By now. most of us savvy gals shop with reusable bags, you know, the cute and stylish ones (not the free bland-o given out for spending $100 at your local shop-n-save. Ok, maybe those too.) And use reusable water bottles of the glass and metal variety, also with aesthetics in mind. Or not.
In the home, many of us are eating more local and organic foods and switching to home cleaning and body care brands containing natural ingredients. Or make our own using good 'ole baking soda and vinegar. We do all of this is in the name of environmental responsibility and for the myriad health benefits for us and our families. This is good, very good. We can do even better.
How, you wonder, when you’ve already made so many amazing changes? This change is rarely spoken of because, well, it’s kind of private. It might also require some uncomfortable changes, but it addresses a female commonality: menstruation.
How does this relate to being eco-friendly? It all has to do with what we throw away, which for the menstruating population, in the US alone, amounts to billions of tons of trash annually. This is in the form of tampons, pads and their packaging, mostly consisting of plastic, which, my sisters, does not go away for a really, really long time.
Similar to disposable baby diapers, these materials take upwards of 500 years to decompose in the landfill. On top of that, as trash, these things often wash up on beaches and harm marine life. I contributed thousands of diapers to the landfill before switching to cloth. In the past, I have also contributed to the waste in the landfills with my disposable feminine hygiene products. With all this garbage on my conscience, I decided I needed to make a change to reusable lady-care products.
Did I pique your interest? Are you feeling a little squirmy? At first, I had both reactions too. And lots of questions. I wasn’t sure if this was something I could do, afford or wanted to try. Using reusable pads felt almost out of reach and I feared I might find myself either wearing flowing skirts and shalls and dancing barefoot in some kind of woo-woo ceremony or it would feel like I was wearing a diaper. And a lady like me, well, I just couldn’t abide that.
In the end, neither scenario befell me, in fact, a whole world of stylish and fun reusable feminine products appeared in my life and I have never looked back. I will outline my process and fill in some of the details for you.
First, I suggest taking a look at what you use each month. Tampons, pads, a combo…and then gauge how much. Different products differ in their absorbency and according to your varying needs during your period, so this is just an estimate.
Investigate the stock at your local health foods store, browse online at the many eco-friendly companies that produce cloth pads and menstrual cups. Lunapads, Gladrags and ThanksMama offers a wide variety.
You’ll find the size, material and method of staying in place varies. Choices with inserts, panty-liners, underwear, patterns, organic, cotton, hemp, bamboo…snaps, Velcro, wings…oh my!
What you won’t find are lady-size diapers - the old fashioned maxi pads that leave you with no choice but to wear the aforementioned flowy skirts, lest someone notices a large protrusion in your pants. These modern pads are slim and discreet, yet absorbent and practical for the many activities we ladies engage in.
Which brings me to menstrual cups; these are reusable substitutes for tampons. They collect your flow and are then simply washed and reused. They are often made of medical grade silicon and are safe, comfortable and easy to use. While in use, they last longer than regular tampons and are suitable for exercise; in fact many women say they are more comfortable, particularly if you experience dryness.
So you’ve looked at your options, are surprised and excited by how cute it all is you get your purchases home, give them a test drive…then what? Wash them. A rinse in the sink and then in with the regular clothes is my method of choice. Of course, follow the manufacturer’s instructions and if you like, you can purchase specific cleaning products, but I haven’t found that necessary. In the spirit of going green, I try to keep it simple.
Lastly, when I am out of the house, I carry a lined, leak-proof reusable baggy, widely available at health food stores, with a clean pad and switch when needed. There are fabulous accessories if you want to go all out, books to read and guides to follow.
The cost s an investment, but by doing some simple “cave math” you will see over time you save money. My reusables are going strong at nigh on five years. There is also the matter of always having your feminine needs on hand. No last minute run out to the store, which, if you must drive is also an expenditure of gas.
Additionally, if you’re unsure about this, some women have found it helpful phasing out of disposables and into cloth a viable solution just to get used to and figure out what will work best for you, based on your activities and daily life. I will add many standard feminine hygiene products use chlorine and artificial fibers which are not only potentially hazardous to the environment, but also to our sensitive lady parts. Buyers beware, know what is in the products you are using. There are several disposable brands available that disclose their components and are a healthier and better choice.
We have an opportunity, by speaking with our dollars through using cloth and reusable body care products, to set an example to our sisters, daughters and friends, in conservation and sustainability. This method is also an empowering way to become closer to the natural cyclic nature of our bodies.
More from living