My transition to a green period hasn’t been easy. It requires a bit of research and financial investment, and it’s unconventional. Explaining to other people why you use a menstrual cup or cloth pads might be the toughest part, actually. It will get easier with time. I promise.
The two main items used to catch blood are pads and tampons. Unfortunately, conventional pads and tampons are not too nice to the environment or to our bodies. Grab some tea or a snack because this post is a long one!
I began my journey with pads. They were easy, though I do admit I felt like a baby wearing a diaper sometimes. I used to buy the scented pads because I was hyperaware of my period’s smell and, at 13 years old, I was insecure about everything. I didn’t even think about what types of chemicals were in the pad, and what they might be doing to my body’s natural chemistry.
I definitely wasn’t thinking about the environmental impact of the pads either. At that time my period lasted 7 days. On average I used 4 pads a day, meaning that each month I was trashing 28 pads. Each year I was adding 336 pads to the landfill. Maybe this doesn’t seem like a lot, but it wasn’t just me using pads. It was hundreds of thousands if not millions of other people using them worldwide. That’s a lot of trash.
The solution to disposable pads? Cloth pads. Of course, they do require a little extra effort. Depending on the amount of bloodshed that day, I will either hand wash them or put them in with a load of laundry. I can see how some people might think this is gross, especially if you have to carry used pads around in your purse, but I think the “sacrifice” is worth it.
Naturally, they are more expensive than a regular pack of pads, but they pay for themselves over time. If you can’t afford to buy them all at once, then try just purchasing one or two at a time and supplement those with regular pads. I haven’t had to buy pads or pantyliners since I bought my 5 cloth pads over a year ago.
I had the hardest time with tampons. I don’t think I managed to successfully get one inside me until 5 or 6 years after starting my period. But wow, they’re a lifesaver. I was no longer restricted by my period. I could swim on my period!
I later found out why I had so much trouble with tampons. The small, applicator-less o.b. tampons (that my mom gave me) were so painful to push in that I always gave up halfway through. Then I discovered tampons with plastic applicators- they went in so easily!
As with pads, I bought tampons with fragrance. I thought it would mask my period smell. But it didn’t take long for me to notice its effects. I always felt kind of sick or off when I had one in. It would be such a relief to take it out. I’m not a scientist, but I know that it can’t be good to be sticking scented cotton up there. I used up the rest of the box (I was a poor college student) and never bought them again.
Though they are smaller than pads, tampons still come with a lot of trash. There’s the packaging, the applicator, and the tampon itself. All of that goes in the trash. After a few years of using U by Kotex tampons, I began to transition back to the o.b. tampons I tried when I was 13. It’s funny how things work out. O.b. tampons don’t have applicators and they come in a small cardboard box. I would recycle the cardboard box and trash the plastic coverings and tampons. I’m not going to lie. Pushing in tampons without applicators can hurt. The best way to insert them is to to wait until you start bleeding, get a good angle, and push it in quickly. O.b. tampons weren’t the perfect solution, but it was cheaper and more eco-friendly.
There aren’t any studies on the effects of nonorganic tampons, but I don’t think that means we can relax. Shouldn’t we be extra careful with what we’re putting down there? I recently started buying organic tampons without applicators. I feel better about using these tampons, even if my bank account doesn’t. They are about twice as expensive as the o.b. tampons, but I think the price hike is worth it for my peace of mind.
Menstrual cups are by far the best way to green your period. They are reusable, last for up to 12 hours, and aren’t filled with toxic chemicals. So why didn’t I talk about them first? Well, they don’t work for me.
I really hope you’ll hear me out before judging me. After trying every month for almost a year, I’ve decided that I’m going to stick to tampons. Inserting the menstrual cup is nearly impossible for me, and I’ve had so many painful fails that I’m turned off to them right now. I’m definitely in the minority so don’t think they won’t work for you. The chances are that they will. I can see myself trying again in the future with a smaller menstrual cup, but I’m just not willing to put my sensitive skin through any more pain right now.
There are tons of blogs out there praising menstrual cups. Here are some suggestions for your reading pleasure:
It’s Your Choice
The reason why I wanted to write this post is because of my failure with menstrual cups. It made me more aware of those who just can’t make certain eco-friendly things work for them. Wherever you are on the sustainability spectrum, just know that every small choice makes a difference. Even if you can only afford applicator-less tampons like the o.b. ones I used to use, it does make a difference. Even if you only buy one or two reusable pads and supplement those with disposable ones, it does make a difference. Only you can know what is best for you, your bank account, and your body.