the world, Lunette, your cup can last up to several years with proper care and maintenance. That’s a lot of tampons and pads that you don’t have to buy and throw away! Franki are a fantastic boutique NZ company who stock the most comfortable cups, and cost just $49.94 for a double pack. Another homegrown option is Hello Cup, who are extremely popular – Cosmopolitan voted them the best last year – and are priced from $49.95. Coral Cone start at $59 and include an innovative ribbon design.
With so many comfortable and affordable options to choose from these days, there is no excuse for the environmentally conscious to still be throwing their disposable tampons and pads in the bin. Maybe one day the idea of using a tampon or a pad will be as outdated as using a plastic bag for your shopping? Now that’s a thought!