Updated: Jun 29
Did you know that in the United States alone, approximately 12 billion pads and 7 billion tampons are thrown in the garbage each year? This is a massive amount of waste especially when considering the eco-friendly alternative that are currently out there for feminine hygiene products.
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There are multiple reasons to change to a more sustainable option for your period. The most important one is that pads and tampons contribute to landfills like mentioned above. I was using about 15 tampons per menstrual cycle which is almost 200 tampons per year. During the course of your entire life, this is a massive amount of tampons.
Let's do the math here (as I was curious). The average women has her period for about 35 years (from 15 until 50 years old). If she uses the same amount of tampons as I did, 200 tampons per year, this would end up as (200x35=) 7000 tampons!
Next to the contribution to landfills, there are also lots of toxins present in tampons. According to this article, tampons and other sanitary products contain dioxins. Even though they mention that the amount of toxins present in tampons is small and much lower compared to the amount present in our diet, I would not want those chemicals near my lady parts.
Next to dioxin, tampons can also contain bleach (to make them white), synthetic fibers (for extra absorbance) and fragrance (for a nice smell). Unfortunately, tampons and other sanitary products are not food products so the manufacturers are not obligated to put all the chemicals they have used onto the package.
So, if tampons contain all these unnatural products, what is a good alternative? I have found that a menstrual cup is a great alternative to tampons. Instead of absorbing your flow, it is collected in the cup. There are many different styles, brands, and prices so be sure to do your research to find the best fit for you.
I personally use a Lunette menstrual cup. I have been using this one for years now and I love it. Most of these menstrual cups are made of medical grade BPA free silicon. Please double check this, especially if you decide to go for a more budget-friendly option as you want to make sure the lower price is not due to cheaper material use.
As there are no chemicals involved, the chance of toxic shock syndrome is almost zero which is a big advantage compared to tampons.
Another advantage is that a cup has a much greater capacity compared to tampons. I only have to empty the cup twice a day on heavy days and once a day on light days (on light days I use nothing during the night). The average tampon absorbs about 10ml of fluid while a menstrual cup can hold 20ml of fluid.
Types and styles
I choose a type 2 (or large) of the lunette cup which was recommended for women who either had a baby (vaginally) or are over 30 years old. As the birth of my baby girl was only a few months ago back then, I choose a type 2. Type 1 or size small is often recommended for women who have not given birth yet or are under 30.
I bought mine at a natural living fair where I could see and feel different brands and styles. If you have the opportunity to see and feel different brands, I highly recommend doing this.
How to Use
In the beginning, I was a bit hesitant about it as I thought I might feel it or it might be painful or there might be leaks but for me, it works great. The first few times inserting the cup is a little weird and if it is not inserted correctly, you might feel the stem which can be annoying.
What I do is, I hold the cup in half creating a U shape. I relax and tilt my pelvis forward to make it easier to reach. I insert the rim of the cup and I use 1 finger to push the cup in place. After I release the cup it unfolds automatically creating a vacuum so it doesn't leak. My cup is about half a finger deep, in this case I don't feel it anymore but I can still easily remove it.
How to Remove
To remove the cup, I insert 2 fingers and grab the bottom of the cup (not just the stem) and squeeze a little to break the vacuum. Then, I gently pull to remove the cup. Be careful not the spill the content and make a mess. I rinse the cup and insert it again.
How to Clean
When my period is over I clean the cup more thoroughly. I don't use any chemicals or cleaning detergents but I only use boiling water was that is sufficient to kill any bacterial. Afterwards, I let it air dry and store it for next month.
How much do you save?
As mentioned before, over the course of a lifetime a women uses about 7000 tampons. As I choose organic tampons these we a little more pricy but I did not want the chemicals in regular tampons near my delicate bits. The tampons I used are 15 pieces for €4,- which results in (7000/15x4)= €1866,-
A menstrual cup lasts you up to 10 years so in 35 years you would need 4 menstrual cups costing about €20,- each. In this case the total would be €80,-.
Over a lifetime this means you could save up to €1866,- - €80,-= €1786,-
If using a menstrual cup still seems to be a little scary for you, there are also organic alternatives for tampons. These do not contain bleach, fragrance or synthetic fiber but only natural ingredients. Using reusables is still a better (and more economical) alternative but this could be a good first step.