If you missed it, don’t forget to read Part 1 - Why traditional products are an issue, here.
With a better understanding of the issues with traditional/disposable sanitary products, we have the power to change the way we manage our periods into something that is better for us and the environment. And, as with most things sustainable, we advocate for re-using.
The combination of ‘reusable’ and ‘periods’ might sound gross, but it really isn’t that bad and is the best way to reduce waste and cost. It also gives us more options that are better for our long term health. So, what are our options…. Well, the first thing I brought was reusables pads, then two kinds of menstrual cups and most recently, period undies.
What are the sustainable options
Initially, I didn’t like the idea of reusable pads because I never really liked using disposable pads. They were never that comfortable, however, sometimes they are necessary.
Reusables pads are much like disposable pads expect that they are designed to last and be washed regularly. Like disposable versions, they are made with layers of absorbent fabrics but with nicer materials like cotton, bamboo or hemp. The top layer is designed for comfort, the middles layers are absorbent and there is an underlayer which is normally made from PUL to act as a waterproofing barrier to stop leakage.
They come in many shapes and thickness depending on your flow, whether it’s light, medium or heavy. You can get organic cotton ones, black ones or ones in fun patterns, all depending on what you like. Best of all, they are designed to be washed and reused over and over again, and most are machine washable and can be worn with most types of underwear.
I’ve found my reusable pads to be far more comfortable than disposable ones, and while you need to ensure you have enough to last you between laundry loads, it’s far more economical and environmentally friendly than disposable sanitary pads. Pro tip – black pads won't stain or start to look discoloured!
Photo by Takatu Studio
Menstrual cups are inserted into the vagina during menstruation, where they are designed to collect your menstrual blood rather than absorbing. They are shaped like a bell with a little toggle/stem on the end and are designed to be removed, emptied, cleaned and reused over and over again.
The cups come in many shapes, sizes, colours and materials. The most common material is a flexible medical grade silicone, but there is also TPE, a type of plastic which is hypoallergenic, making it a good alternative for women who have silicone sensitivities. Silicone is softer and more flexible than TPE, however, both work well. Working out the right size for you is easy - each brand will have a guide to help you work out what is best for your body.
I know the idea of a menstrual cup can seem a bit daunting, but it’s not as scary as it sounds and there is loads of helpful information available. Before I used my menstrual cup I popped on over to My Cup support page where I found a helpful video with Ethically Kate on how to insert your cup, remove it and how to clean it.
It’s really important to ensure you get a menstrual cup from a reputable company, these go into your body and you want to make sure you are safe, so please do your research and ask questions if you are unsure.
Cups cost around $40 - $50, which might seem a bit of an upfront cost, however, they can last between 5 – 10 years depending on the material. This equates to a cost of less than $0.20 per period over their lifetime, compared to $20 per period on disposable sanitary items.
There are lots of options and brands around, so you will need to do some DIY research to see who is best for you. We have listed a few of your favourite brands over on our Zero Waste Period Blog Tab. Also over on menstrualcup.nz you can find a guide on the “best choice of menstrual cups for you, your body, and the environment”, as well as learn all about menstrual cups and how they will change your life!
You can also check out my interview with my friend Nic on her journey using a menstrual cup, and also our podcast on the same topic!
The Hello Cup Double Box
Reusable period undies are somewhat new to me and so are most likely new to you. They look just like normal underwear, but the difference is they can hold up to two tampons worth of period blood. The crotch of the underwear is made with different layers, similar to a pad. The layers include a moister wick, odour and bacteria control layer which is closest to the body, then a superabsorbent layer which holds the blood and a leakproof layer to avoid any unwanted accidents.
These are a great option for women who have light periods, or who are after an extra layer of security when using a menstrual cup. These are also a good option for teenagers who are not yet ready for menstrual cups or who are feeling a little nervous about leakages. There are many different styles available, from briefs, high waisted and even a thong. There is an array of colours and a range of materials like organic cotton, bamboo, nylon and spandex.
Sadly, I have yet to have the chance to try my period undies as they are pretty new, but I am not ashamed to say I have totally worn them as a normal pair of undies. They are super comfortable, and they don’t feel bulky like a pad does. My friend and I brought these at the same time and so far she is loving hers. For her, they are the perfect alternative to a menstrual cup and way more comfortable – In fact, she reported that she went all three days of her period wearing the period undies (yes, she washed them) and is hooked.
I think these are a great option, and the fact that they hold up to 2 tampons worth of blood is mind-blowing!
Image from AWWA (FKA I am Eva)
Zero Waste Period Serries