Ladies, we’re going to get a little personal today. {So for our small percentage of male readers, you might want to skip this one… or better yet, forward it to your wife/girlfriend/sister/etc.}

You can probably imagine how much waste women throw away each month with all the wrappers, applicators and packaging that gets thrown away. In fact, “in 1998 alone, U.S. women disposed an estimated 13.5 billion sanitary pads and 6.5 billion tampons.” (source) That stat is over ten years old, so I can only imaging what it is now.

Add to that the toxic chemicals used to bleach feminine products, and then consider that many of us choose to put these products directly inside our bodies. From the Safe Cosmetics website:

About 43 million women in the United States use tampons. A woman who uses tampons monthly will buy more than 11,000 in her lifetime. You’d think that there would be ample ingredient and safety information about such an intimate and often-used product, but there isn’t. As with cosmetics, feminine-care product manufacturers aren’t required to tell you what’s in their products. Unfortunately, tampons may contain traces of dioxin from bleach, pesticide residues from conventional, non-organic cotton, and mystery “fragrance” ingredients.

I personally used these products, blindly putting the toxins in my body and mindlessly tossing out mounds of trash each month, for over fifteen years.

For four years, I’ve been using cloth diapers with my babies– not exclusively, but definitely more often than not– for those same reasons mentioned above: the trash and the toxins. And yet, when it came to my own personal products, I couldn’t imagine veering away from disposables.

Finally, about a year or two ago, I learned about a new approach to menstrual care, one that would indeed be safer for my body and better for the environment. Gradually, I began to make the switch, and now I can’t imagine ever going back.

Cloth Pads

Photo by ecoAlternatives

A longtime athlete and active woman, I’ve never been a fan of pads. But let’s be honest, after childbirth, I found myself using pantyliners more, even with tampons.

When I finally decided to brave what I thought was a the scary realm of cloth pads– also affectionately called Mama Cloth or Mama Pads– I realized they weren’t anywhere near as gross as I thought they’d be.

They turned out to be soft, comfortable, easy to use and surprisingly easy to clean. A thin, simple cloth pantyliner was just what I needed, and as I began using them along with tampons I significantly reduced my waste. (Since I mostly use mine as liners, I just wash my cloth pads right along with my regular wash, but here are some great washing tips.)

Cloth pads are also great for your postpartum time. After the first couple of weeks a lightbulb went off and I began using mine, and wondered why I’d suffered through the uncomfortable paper/plastic version that whole time!

You can find a variety of beautiful (yes, beautiful!) cloth pads on Etsy. And the fabulous company that where I got mine is Lunapads, which has a brilliant product even better than the cloth pads– LunaPanties— the perfect companion for use with the DivaCup, which is what I ventured into when I finally decided to go for the gold: to give up disposables (including tampons) completely.


Photo by PiperKins

The name might be a little cheesy, but don’t be misled. The DivaCup is amazing: “The DivaCup is a reusable silicone menstrual cup that is convenient, reliable, environmentally responsible, and economically smart. Latex-free, plastic-free and BPA-free, it can safely be worn for up to 12 hours at a time.” (source)

Basically, with a little practice, you insert the DivaCup and then periodically (no pun intended) remove, empty, rinse out, and then simply reinsert it. That means no waste and with the safe material it’s made of, that means no toxins in your body either.

I learned about the cup from a friend who has traveled a lot and recommended it to me because of its ease and eco-friendly aspect. But honestly, it took me a while to get used to the idea and to go for it, because, let’s be honest, tampons were familiar, fast and routine.

So here’s my caveat with using the DivaCup: give it time.

I started gradually using mine. I didn’t fight it, and if I couldn’t quite get it right, I’d go back to my stash of tampons in the cupboard. I started using up all the random ones in my purses, bags and glove box (don’t you keep a secret stash, too?), and each month I tried using the DivaCup more and more as I used up my stash of disposables.

I began to get more comfortable with it, but I will say it took a good six months before I was able to use it confidently for my whole period. So if you’ve tried one and haven’t quite figured it out, don’t give up!

For more information, visit this great FAQ page. For me, the DivaCup and a simple pair of LunaPanties is the perfect way to deal with that uncomfortable time of the month. There are other brands of menstrual cups, too; this is just the one I have experience with. You can find the DivaCup at many natural food stores.

{None of these items mentioned contain affiliate links; I just really love these products/companies!}

I hope you feel inspired to make your time of the month a little more eco-friendly and natural! Are you already using these more-natural options? What inspired you to make the switch?