I've never been great at math, but I recently took a few minutes to calculate how many times women who menstruate get their periods over the course of their lifetimes. The number I came up with? Over 400 times. Consider how many tampons or pads that is to cycle through every month! Most of them probably end up wrapped in toilet paper and thrown away in the trash, which means they eventually end up in landfills and sewers. That's a whole lot of waste that can be easily avoided by considering other, more sustainable options—of which there are a ton.
Thinx is one of the more well-known brands encouraging women to bleed more responsibly, but there are a lot of other alternatives out there. We might not be able to stop Mother Nature from doing her thing, but we can be conscious of the impact we, in turn, have on Mother Nature.
Thinx confused me when it first came on the market. Do you wear the underwear in place of tampons and/or pads? Or is it more of a back-up? Is it really capable of holding 24 hours worth of first-day period blood? What about four days worth? Do you have to wash them every day or should you buy multiple pairs? Turns out, just as women's cycles are all different, so are the answers to these questions. But for the most part, yes, it is possible to only use a single pair of these and embrace a free-bleeding lifestyle, if that's your thing. A single pair holds up to two tampons worth of blood, so if your flow is on the heavier side and you're worried about spills, you can wear them toward the end of your cycle and use other products (like those listed below) in the interim. But whether you choose to put them on for one day or five, they're a much more sustainable option than single-use products.
Reusable Tampon Applicator
One of the more environmentally harmful aspects of tampons is the plastic applicator in which most come cocooned. A simple solution for this could be just getting over yourself and pushing your tampon in manually every time you need to change it. But a lot of women aren't comfortable with the whole inserting-their-fingers-into-their-bloody-vagina thing. With that in mind, Thinx has created a reusable tampon applicator (called re.t.a) that's designed with "medical-grade materials." It's compact, easy to clean, and can be used with most applicator-free tampons.
Everyone should probably be using menstrual cups. You only need one and you can use it every cycle for up to 10 years (depending on the brand). Just think about the money you can save and the awkward cashier exchanges you can avoid! We're not only talking money here, though, because it's also great for the environment. Diva Cup, for example, is free of Latex, plastic, dyes, and BPAs.
The one tricky aspect is having to dump it out at the end of the day or once it's full, which is harder to do in public bathrooms and/or at work with your coworkers in the next stall. But you'll have a chance to get real familiar with your flow along with learning the exact shade of your period blood.
But also, we see the hesitation if you're not comfortable with the idea of your blood pooling into a funnel that's been placed inside of you. Which is where cloth pads come into play. They're reusable and can even be cute, if that's what you want. And, don't worry, they don't feel like you're walking around wearing a diaper all day. The brand Lunapads has different variations depending on the kind of protection you need and each purchase supports the program One4Her, which helps young girls in East Africa gain access to menstrual hygiene products.
Organic Cotton Tampons
Did you know that not only do tampons sometimes mess with your pH, but they often contain harmful chemicals and materials? Also, most aren't biodegradable and seven billion are thrown out every year in the U.S. alone. Thankfully, there are a handful of organic brands, like Natracare, that care about both your body and the earth. The brand's tampons are made out of 100 percent organic cotton and are free from pesticides and unnecessary chemicals.
Sea Sponge "Tampons"
Okay, we know this one sounds kinds of prehistoric and DIY and something only true hippie women would think to do, but they actually do work. And it is kind of prehistoric, but in a cool way, because sea sponges have apparently been used for thousands of years by menstruating women—including, supposedly, Cleopatra. The sponges are effectively a tampon alternative, though the main brand that produces them, Jade & Pearl, can't refer to them as such due to FDA regulations. Just know they act in the same way and are sustainably harvested, biodegradable, and reusable for up to six months or more.
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