In this blog post I will share my top three eco-friendly menstrual products and also touch upon what is called free bleeding, more of a movement than a period practice.
I run a feminist (book)club together with Mirjam (who wrote Veganism and Faith) and last week the topic menstruation came up. There were lots of opinions and no one scared away from telling how they experience their period. The men in the group told us about how they experience their partners’ and sisters’ menstruation but all confessed they didn’t know enough about it to participate in the discussion. But the fact that they were so open about it encouraged me to write this piece, and I do hope that even men will read this so they might inspire their female friends, partners and family members.
Another reason I felt inspired to write this article is that I went to M&S yesterday for sanitary pads and vegan chocolate spread (read my rant on my feminist highlight here) and Joyce from Veganwifey.nl pointed out that washable pads are waaaay better. And I totally agree (I even made them myself)! The only reason I was buying disposable ones is because I’m going on a trip this weekend and I didn’t want to go through the hassle of having to be secretive about my washable pads. Also I was a bit afraid about the whole hygienic aspect of it. I must confess: I feel like a hypocrite now. I’ve been worrying about the environment so much, but now I feel compelled to use disposable pads just because I’m going on a road trip this weekend. Ugh.
Anyway, this article will focus on three (or actually four) ways of dealing with your period in an eco-friendly manner and I hope to inspire you to give them a go as well. But first the question…
How do disposable menstrual products affect the environment?
It’s something I only realized about a year ago, but disposable menstrual products have a huge impact on the environment. According to The Guardian, the Marine Conservation Society found 20 tampons and sanitary items per 200 meters of shoreline. Medium.com states that “[a] disposable sanitary pad requires about 500-800 years to decompose. Thousands of tons of disposable sanitary waste are generated every month all over the world.”
And then there’s the chemicals that are used in disposable sanitary items. These toxic chemicals are leaching the soil, in order to obscure the “nasty odors” coming from your period. Why would you even want those chemicals near your vagina? According to Huffington Post, “tampons and pads with odor neutralizers and artificial fragrances are virtually a chemical soup, laced with artificial colors, polyester, adhesives, polyethylene (PET), polypropylene and propylene glycol (PEG), contaminants linked to hormone disruption, cancer, birth defects, dryness and infertility.” That’s a big NO THANKS from me. Thankfully, there are enough alternatives.
#3: Period Underwear
Washable, reusable underwear that absorbs blood. Yes, it’s a thing. At the moment there are two types of period underwear on the market: one that helps hold pads in place, and one that relies on special materials to help absorb any leakage or even replace tampons or pads for your lighter days. Even though they are quite expensive and you’ll probably want more than one (unless you plan on washing yours every day!), I think it’s a good alternative for disposable menstrual products.
#2: The Menstrual Cup
Over the last couple of years, the menstrual cup has gained popularity. It’s a small, flexible cup made out of silicone or latex rubber. I use the Organicup, which I’ve had for four years now. It doesn’t absorb your flow, but catches and collects it. It’s very handy for road trips because (at least in my case) you only have to empty and wash the cup twice a day, so ideally you could use the cup at night, then empty and clean it in the morning and not worry about it until you go to bed again. The only thing is that it can be a hassle to insert (but there are YouTube tutorials available) and in my experience it can be a bit painful when inserting or removing. I tend to use it from day 3 to 5 when on my period. When my body just feels all cramped up, I love using washable sanitary pads, which brings me to my number one…
#1: Washable Sanitary Pads
My absolute favorite: washable sanitary pads. I just love how comfy mine are! I made them myself – click here for my DIY. Some people wonder if washable sanitary pads are hygienic. Well, that’s up to you. If you ditch your used pads and leave them there for days until the next time you do your laundry, then the answer is no. But no worries, there’s a special way to keep your pads clean. When used, immediately rinse them with cold water, then hot water. This will get rid of the stains. After this, let them dry n a mesh laundry bag (the ones you use for bras). You can wash the bag separately at 60°C or put them with your toweling and other cottons you’d normally wash using the hygienic cycle. Make sure the fabric you use for your own washable pads is suitable for tumble drying or you’ll have to dry them on a rack.
I’d definitely recommend wearing washable sanitary pads. It’s no hassle, just a little bit of extra laundry, but imagine all the plastic and chemical’s you’re skipping!
Another eco-friendly way of menstruating: free bleeding
Yes, free bleeding means exactly what you probably think it means. Helloclue describes it as “the practice of intentionally menstruating in public, without blocking or collecting the period flow”.
Free bleeding is more of a movement than a period practice. It is challenging period stigma and taboos, to protest high prices of period products, and to draw attention to the environmental issues relating to disposable pads and tampons.
Even though I’m all for breaking taboos, I’m not sure if I’d feel confident enough to free bleed. Do you “bleed free”? Is this something you would feel confident enough to do? Let me know in the comments!