Periods are usually, at best, an annoying inconvenience—so it’s not a surprise when people spend much more time worrying about cramps, bloating, and blood stains than they do about minimizing waste. It’s totally understandable—because while period products like pads and tampons have been marketed as must-have tools to survive a period, the impact on the planet those disposable products have isn’t communicated very often. But here’s the thing: A person who menstruates will dispose of somewhere between 5,000 and 15,000 pads and tampons—along with 400 pounds of the packaging they come in. Considering how many people on this planet menstruate, that’s a pretty significant carbon footprint.
Luckily, period products have come a long way. There are plenty of ways to reduce waste during your period without sacrificing comfort, because periods are exhausting enough—they shouldn’t drain the earth’s resources, too.
Reusable Period Panties
We may be biased, but we love absorbent period panties. Bias aside, they really are an amazing alternative to tampons and pads. Not only do they eliminate the waste that comes with disposable period products, they also save you money in the long run since they’re washable and reusable.
If you’re worried that period panties won’t be absorbent enough for a particularly heavy period, we’ve got you covered. Joyja has four different absorbency levels—even one that holds up to 36mL (!!!)—so you can rest assured that the absorbent layers will keep you leak-free, even without a tampon.
Organic Cotton > Regular Cotton
If you’re not ready to make the switch to period panties, or if you like to wear tampons with your period panties, organic cotton is the way to go.
Traditional, non-organic tampons contain a lot more chemicals than you probably expect—including bleach, chlorine, dioxins, dyes, and sometimes fragrances. On top of that, more pesticides are used on cotton than any other crop (yep, including the cotton used in tampons and pads). Gynecologist Felice Gersh, MD, explains that, “When tampons are disposed of, the chemicals contained within their fibers can ultimately be released into the environment”—contaminating waterways and negatively impacting the marine life that occupy them. Tampons made from organic cotton don’t have any of those chemicals or pesticides, which make them a much better option for both the environment and your body.
Traditional disposable period products generate so much waste.
Tampons are a weird combination of plastic—and they can take over 500 years to decompose. They come wrapped in plastic, with plastic applicators, with strings that we all thought were cotton but now we’re shocked to find out that they’re actually plastic, and there’s even a layer of thin plastic within the absorbent cotton. For obvious reasons, plastic from tampons can’t be recycled, so after its brief moment of utility, tampons are tossed and sent on their way to the landfill.
The plastic in your standard tampon isn’t biodegradable either—meaning it’s especially harmful to the wildlife that it comes in contact with. “Even when [plastic tampon applicators] don’t end up in lakes or the ocean, where they can kill the living creatures, they accumulate in landfills—and we have a limited supply of space on Earth to accommodate dumped garbage,” says Gersh.
There’s also a pretty sneaky amount of plastic included in traditional pads, too—from the packaging, to the adhesive lining, and even within the synthetic layers that absorb the fluid. All of this contributes to the 66 pounds of sanitary waste that accumulates every single year—every tree-hugger’s (myself included!) worst nightmare.
Making changes to your period routine can be tiring—but you don’t have to make every waste-minimizing change all at once. Still have a box of non-organic tampons? Use them until they’re gone, and then make the switch to organic tampons or period panties. Little changes can go a long way!