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3 Zero Waste Period Products to Save Money and the Planet

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Save money and say goodbye to one-time single-use period products. Menstrual cups, reusable pads, and period panties can help you have a more eco-friendly period. 

After World War I, the Kimberly-Clark brand (think Kleenex, Huggies, Kotex) needed to find a use for Cellucotton. During the war it had been used as a medical bandage and the company wanted to find a post-war use for this material. 

After receiving letters from army nurses claiming Cellucotton worked well as sanitary napkins in emergency situations, Kimberly-Clark began to manufacture and sell these to the mainstream — and Kotex was born.

Kotex ad, Kimberley-Clark's first sanitary pads, circa 1920s

Kotex ad, Kimberley-Clark’s first sanitary pads, circa 1920s

This would forever change the way period products were used, advertised, and purchased. Being a subject that was not discussed openly, Tampax and Kotex were soon advertised to help women “free” themselves from their periods and to help them escape from the *embarrassment* of menstruating. 

But there was a time when society considered menstruating healing and sacred. A period hasn’t always been something to be embarrassed about. Nor should it be.

It’s unclear to anthropologists at what point the stigma around menstruation started but it permeates almost every culture, even through today.

It’s time to reclaim your period and our favorite zero waste period brands Saalt and Lunette are among some of the companies working to help de-stigmatize and de-gender menstruation. 

The Financial Impact of "Modern" Period Products

In addition to de-stigmatizing periods, these companies are also working to help reduce the waste and money spent with each period. 

  • The average person menstruates for roughly 38 years
  • For a total of 456 periods over the course of a lifetime 
  • During which 9,120 tampons are used (not including any other products)
  • For a lifetime total of $1,773 USD just on tampons (based on a $7 box of 36 tampons)

That also doesn't include:

  • The cost of underwear that was ruined and had to be thrown away and repurchased
  • The pads that were used to supplement leakage
  • The gas to get the store to buy the products you forgot to get last time
  • The emergency tampon that cost 3X what it should have
  • And The pink tax

Not only are there financial burdens to having a period, there’s waste involved in these single use products. 

Saalt 2020 Impact Report page 5

Saalt 2020 Impact Report

The Waste Behind “Modern” Period Products

Roughly 19 billion pads and tampons are trashed every year in the US. And while most of them end up in the landfill, plenty end up clogged in sewage pipes or running into the ocean. 

  • The average person uses between 5,000-15,000 pads and/or tampons over a lifetime.
  • Tampons are wrapped in plastic
  • With plastic applicators
  • With plastic strings
  • And a thin coating of plastic in the absorbent part
  • Pads contain even more plastic — especially in the leak-proof foundation and the synthetics that absorb the liquid. 

Thankfully, there’s been a shift in the perception of periods and period products. With more freedom to talk about periods, there’s a growing interest in eco-friendly period products. With interest, come companies working to meet that demand. 

So how can you have a zero waste period? Keep reading to hear about our favorite zero waste period products that are good for your period and good for the planet. 

Menstrual Cups for a Zero Waste Period

One way to have a more eco-friendly period is to use a menstrual cup. 

A menstrual cup is a type of reusable period product that, as its name suggests, looks and acts like a cup. It’s made from silicone or rubber and inserted into the vagina to collect period fluids. Unlike tampons, menstrual cups can be left in for up to 12 hours and do not cause toxic shock syndrome. 

Saalt

All Saalt packaging comes in plastic-free or recyclable materials and when it’s time for a new cup — which is about every 10 years or so pending an accident — it can simply be burned. You read that correctly, the cup is made from medical grade silicone which disintegrates back to ash when burned. If you don’t have access to a bonfire, please don’t try it on the stove, check with your local hospital and see if your cup can be recycled with other medical grade silicone. 

Two silicone menstrual cups in light blue and red.
Lunette

Lunette is all about liberation and they’re on a mission to change attitudes about periods. Lunette is serious about taking care of our bodies and our planet which is why these menstrual cups are not only reusable but recyclable and come in zero waste packaging. They take sustainability a step further and use renewable energy, working remotely, and promote sustainable daily actions across the company. 

A blue Lunette menstrual cup with stem

How to Clean a Menstrual Cup

  • Always empty and wash before reinserting a menstrual cup.
  • At the end of your cycle wash and dry your cup before storing it in its bag — make sure the holes at the top are clean.
  • When starting your next cycle, wash or sanitize your cup before using — you can boil it for 5 minutes or use 70% isopropyl alcohol.
  • Your cup may (will) discolor over time, that does not impair its functionality.

Reusable Pads for the Ultimate Zero Waste Period

GladRags is the only place you need to go for reusable pads. On top of the waste pads cause, they are laced with chemicals. 

Some pads are made with, or contain, non-organic Cotton which carries traces of pesticides, and are bleached to reach a full white color. If it contains fragrance, and doesn’t list the ingredients that make up that fragrance, keep it off your skin and especially off your sensitive bits. Fragrance is not regulated by the FDA and companies do not have to divulge what ingredients were used to make that fragrance. 

Night Pads (also Postpartum Pads)

This full coverage organic night pad contains a layer of ultra-absorbent terry cloth. Each pad has a unique three-part design which allows you to customize the pad according to your flow.

1 white organic reusable night pad
Panty Liner

The Organic Pantyliner is perfect for light everyday protection or as backup for your menstrual cup.

1 black organic reusable pantyliner
Reusable Thong Pantyliner

The same great Organic Pantyliner but made to work with a thong! 

1 WHITE organic cotton closed Thong Pantyliner
Zero Waste Menstrual Pad Kit

This kit contains the pad essentials for a zero waste period including a wet bag to store your used pads. 

Reusable pad bundle arranged in a bouquet shape

How to Clean/Maintain Reusable Period Pads

  • After use, separate the inserts from the holder (if your pad has them)
  • Soak in cold water or use a pre-soak setting in your washer to avoid staining
  • Machine or hand wash on cold using detergent but skip the fabric softener and bleach (they can inhibit the absorbency of the cloth)
  • Tumble dry low or line dry on a flat surface to eliminate wrinkles

Collect All the Zero Waste Period Products With Reusable Period Underwear

If pads aren’t your thing and you’re not quite ready for a menstrual cup, or maybe you just like to switch things up, period panties are here to save the day! 

Saalt leak proof underwear replaces 2 pads or 3 regular tampons. The fabric contains a blend of thread made from post-consumer recycled water bottles and is not treated with PFAS or other harmful substances. Each pair is lightweight, comfortable, stretchy, and feels just like a regular pair of undies.

Woman wearing pink mesh reusable period undies

How To Clean Reusable Period Undies

  • After using, rinse undies in cold water to help avoid staining
  • Hand wash or machine wash cold — preferably in a delicates bag
  • Use detergent, but skip fabric softener, bleach, ironing, or high heat
  • Line dry

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