Turning Red to Green: How to Make Your Period Better for the Environment
You don’t need us to tell you that planet earth has been suffering for a long, long time. By now, you only have to step outside your door and feel the climate crisis-induced afternoon heat, or look at the news headlines to see hurricanes and fires raging regularly. Don’t get us wrong — we’re not pointing fingers at consumers (looking at you, fossil fuel companies!). Nonetheless, every effort you take in lessening your carbon footprint counts. If you’re a person who bleeds, one way to start is by making your period less impactful on the environment. Unfortunately, plastic-made pads take at least 500 years to decompose in landfills, and they also end up in waterways, shores, and oceans as microplastics. To add, the average menstruator will get their period around 450 times in their lifetime, which will certainly generate tons of waste to last until your grandkids’ grandkids.
So how exactly can you make your period better for the environment? It’s easier than you think! Just like you swap out plastic bags for canvas totes, you can swap out your disposable period products with reusable or more sustainable options. Here are some suggestions.
Menstrual cups are the poster child of sustainable period care. After all, they last for years, making them both economical and very environment-friendly. Instead of throwing it away whenever you tend to your period, you simply have to rinse and reinsert the cup. In the past, some consumers have expressed worries about menstrual cups causing Toxic Shock Syndrome, but this claim has since been debunked by experts. It might seem intimidating at first to put a silicone cup up there, but practice makes perfect when it comes to these babies.
New to the eco-friendly period game, menstrual discs are the slightly less sustainable cousins of menstrual cups. As its name suggests, menstrual discs are shallow, disc-shaped menstrual cups that can be disposable or reusable (depending on the brand you get). The difference between discs and cups is how they sit inside your body. While menstrual cups are placed in the vaginal canal and secured by suction, discs are placed by the opening of the vaginal canal and held in place by your own muscles and placement of the pubic bone. Disposable discs can be worn for up to 12 hours at a time. While they won’t reduce your carbon footprint as much as menstrual cups, it’s still a step towards less period waste.
Period-stained clothes may not sound too appealing, but period underwear proves that it’s nothing to be feared. Designed to be reusable, leak-proof, and highly absorbent, this sustainable option can reportedly hold three to five teaspoons of blood. Just one pair can already save you boxes and boxes of pads and tampons. If you need more peace of mind during your period, you can also consider wearing period underwear just on lighter flow days instead of the usual liners.
When someone brings up reusable pads, you might think of bulky, cloth pads, but they have come a long way in the past few years. There are reusable pads that are thin and flexible, but still more absorbent than your standard disposable pad. Companies like LunaPad offer ethically made and environmentally friendly cloth pads that usually last at least three to five years, which could potentially replace hundreds of pads and tampons. They also send pads and other period materials to countries in need, so you're not only helping the environment, you’re also helping people around the world.
Biodegradable, organic pads and tampons
Not everyone can commit or are comfortable with reusables, and that’s perfectly fine! Nowadays, you can use organic pads and tampons that work just like the traditional pads you grew up with — except they’re much better for you and the planet. Like we said, plastic-made period products take at least 500 years to decompose. Meanwhile, organic pads (just like ours at Halia!) take as few as 6 months to break down into organic matter in industrial compost standards, and 12 months to break down in a household compost. If the pads do end up in a landfill, it would still only take 2-5 years to biodegrade. On top of this, organic pads don’t contain chemical pollutants that will wreak more havoc on the earth. (If you need more convincing, here are some more reasons to make the switch to organic pads.)
Proper product disposal
Wondering how pads and tampons even end up in waterways and oceans? In the U.K. alone, you’d be surprised that nearly half of all menstruators say they flush their tampons. As a result, disposable period products end up polluting the waters, harming marine life, and clogging sewer pipes, which cause untreated wastewater to spill over to rivers and creeks. So if, for whatever reason, you cannot make the switch to better period products now, then the very least you can do is not flush your sanitary pads or tampons down the toilet. Instead, wrap your used pad or tampon in toilet paper and place them in the right garbage bin.
Open the app store and you’ll find several period and health apps like Clue, which help you predict when you’ll get your period and how long it’s likely to last. By tracking your cycle, you avoid guessing games and wasting period products because you mistakenly thought your period was going to come. It’s a useful and environment-conscious tool worth having in your app arsenal.
See, your period doesn’t have to be hard on you or the environment. Of course, we all dream of the day when eco-friendly products are no longer just “options” but the norm. While we’re not quite there yet, consider trying out a sustainable “alternative” the next time you get your period. Might we suggest our organic pads here at Halia? 👀