Real Talk: How Green Is Your Period?

Updated 03/26/18
plastic-free period: woman holding palm leaf
Girlfriend Collective

Periods are having a moment, and we're 100% here for it. From collectives like The Pink Protest and Bloody Good Period working to end period poverty to major retailers absorbing the "Tampon tax," and empowering conversations happening all over social media and IRL, 2018 might just be the year we see periods achieve some semblance of normalisation. But while we've finally given change-driving power to our collective periods and gotten a handle on period pain, there's one topic that keeps raising its head: How green are our periods?

Of course, we're talking about environmental sustainability here—specifically, the topical issue of plastic waste.

If you've never stopped to consider this before, just wait until you hear the stats: Period products count for 200,000 tonnes of waste per year. While a large amount of this waste is either incinerated or, problematic still, sent to landfill, lots of it is unfortunately making its way into the environment. In fact, one in every 100 pieces of plastic currently in our oceans is either a tampon applicator, sanitary pad or wipe. Argh. But as luck would have it—this is the year of the period, after all—a slew of incredible innovations and clever initiatives have arrived to help curb the issue.

Even better, many are focused on not only bringing down plastic waste, but also making periods easier to manage and healthier for our bodies in general, too. Because who doesn't want fewer worries about toxic shock syndrome? So if you're ready for action, keep scrolling for four easy ways to reduce the impact of your period products on the environment. And who knows—maybe Mother Nature will reward us all by finally shelving PMT?

Get a reusable tampon applicator

Recently launched on Kickstarter, D is a new reusable tampon applicator designed by friends Celia Pool and Alec Mills, the duo behind eco-conscious fem-health startup DAME. Made from BPA-free mediprene (a medical-grade rubber-thermoplastic hybrid), the D isn't only here to make this the last applicator you ever buy—they're designed to last for life—but also the easiest. The tube is super smooth to help it glide comfortably, it comes in a chic case (with room for tampons) you can keep in your handbag and the mediprene contains antimicrobial properties for active self-cleaning.

All you need to do is wipe or rinse it after each use, and you're done.

DAME D Reusable Applicator Kit (Includes 6 Organic Tampons) $17
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Switch to organic cotton

While it isn't their first foray onto the menstrual scene, pads and tampons made from organic cotton can help to cut down on both plastic waste and chemical damage. Since the cotton won't have been sprayed with chemical pesticides during farming nor bleached during the manufacture (a process which imbues the cotton with the potentially harmful chemical dioxin, according to the Women's Environmental Network), they'll have less impact on the environment—and won't put your body at the same risk of toxic shock syndrome, either.

Freda Organic & Eco Friendly Period Subscription Box $7
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Try a tampliner

No, we didn't make it up; new femcare brand Callaly did. Hailed as the first significant tampon innovation in 80 years (fun fact: tampons first dropped in 1936), the tampliner is a new creation from gynaecologist Alex Hooi, and garment technologist Ewa Radziwon. As you'd guess, it's a cross between a tampon and liner, aiming to make leaks a thing of the past. But an added benefit of the Callaly creation is that the whole thing is 95% biodegradable and made with organic cotton, so you'll be safe in the knowledge that both you and the planet are getting a better deal.

Callaly Tampliners Box $4
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Revisit menstrual cups

Whether you're a menstrual cup novice or had a one-off experiment ages ago, we've got good news: They're better than ever. Whether you opt for the OG Moon Cup or a newer breed like Ruby Cup, Lunette, Diva Cup or OrganiCup, there's a whole host of different shapes and sizes now on the market. Made from flexible silicone designed to be reused for years, you can wear a cup for as long as it takes to fill, avoid creating any material waste, and will also be cutting out your own exposure to chemically treated materials.

Win-win.

Monki x Lunette Menstrual Cup $25
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