Have You Tried Any of These Sustainable Period Products?

If you’re a person with a period, you have enough challenges: cramping, hormonal mood swings, flows that have to be managed, and more. Unfortunately, our period products are often behind the times when it comes to sustainability and wellness.

woman stretches arms overhead in bed. she wears an activewear set, in the background are cream colored walls and a potted plant

Many menstruation products are filled with plastics that are bad for both the planet and our bodies. Since the majority of menstrual products are disposable, they are piling up in landfills in massive numbers.

But there’s no room for shame here! Instead, I’d like to invite you to try one of these four different kinds of sustainable period products if you haven’t already.

Periods are tough enough, but I’ve found even small changes can add up and one tiny positive change often leads to another. Here are four different sustainable period products to try:

1. 100% cotton, plastic-free tampons and/or pads

Companies are not required to disclose the materials they use to make pads and tampons (I know, it’s terrible), but brands like L. Organic and Cora (available at Target and CVS) do choose to disclose those materials. Shopping from companies like these is a great start!

close up of woman holding mug + cotton menstrual pad in one hand. she wears a red robe and light blue sports braPhoto courtesy of Cora

When it comes to pads, look for materials like polyethylene, polypropylene, and polyester. These are plastics that, eventually, break down into microplastics and make their way into our food and water supplies and eventually our bodies. Materials like cellulose and veggie gum glue, however, do break down over time and are much better options.

I’ve found that plastic-free disposable pads are almost impossible to find. However, they’re not nearly as difficult to find as applicator-free, 100% cotton tampons. Using them is a bit of an adjustment if you’re used to a plastic applicator, but you can always look for reusable applicators if you find you need one.

2. Reusable pads

Reusable pads are the OG of period care! Menstruating people have been using cloth during menstruation for centuries, but now, reusable pads are being made with things like snaps and velcro. Plus, we are blessed with the modern miracle of washing machines - can I get a hallelujah?!

various multi patterned reusable cotton pads sit next to each other with a houseplant slightly out of framePhoto by Kindred Home Supply

Etsy has tons of options available or you can purchase from period brands like Period Aisle or Dame. You’ll rinse your pad after using it, then wash it in the washing machine according to the manufacturer’s directions.

Reusable pads are definitely not as convenient or slim as disposable pads, but they can help save a ton of waste if you use them even part-time over the lifetime of your period.

3. Period underwear

I’ve tried period underwear from one of my favorite brands, Knix. The cons: it’s pricey, doesn’t handle heavy flows well, and the thought of wearing the same pair of underwear all day is…weird. The pros: no tampon or pad! So much more sustainable (and comfortable) than pads and tampons!

woman rinses hands over porcelain sink. she wears a white tank and dark blue period underwearPhoto by Thinx

Knix isn’t the only brand of period underwear, however; you can also try Thinx or Cora, and most period underwear makers now make a variety of sizes and shapes to be more inclusive of different body types and period flow needs.

4. Menstrual cups and discs

People who use menstrual cups or discs tend to love them and I can totally understand why – the initial learning curve is steep, but once you’ve figured things out and found the right cup or disc for your body, the pros outweigh the cons by a long shot. You’re creating zero waste from period products, there’s no plastic, and it’s way more convenient because you can go longer without emptying them.

clear reusable menstrual cup sits on a plate next to a potted plant and a mauve colored fabricPhoto by Rebecca Manning

Cups tend to have shapes that are easier for people new to the cup/disc situation, but one special benefit of discs is that they can typically be left in during sex.

Most companies make it so easy to choose the right cup or disc for you. There are a ton of different options for size, length of handle, shape, and softness levels. It might take some experimenting, but most folks are able to find the option that works right for them

Sarah Guerrero
Sarah Guerrero is a freelance writer and contributor to Slow North. She has a degree in international business from St. Mary’s University in San Antonio, Texas, and writes about sustainable business practices and ethical living.