Green Goods for your Lady Parts

by - Monday, April 10, 2017



One of the things many of us buy most regularly are feminine products like pads, tampons, razors (inexplicably a dollar more) and so forth- we make this purchase often, but do we really think much about it?Now, not all of us ladies have periods (menopause, trans, taking one of those amazing birth control, but for many women, these products add up in money and in the waste we create.  Some lady shopping is just buying the pink, more expensive version (don't). Others, are more complicated. Our periods and other menstruation-specific events bring up all sorts of issues around how to minimize waste and lessen our impacts.

Yes, horrified gents. This one isn't for you if you are too wimpy to talk about menstruation, post-partum, or anything else where nipples aren't purely for decoration (why do you even have them?). Just move along.

Pads

reusable walking dead pads
from HarpDiapers

In the spirit of blunt and unwavering honesty for this post, I have to say since I became environmentally aware (2 years ago, when The Bub was born), I have spent 8 months breastfeeding, 9 months pregnant, and 7 months breastfeeding again. I am pretty sure I have had 2 periods in 3 years? At what point do you just become an awkward elementary schooler again? Is there an incredibly awkward video I could watch?

A woman, on average, has about 400 periods in her life. We don't talk much about it, but we will create more waste with our periods than many babies create with diapers. For that reason, at least considering less disposable options will be good for everyone. If you are thinking about it and want to read about someone's first person experience trying all the options, check here.

The greenest choice for pads is to get something reusable. Yes, you read that correctly, and you may not have known it, but there is an epic culture around pads you throw in the wash and reuse. Women who sew them, women who sell them, women who buy them. As opposed to the pad big shots who ok the ads where menstrual blood is represented by blue goo? Cleaning fluid of some kind?

Reusable pads aren't as weird or "alternative" as you think.   You can find 12,826 options for reusable pads on Etsy. They even have tons of options on Amazon. It makes sense. Really, once you wash them, they would be ready to go again- the trick would be creating a system where you can get them from dirty to clean without feeling too weird about it. I love Glad Rags, which sells pads and menstrual cups (oh we are getting there), so check them out. Reusable pads seem to be totally beloved by women who use them for being soft and comfortable- much more so than plastic (and let's all take a moment and reflect on how we send those nasty chemicals right up our hooha).

Another similar option? Lunapads sell cloth pads and period underwear. I kind of love that idea, because who hasn't ruined a pair of underwear before? Why are periods sometimes so damn sneaky?

If you are a solid sewer, Facebook groups like The Eco-Friendly Option will post patterns and support, so you can turn scrap fabric into something much more useful (they also accept pads for a charity, so you can send your scrap fabric off to help someone else)

Alright, reusable is too much for you? It happens! We all have our limits, and the goal is to do better, but you don't have to be perfect. Why not try an organic pad from Organyc, which will keep the chemicals away from your business and send slightly less foul materials off to the landfill.

Tampons

If you prefer tampons, there are options that create less garbage for you too. Tampons cause environmental problems, especially in the amount of waste they produce with applicators, and they are creating health risks for women (yeah, why are we sticking toxic chemicals up our hoohas?). At the barest minimum, STOP buying any tampons that come with plastic applicators! That is all kinds of normalized crazypantsness.

You can buy tampons that address some of these concerns. Look for brands that use organic materials and consider getting ones without applicators (you get used to it). Brands like Seventh Generation offer both applicator free and cardboard applicators. Also check out Natracare, Veeda, and Maxim.

Still not sure? Pharmaca sells some great options as well.

Another option? Sea sponge tampons. I see these come pup relatively often, but I don't see many people professing love or anything. Seems weird to me, but they do seem to save tons of money my being reusable. Just not convinced this will work as a widespread solution. Jade and Pearl seems to be the main brand for this.

There are also reusable crocheted tampons for sale on Etsy. I have no idea how well these work, and they certainly don't have the following reusable pads do, but they might be worth exploring if you love tampons but hate the wastefulness.

That being said, even without the plastic applicators, most of these tampons still create a lot of waste to be sent to landfills. This may be the best option for you, but there are still greener options.

Yep, time to talk about the Menstrual Cup. 


Menstrual cups are placed within a vagina (apparently they suction in) to collect blood and then can be taken out, cleaned, and used again. These little silicon cups can be cleaned and reused, so you can eliminate almost all of the waste you create with a tampon. A lot of public reaction seems to be aghast or disgusted, but it seems odd to me that women pretend they are uncomfortable with this blood. Public shame around the abject is nothing new, but in private, we are all used to dealing with this stuff.

And seriously, a life without the risk of toxic shock syndrome? Sounds great to me.  Save hundreds of dollars on pads and tampons? I am in.

Is it a switch from what you are used to? Yep, but it does so much good. They are simple, don't require applicators or all that wrapping, and are generally beloved by the women who used them. I have not gotten one yet, but I will once I need one again. I am so curious, and I love the idea.

Some of the best-reviewed options are:

The Diva Cup
The Lena Cup
The Moon Cup
Blossom Menstrual Cup
Yuuki Menstrual Cup

You can check reviews (there are thousands of them- thats hundreds of thousands of pads and tampons out of landfills) and decide for yourself what looks good. I will update you when I know more. Has anyone made the switch yet? Would love to hear what you think!

Nursing Pads

reusable nursing pads
from marleys monsters

When you breastfeed, you can get leaky. Most people don't want their personal style described as "boob puddles" so there are ways to keep you from leaking on things. Some genius thought that making these little pads disposable made a lot of sense.

Um, why? Why would we need to throw these out because they have milk on them? The same milk we wash off burp rags and onesies? This is crazy.

Rather than buying hundreds of disposable covers, how about ten reusable ones? Cheaper, and way kinder to the Earth your child will inherit. You can find lots of options on Amazon, including bamboo. I have bought pads from two places, and I loved both- marleys monsters to feel playful and loveyourreusables for simple soft and comfy.

Razors

merkur safety razor
from Merkur

I understand why many women question shaving, but I love it. I love the feel of my legs after I have shaved them as well as an added excuse to hide from my toddler.

That being said, this habit many of us share comes with a big impact- Americans throw out an estimated 2 billion disposable razors every year. That's just nonsense. We can do better than tossing all that plastic (many of these razors also turn out to be pretty toxic, because plastic.

The first step to solving the problem is for all of us to shave slightly less. We are all conditioned to shop a lot, but if we started trimming or shaving less, we could make our razors last longer. Another option is to do waxing (waterless) or sugaring (the most eco-friendly option probably), but steer away from any kind of chemical removal.

If you want an eco-friendly razor, most opinions will lead you to the same thing- the safety razor. You only replace the blade, not the razor itself, so it cuts out a ton of waste. This one from Merkur is raved about, and you can get 10 replacement razors for 13 dollars (so much cheaper than the disposables in the long run, even though it has a big cost upfront). Most of these are listed as "for men" but razors are infamously gendered to include "women's tax" where pink versions of the same item is sold for more money. There is nothing inherently different between these products based on gender, so don't let that scare you away.

If you do need something disposable (for a trip or something?), Preserve makes disposables with recycled plastic. No reason to buy anything else with fresh plastic, and they still sell razor refills, so you never have to buy the plastic part again. Schick has an eco-version as well, and it looks alright? I am suspicious of greenwashing, but if you are in a store and in a bind, keep an eye out for this one.


Shaving Cream

For shaving cream, I use my "kiss my face" olive oil soap bars, which has a great lather and leaves my legs feeling amazing. I also use this soap for my face, and my skin is especially clear and soft. Seriously, this soap is the bomb. I have given up on any soap that isn't in a bar. So much more cost effective and it reduces the waste I create (one sheet of paper vs plastic and metal soap and cream dispensers). You can also make your own- so many recipes out there!



Looking for green options for more of those basics you buy at the grocery store? I've got you.

Here are better options for toothbrushes (stop buying fresh plastic toothbrushes- there are no standards, you are putting toxic landfill fodder in your mouth every morning).
Better options for paper plates and party supplies
Better options for babyfood
Better option for water
Better options for napkins, paper towel, and toilet paper
Better options for grocery bags
Better options for trash bags and zip lock bags
Better options for all paper goods

Want more green shopping tips? I have TONS of them. Every purchase you make has a more environmentally-friendly option, whether it be bought secondhand, locally, or out of better materials! To find more shopping tips and ideas, check out the Giant List of Shopping Lists.


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10 comments

  1. This was a great read! I feel like periods are always so taboo to talk about and that's why alot of people jump straight to the big brand name disposable products without thinking of more economical options. I am interested in the menstrual cup I may have to take a leap and try it out next time. I also like the idea of your reusable breast milk pads. I will have to keep these in mind for the future!

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    1. Thanks! Yeah, it feels so embarrassing to talk about, but so many women have told me today that they love their menstrual cup, so now I am even more sure I am going to try it. And reusable breast milk pads are awesome.

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  2. I love this post! And I've always wanted to try something like the Diva Cup, but it just sounds so... not comfortable!

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    1. Thanks! Right? I look at the thing and can't figure it out... but it must work!?

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  3. I am all about a cleaner, greener world, truly I am. but this "Menstrual cups are placed within a vagina (apparently they suction in) to collect blood and then can be taken out, cleaned, and used again. These little silicon cups can be cleaned and reused" had me gaging! Blood makes me dizzy!
    I had reusable breast pads for both of my kids and they were amazing! The disposable ones someone gifted me were a nightmare, sticking to parts that nothing should ever stick to!! Also, the reusable ones were thicker, meaning it took longer for the milk to soak thru and mark itself on my chest!!

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    1. Oh man! Yeah, may not be great if you are squeamish about blood. Luckily when one option doesn't work for you, lots of others exist!

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  4. Great post! I already use a ton of reusable products, but my best investment has definitely been my diva cup. Bought it in college and haven't looked back.

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    1. Oh awesome! I haven't heard anyone say anything bad about the diva cup yet!

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  5. I have recently bought a diva cup. It was totally weird at first but does get easier. It's not unlike trying to use tampons for the first time. It just takes patience and practice. My older sister has used one for a long while and she absolutely loves it and recommends them.

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    Replies
    1. yeah, it seems like everyone who tries them loves them.

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