These days, sustainability and self-care go hand in hand. Extensive studies and research have shown the effect excessive waste and a subsequently changing environment has on physical and mental wellbeing, meaning any opportunity to switch out existing habits and products for more sustainable versions is a good one. For people who menstruate, single-use products like pads and tampons can add up to thousands of pounds of waste. National Geographic estimates that menstruating individuals go through up to 15,000 tampons and pads in a lifetime, most of which end up in a landfill.
But just as other sectors like construction, food, and beauty fight to become more sustainable and less wasteful, the multibillion-dollar menstruation industry is following with eco-friendly alternatives to traditional tampons and plastic-packed pads that are as good for you as they are for the Earth.
Scroll on for a look at the best sustainable period products:
Saalt Wear Leakproof Underwear
You might already know Saalt as a leading menstrual cup brand but they're taking things even further with the launch of Saalt Wear, a line of sustainable and leakproof period undies made from 55 percent recycled water bottles. The brand launched in 2020 in five styles that range from straightforward bikini briefs to lacy hipsters and thongs. There's a wide range of nude shades and the underwear has two absorbency levels to choose from. The heavier pairs fully replace tampons and pads by absorbing up to three tampons worth of liquid, including light bladder leaks, thanks to water-repelling, leakproof layers that hold liquid while wicking moisture away from your body. The lighter iterations can replace thinner products like panty liners and act as backup protection from minor leakage, discharge, and spotting. As if you needed another reason to go Saalt, the company is donating two percent of sales towards period care, menstrual health, and education for underserved communities.
Aisle Reusable Pad and Liner Set
If you're just entering the world of eco-conscious period products and don't quite know where to begin, a good start is with the Matchmaker Quiz by menstruation brand, Aisle, which will give you a breakdown of suggested products based on your individual cycle and needs. One of the brand's bestselling products is a reusable pad and panty liner that comes in a number of fun patterns and sizes for different flows. In lieu of peeling back sticky tape and adhering the pad to your undies, Aisle's version use snaps on the wings to attach. The larger size can hold four tampons worth of liquid, and cleaning is as easy as tossing it in the washing machine.
Lunette Menstrual Cup
Cheaper and more comfortable than tampons (in my opinion, anyway!), menstrual cups were one of the first major tampon alternatives to break into the menstruation market. Period activist brand Lunette improved on the product with lightweight, medical-grade silicon in a number of cheerful colors that can stay in place for up to 12 hours. Additionally, Lunette has a line of cup accessories like wipes for sanitizing on the go, carry-all bags, cleansers, travel kits, and even PMS-relieving essential oils that completely take the guesswork out of getting started with sustainable menstruation.
DAME. Reusable Tampon Applicator
The most wasteful part of single-use tampons isn't the cotton insert that's actually used to absorb blood—it's the dense plastic applicators that stay preserved in landfills for 500 hundred years before decomposing. Many period-havers, though, prefer or need the easy, gliding guidance of an applicator. DAME. is solving both problems with their top-rated, self-sanitizing, reusable tampon applicator. With a lifetime guarantee, the mediprene applicator can be loaded with loose tampons for mess-free application without waste. The best part is the patented StringLock, which stops your tampon string from snagging and slipping. If you've ever dealt with the panic of "losing" a tampon up there, you know just how crucial the string feature is.
Rael Menstrual Cups and Case Set
Already a boldface name in the beauty world for products that work with the body's natural functions instead of attempting to override them, Rael's just-launched reusable menstrual cup and discreet carrying case are as comfortable as they are sustainable. The Reusable Menstrual Cup ($33) comes in three sizes to accommodate different bodies and can last up to 10 years (!) with proper care, making it a smart pick for the environment and your budget. The cup and case are available individually or as part of a set, but you won't want to miss out on some kind of storage for your cup—it's that protective shield that makes the cup last so long.
FLO Organic Tampons
Periods are stressful enough, and the austere aesthetics of many modern products and packaging don't do much to cheer anyone up. Except for FLO, that is. On a mission to make the business of menstruating as healthy, sustainable, adorable as possible, FLO promotes a good-from-the-inside-out approach to period care with organic and fully biodegradable tampons and pads. Every product is cheerfully packaged and designed to feel uplifting while the tampons and pads themselves are made without plastic, bleach, or other carcinogens. They're available for wholesale and individual buys, plus a subscription service. And as if you needed another reason to buy, FLO was made by two besties who donate 5 percent of all profits to women and girls in need.