*03.18.21 the word “feminine” was removed from this post and as much social media as I could without affecting post dates and comments, and replaced with “menstrual,” to allow for gender neutrality.
This post goes with Reusable Menstrual Products. Please check out that post if you’re ready to make longer lasting changes.
If plastic inside your body in a conventional tampon, or next to your body in a conventional pad or liner, are of concern consider switching to organic cotton single-use products discussed in Reusable Menstrual Products.
If chemicals, pesticides and carcinogens next to and in your body (and in the environment, our soil and water) are of concern, organic cotton single-use products are going to be healthier for your body and the environment than the conventional cotton used in standard menstrual products.
If organic cotton products are out of your price range or not available to you, keep reading as we’ll discuss some areas you can be a little greener on, but continue to buy within your current price range and access.
Most people think of cotton as a “natural” product. The reality: Cotton is one of the most chemically intensive crops in the world. According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, 84 million pounds of pesticides were applied to the nation’s 14.4 million acres of cotton in the year 2000, and more than two billion pounds of fertilizers were spread on those same fields. Seven of the 15 pesticides commonly used on cotton in the United States are listed as “possible,” “likely,” “probable” or “known” human carcinogens by the Environmental Protection Agency. And cotton defoliants are “the most toxic farm chemicals currently on the market,” says Fawn Pattison, executive director of the Agricultural Resources Center, a nonprofit organization dedicated to reducing the use of harmful pesticides.https://www.nwf.org/Magazines/National-Wildlife/2006/Cotton-and-Pesticides
The above information is something to keep in mind when considering conventional vs. organic menstrual products, or considering single-use vs. reusable menstrual products.
Organic cotton menstrual products are now more widely available at conventional brick-and-mortar stores such as Target and the like and nor longer limited to only natural grocery stores. Your options open up tremendously on the internet, just be careful to read the listing to look for organic cotton and/or a GOTS label or certification.
Listing these out I’m so excited to see that there are so many more organic options available now! Natracare and Seventh Generation are two organic brands you’ll see more often and I’ve used both and they work well. Seventh Generation uses more plastic in their interior packaging on the individual items than I like so I tend towards Natracare or L. for disposables. Target carries Seventh Generation, The Honey Pot Company, Rael, Cora, and L. organic products in stores and online plus Oi Girl and Charlie Banana reusable pads and liners are online-only. I like L. at Target, I haven’t tried the other brands available at Target yet (Target is the main brick-and-mortar close to me), I just don’t like the plasticy-metal L. bag that holds the pads since it can’t be recycled. What I do do with the L. bag is I keep if for when we break something and it helps insulate the mess for the trash can. If you don’t have curbside compost, the L. zippered bag would be great to put oil or grease in before putting the entire thing in the trash.
I just learned about Femly, a mail-order, organic cotton, black business whose products (pads, liners and cups) come in all-cardboard boxes. I’ve also learned about The Honey Pot Company, a natural/organic line of products available at local stores and online, also a black business. The outer packaging on The Honey Pot Company pads and liners is plastic (may even be that plasticy-metal stuff) unlike their tampons which come in a carboard box. I hope more products move over to cardboard boxes.
Many of the brands here and in articles are the more commonly listed brands. Don’t forget to check out new kids on the block, and to check out and support these black-owned menstrual care brands: The Honey Pot Company (available locally-see store locator), Ruby Love, Femly, Hate the Dot, Empress Body, Kushae, Twistie On The Go, Femi Secrets, Nene’s Fem Health, FEMMAGIC. Many of these lines are natural and organic which is awesome! Thanks to Period Equity and Chelsea VonChaz for sharing these brands.
Women choose to purchase single-use items for several reasons. We’re not going to go in depth on those reasons here. What I do want to ask is that if you do purchase single-use products, you try and get as much recyclable packaging and recycled-content packaging as possible. Recyclable packaging means you can process it in your curbside cart, recycling center, or store drop-off station, whichever is appropriate for the material type. Recycled-content means the product and/or it’s packaging are made with recycled (used) materials and not virgin (new) materials. While it’s not always cost effective for companies to use more environmentally responsible choices, you vote with your dollar and your correspondence. So write the brands you like to ask them to consider changing from virgin plastic packaging to recycled plastic packaging or better yet recycled cardboard (it’s better because paper is easier to recycle). If a company uses that metally-plastic packaging ask they switch to something that can be recycled and not trashed, be it straight plastic film or paper. Look at the box: if there’s a plastic window in cardboard on one brand and no window in cardboard on another brand, choose the one with no plastic window. Does your store have a plastic bag/film recycling collection container or do you have recycling? Buy the packaging that you have the options to recycle. Are your pads, liners or tampons individually wrapped in cellophane (not recyclable), plastic film (recyclable at store drop-off centers), or paper (recyclable in curbside carts)?
Since I haven’t used all the brands available or even listed here, I can’t speak to the type of interior packaging around the items themselves, I can only start with the outside packaging. I want you to know there are lots of options out there, and that regardless of what material you choose, look at choosing the more recyclable/sustainable packaging and product. Remember that whatever we can’t recycle, stays in the landfill forever.
As of right now, most commercial composting companies are not accepting menstrual hygiene products in their streams so don’t put “compostable” or “biodegradable” menstrual hygiene products in your curbside compost carts. If you’re not sure, contact your utility or provider. I don’t recommend you put menstrual products in backyard compost piles either for two reasons: 1) backyard compost piles do not get hot enough to break down the human waste material safely and 2) the blood can attract pests.
As a reminder, or a notice if you didn’t know, do not flush menstrual hygiene products down the toilet. This was common practice when I was in school (not sure if it was correct or wrong), but to-date water utilities are requesting only toilet paper go in the toilet.
- “Tampon Tax”: Are you in one of the 20 states out of 50 that taxes menstrual hygiene products?
- Watch the CBSN Originals documentary, “Period. Half the population has one. But no one talks about it.”
- https://www.taxfreeperiod.com/#pledge. This site breaks it down by state so you can see if menstrual products are taxed in your state.
- If you are in Texas, consider signing a petition to end the “tampon tax” in Texas. Menstrual products are taxed, deemed nonessential for half the population and therefore taxable, but cowboy boots and dandruff shampoo are not taxed. End Tampon Tax in Texas at Change.org
- Menstrual Equity: “Menstrual equity, at its simplest, is equal access to menstrual hygiene products.”
- Consider trying one of these products for yourself. Do your research, ask your friends what they like and use(remove the stigma of periods!), and try something new. Maybe buy a new brand with several of your friends or sisters and split up the package to try out. Remember little daily changes add up to big long-term wins!
- If this topic is near and dear to your heart, considering joining a group working to end period poverty and promote menstrual equity like Period Austin, your local PeriodsUnited chapter, Period, Happy Period, etc.
Be safe, be healthy, be a little more green. <3