Let’s talk about periods. When they happen, they influence our mood, our perspective, and our energy. But for many of us there is a ‘yuk-factor’ still associated with talking about how we deal with, collect, dispose of, or avoid the blood we shed each month. Even though throwing away plastic pads makes me (and maybe you) feel guilty, it’s hard to decide to change to the unknown! So, let’s explore the expanding range of options we have available to see if we can have an eco-friendlier approach to our period than the traditional pads and tampons, which add a harsh load to the environment.

We can count ourselves lucky to have an abundance of sanitary care items to choose from. Pads are as thin and comfortable as they’ve ever been. Tampons absorb well and glide in easily. Also entering the scene showing a rapid rise in popularity are period-proof knickers, reusable pads, and menstrual cups. Although versions of these have been in existence for a long time, thanks to technology, they feel better and are more usable than ever before.

There’s a movement happening in our culture to reduce our waste, particularly single use items. We are embracing the naturalness of our period – rather than it being something to be ashamed of, making it easier for us to consider trying other more fringe options. Reducing the waste associated with our periods, while still having convenience and more empowerment than we’ve ever known is now possible. Read on to find out which option might be best for you!

I spend how much?

Over our lifetime, the amount we spend on sanitary items gets into the thousands. Reusables might be more expensive up front but last a lot longer before they need replacing. Reducing this cost for many women is a key driver in converting to a zero-waste period product.

13 moon cycles per year at approximately $8 for 1.5 packets of pads = $104 per year for roughly 37 years = $3848, plus extras needed post birth / heavy flows / breakthrough bleeding.

What are the options and how are they used?

Plastic Free Pads

Single use sanitary pads can contain about 90% plastic - a huge burden on our environment! If you are just not ready to try a reusable option yet, we get it. Luckily there are some great plastic-free options available, made of plant cellulose that are comfortable, reliable, and are great to have on hand as they easily fit in a handbag for when you might need them. If tampons are your preference, Natracare have a range of natural and 100% organic tampons.

Reusable Pads

Reusable pads are a great option if you are used to wearing pads but want a reusable option. These can last for years and can replace over 120 single use pads. Many are designed to draw moisture away from your skin and the top layer of fabric so that you feel dry. Simply snap them around your underwear and use as you would a single-use pad. So simple to wash, just rinse or soak in cold water and put in the washing machine.

Period-Proof Underwear

It sounds too easy to be possible – just wearing underwear when you have your period! AWWA Period proof underwear are an empowering choice to make when it comes to managing your cycle. The underwear has been designed to absorb up to two tampons worth of blood and are able to do this because of a highly absorbent layer that sits below the layer closest to your skin that is designed to draw moisture away and keep you feeling dry.

How do you know if reusable pads and underwear are the right choice for you?

  • You’ll feel comfortable storing your used pad or underwear in a wet bag while you are out and about.
  • You’re comfortable with rinsing out your period items after use.

Menstrual cups

A menstrual cup is usually made of silicone or a mix of plastic and rubber called Thermoplastic elastomers (TPE) and if looked after, can last 15 years. It is designed to be folded into a narrow width and inserted. Once inside, it will pop open and collect blood. Reports and reviews reflect how much people are loving the reduced attention their period takes because of how much blood can be collected. There are different sizes available for pre and post babies as well as age – things move as we get older.

How do you know if menstrual cups are the right choice for you? it’s worth considering:

  • Do you find tampons comfortable?
  • Do you feel comfortable seeing blood?
  • Are you comfortable getting ‘all-up-in-there’ and being patient with finding the best way to fold and insert the cup? It can be a learning process, but once easily mastered allow great freedom and convenience with a period

If you’ve answered no to these, it might be better to try reusable pads or period-proof underwear.

Don't forget, it’s important to wash your cup after each use, and sanitise between each cycle. Simply boil your cup in clean water for 10 minutes, and make sure the cup is completely dry before storing away. It’s also important to remove the cup in a way that won’t add downward pressure to your vagina. The cup creates a suction, so to remove, you must release the suction by squeezing the bottom of the cup before easing out.

Future-proof eco-friendly period brands we love:

The forward movement in our collective quest to reduce waste starts with each individual person. The increasing number of excellent options for us to choose form when considering environmentally friendly sanitary items makes it easier.     

Natracare were the first company to create certified organic tampons, way back in 1989. Their materials are natural and sustainably sourced, taking care to make a product while still protecting the environment. Natracare have a range of products including tampons, pads, liners, baby wipes, moist liners, and nursing pads designed to help you have healthier personal care choices.

AKU started in New Zealand, wanting to create a pad that worked better than disposables, felt better and was better for the environment. The all-black design means they are easy to keep looking good, stain-free. The top layer wicks moisture away from skin down to the absorbent natural bamboo layer. These pads are machine washable, breathable, and can replace up to 120 disposable pads.

AWWA was started by two Kiwi mums wanting a better option for their daughters. In a short time, they’ve created a range of period and pee-proof underwear that are stylish enough for everyday wear, and swimwear, suitable to manage even the heaviest period. AWWA have used intelligent fabric technology to keep you feeling dry while absorbing up to 2 tampons worth of blood. By supporting AWWA, you’re helping bring an end to period poverty in NZ, with 5% of their underwear going to charities that directly address period poverty.

Lunette was founded on the principle of liberating people who have periods and giving them a safe, comfortable, easy, and intelligent solution. Lunette is made from and is very flexible and soft, making them ultra-comfortable to insert and wear. There are sizes for all body types.

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