Eco-Friendly Periods: What You Need to Know

Disposable pads and tampons aren’t great for our Earth, like any disposable product. This is because they contain little bits of non-biodegradable plastic that end up in our oceans and landfills.

Estimates vary, but it’s thought that the average person uses more than 11,000 tampons during a lifetime (or a similar amounts of pads). It’s even more if you have a long, heavy or irregular period.

Tampons without applicators are probably the least harmful option, but even they come wrapped in plastic. The ones with plastic applicators, and pads which are made largely from plastic are the worst. One estimate is that it takes 500-800 years for these things to break down.

Is there a better option for periods? Let’s find out!

Eco Friendly Period Option #1: Menstrual Cups

Have you heard of the Diva Cup, Mooncup or Lunette Cup before? They’re the most popular menstrual cups in the world and have been around for about 20 years now.

They’re made from medical grade silicone and are designed to replace tampons. Unlike tampons, they are reusable and can last for 5-10 years.  

If the average person menstruates for 40 years, that’s around eight menstrual cups vs thousands of tampons. It really does make a big difference!

Besides being better for the environment, they’re also better for your health and will save you a lot of money.

Menstrual cups come in all different shapes and sizes so that you can find the one that best suits you (image:  jlbolen )

Menstrual cups come in all different shapes and sizes so that you can find the one that best suits you (image: jlbolen)

Eco Friendly Period Option #2: Reusable Cloth Pads

The next environmentally friendly option to consider are reusable cloth pads. They’re quite similar to disposables except that they’re made from natural materials like cotton, bamboo and charcoal. You can use them for 5-10 years, and when you have got all you can out of them, you can throw them in your compost to decompose.

Most people need 5-6 cloth pads to make it through their period. This handful of reusable pads can replace thousands of disposables ones.

Unlike disposables that stay in place with the sticky backing on them, cloth pads stay in place with snaps on the wings. They’re similar in that there are a variety of lengths and absorbency levels to choose from.

The only downside is that you have to wash reusable menstrual pads. However, as long as you don’t care about staining, it’s really easy. You just have to throw them in with your regular laundry. To get the maximum lifespan on them, hang dry instead of using the dryer (it’s better for the environment too!).

Cloth sanitary pads made from natural fibres such as cotton and bamboo

Cloth sanitary pads made from natural fibres such as cotton and bamboo

Check out some of my recommendations here: The Best Reusable Cloth Pads.

Eco Friendly Period Option #3: Organic Pads and Tampons

The last Earth friendly period products you might want to consider are organic pads and tampons. They have a couple of main advantages over conventional ones.

No Toxins: Here’s something that many people don’t know. It’s that many of the leading brands of pads and tampons have trace amounts of toxic chemicals in them. They come from pesticides used on the cotton, as well as from the manufacturing process.

A big part of the problem is that companies aren’t required to disclose this information in many countries. For example, in the USA, the FDA classifies these products as medical devices which means that manufacturing companies don’t have to tell consumers what’s in these products.

Just say no to this by making the switch to organic!

No Plastic: The vast majority of organic or natural pads and tampons contain no plastic, including the packaging. This is good news for our environment because they’ll biodegrade in less than a decade instead of 500+ years.

The only real disadvantage is that they can be a bit more expensive. But, is it worth it? I certainly think so! However, if you’re serious about saving money on period products, then opt for a menstrual cup or reusable pads which are far cheaper over the long-term.

Plastic-free, organic sanitary towels

Plastic-free, organic sanitary towels

Ready to Make the Switch?

Congratulations! You’ll be making a great choice for our environment by making the switch to a menstrual cup, reusable cloth pads, or organic disposables.


Author Bio

Jackie Bolen is a tree-hugging friend of the Earth who is doing her best to reduce the amount of plastic in her life. You can usually find her on top of a mountain, or drinking coffee around Vancouver, Canada. She’s on social media at: