It took me more than 15 years to finally consider looking for more eco-friendly period products. There are two reasons for this: ignorance and intimidation.
Ignorance, because for most of those 15 years, I didn’t even think eco-friendly products existed. I grew up with disposable pads and tampons so I just assumed that’s the way it worked. It didn’t even occur to me that eco-friendly options could exist.
Once I knew, it was intimidation that kept me from acting right away. I was nervous about the learning curve, the upfront cost…and OK, there was also a mild squick factor at play.
Six month after finally making the switch, I can’t imagine going back to disposable options. Curious about eco-friendly period products? Here’s a review of what I’ve tried so far.
Disclaimer: This post contains a referral link. If you use my Luna Pads referral link, you’ll get a discount and I will, too. I only use referral links for products and services I genuinely love. That said, this post isn’t sponsored by Luna Pads and I’m not receiving compensation from Luna Pads for writing it. I just genuinely love them.
Why I wanted more eco-friendly period products
There were three things that motivated me to seek out options for more eco-friendly period products.
One was cost. As I mentioned in this post, if the average woman uses 20 tampons a cycle (240 year) and a box of 50 regular tampons is $11.98 full price, it’s possible to end up spending close to $60 a year — and that’s just for regular tampons. That doesn’t include other sizes, pads, liners, or if you need more than 20 a cycle.
The upfront cost of more eco-friendly period products is higher but considering they are designed to last several years, there are savings in the long run.
Health was another reason I made the switch. One of the first things I learned about tampons as a young woman was to not leave them in too long due to concerns about toxic shock syndrome. Pads don’t have the same sort of associated risks, although there have been some who have raised questions about whether or not they are safe.
Last, but not least, is the environmental factor. Again, take it back to the statistic above, with the average woman using about 240 tampons a year. That’s 240 tampons that go into the landfill — and that’s alongside any other products. I hated the idea of adding to this, which motivated my search for more eco-friendly period options.
The Menstrual Cup
A menstrual cup was the first item on my reusable supplies shopping list for eco-friendly period products.
For those unfamiliar with the concept, it is exactly what it sounds like: a cup that collects menstrual fluid. Typically, they are made of medical grade silicone and shaped like a bell with a stem. Most brands sell different sizes and some even sell different colours.
Like a tampon, cups are inserted — but that’s where the similarities end. Unlike a tampon, a cup collects blood instead of absorbing it. Additionally, the method of insertion is very different — and there is definitely a learning curve.
While cost was a factor in the decision to switch to a menstrual cup, the environmental factor was also important to me. Unlike tampons, menstrual cups are designed to be reused. With proper care, one cup can be reused for about five years.
What I purchased
For my first foray into the world of menstrual cups, I went with perhaps the most recognized name out there: the Diva Cup.
- Where I bought it: WalMart.
- Cost: $40
- In the box: the Cup, an instruction pamphlet (which included details about how to care for it) and a little cloth pouch to store it in when not in use
- Related purchases: Two bottles of Diva Wash (about $10 each)
Things I liked: Spending $40 upfront sucked — but I love that I have not spent a single cent on tampons over the last six months. It has also reduced my stress about things like toxic shock syndrome. Finally, I love knowing I’m not contributing to the abundance of feminine hygiene products in our landfill.
Things I didn’t like: The sizing guidelines. Diva Cups come in three sizes — zero, which is designed for pre-teen/teens who are just starting menstruation; size 1, which is for women “under 30”; and size 2, which is women over 30 or those who have given birth.
Seems straightforward…unless you’re a 29 year old woman shopping for her first cup.
In the end, I went with the size 1 — and I’m glad I did, because I really cannot imagine using a bigger one at the time.
I also found the insertion instructions a little difficult to follow at first, but I expected there would be a learning curve.
How I feel about it now: It took a couple cycles to get used to the insertion process, but six months later, it’s a breeze. Along with the environmental and financial benefits, switching to a cup has also helped me get more familiar with my cycle, which is a big plus. My only regret is the I did not switch sooner!
Cloth menstrual pads
The next item I looked for was cloth menstrual pads.
Cloth menstrual pads come in a variety of different styles, sizes and materials. Unlike a disposable pad, they can be washed and and reused. If you follow the instructions, they are said to last for years to come.
What I purchased
I considered a lot of different brands in my search for reusable pads. Ultimately, I ended up purchasing my cloth pads from Luna Pads.
- Where I bought it: The Luna Pads website
- Cost: $67
- In the package: Three cloth pads, care instructions
- Related purchases: One extra insert
Things I liked: The main reason I bought cloth pads is for extra protection on the heavy days — and they totally deliver in this respect! They don’t leak and, because they are cloth, they aren’t hard on the skin. They’re easy to wash and, added bonus, they are made in Canada!
Things I didn’t like: For as much as I love the added protection — particularly on heavy days — I found using cloth pads in the summer wasn’t always ideal. We had some really hot days here and there were times where using cloth just made me feel damp, for lack of a better way to put it.
Of course, a disposable pad would have felt gross, too.
Also, because they don’t have an adhesive back, they can move around a bit, which can be annoying. That said, I like the clasps, both for wearing and for storing.
How I feel about them now: Six months later, I still love my reusable pads. Now that I am more comfortable with my Diva Cup, I don’t feel like I need to use them every day of my cycle but I am so glad I have them for those heavy days as extra insurance (or for the really light days at the beginning and end of my cycle). I will definitely invest in more reusable pads in the future.
Want to make the switch from disposable to reusable? Use this link to get $10 off your first purchase. Full disclosure: I’ll earn $10 off a future purchase, as well. Sharing is caring!
Other items in my eco-friendly period pouch
In high-school, being ready for my period meant tossing a couple tampons in my purse and calling it good.
Now that I’ve started using eco-friendly period products, I’ve created a period pouch. I’m currently using a zipper pouch that I keep in my backpack all the time.
Along with my Diva Cup and cloth pads, the pouch currently contains:
- A pocket-sized hand sanitizer: Having clean hands when you insert a menstrual cup is really important. This is primarily for times when I have to change the cup in a public place.
- Ibuprofen: I don’t get cramps all the time, but when I do…it’s no joke. I like to keep a few ibuprofen in this pouch just in case.
- One disposable pad: In the very unlikely event that I somehow use all my disposable ones (or if I forget to put them back in the pouch after being washed), I carry one disposable one. Also good in the event a friend needs a pad.
- Two pregnancy tests: no explanation really needed for this one except to say I’m a married woman in my 30s.
There are still some items I want to get for my little pouch, like a pouch for used pads (been using a ziplock bag for now, but I’d like something a little less…plastic) and wipes of some kind (do reusable wipes exist?) but overall, I am happy with my eco-friendly period pouch.
Making the switch from disposable to eco-friendly period products did come with a learning curve, but six months later, I am glad I did it! Not only has it been kind to my wallet, but I feel better about the products I am using — and about the products I’m keeping out of the landfill.
What steps are you taking to make your life more eco-friendly?