Menstrual Waste & Having a Sustainable Period

Menstrual Waste & Having a Sustainable Period

By Sarah Hamill, CEO

I started my period when I was 14, and started using tampons when I was 16. Nine years later, that tampon still has yet to biodegrade in whatever landfill it ended up in.

Is it my fault? No. Should I feel guilty or ashamed? Also no! Before we head into this article, know that the state of period products, and their massive environmental impact, is failure of the market and lack of innovation. 

Luckily, menstruator-founded brands like ItsAugust (a Birds N' Bees Box favorite!), Viv for your V, and more, have started developing menstrual products that are better not only for the earth, but for your body. 

What does 'Menstrual Waste' mean? 

Period products generate more than 200,000 metric tons of waste annually. And, most pads and tampons take an estimated 500 - 800 (!) years to biodegrade in landfills. That's longer than the've even exsited, which (yes) means that they're all still out there.

This isn't your fault (it's a decades old market failure) but there are steps we as menstruators can take to be kinder to the earth during our cycles.

What can we do to have 'greener' periods? 

August Period Co is a brand we carry in our market, and they're founded and run by people who menstruate. Their pads and tampons biodegrade in just one (1!) year, and even feature compostable wrapping that dissolves in hot water.

An even more earth-friendly option for your period, though, is choosing reusable products like cups, discs, and underwear. In many cases, these are safer for your body, becuase rather than absorbing blood, cups and discs simply collect it. This lowers risk of TSS (Toxic Shock Syndrome), and means that you don't have to be quite as regimented about changing them out (most cups and discs hold more than 3 tampons worth of liquid).

Which earth-friendly option is the best for me?

A lot can influence which period products work best for each menstrutor's body. Some examples include:

Contraceptives: If you have an IUD, pads, period underwear, and menstrual discs are likely going to be the best fit. Steer clear of tampons and menstrual cups, which create a suction-seal. This can in some cases dislodge an IUD- same goes for tampons, if the cotton gets caught on your IUD string.

Age: Many younger menstruators prefer external products like pads and underwear. Cups, discs, and tampons can be intimidating and sometimes painful depending on what stage in puberty you're in. But many brands do make cups in smaller sizes, specifically for younger menstruators. Larger cups are generally recommended for older menstruators who have given birth.

Sexual Preferences: There's nothing wrong with period sex, but some people just prefer to limit mess (both options are totally fine and 'normal'!). Discs can be worn during sex (unlike cups or tampons), becuase they sit up against your cervix, which rises when you're turned on. Your partner may not even be able to feel it at all! Just remember to rinse it off afterwards to prevent PH imbalance.

Cost: While reusables are, in the long run, more cost effective, some menstruators can't afford to pay $30-$50 upfront for their period products. Period poverty is pervasive, and can prevent menstruators from affording any products for their cycle, disposable or reusable. But disposable products are less expensive when bought in smaller quantities.

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