Eco-Friendly Alternatives To Feminine Products
One area where even the greenest woman tends to compromise the environment and her own health on a regular basis is in the use of feminine hygiene products. Many of us use the same things we have been using for years without much thought as to the environmental impact or the impact on our bodies. And, over our reproductive lifetime the impact in both of these areas can be substantial.
Let's face it, this has been a difficult subject to talk about throughout history. From the time that our ancestor-mothers isolated themselves in tents specifically created for the purpose of keeping women away from others during the time of their 'uncleaness' menstruation has had a certain taboo. Yet the average woman will deal with this season of life for 35 years.
The most popular products on the market, disposable tampons and sanitary pads, are potentially health threatening. Consider that they are bleached with chemicals that can be absorbed into the body during use, as well as the hazards of Toxic Shock Syndrome from tampon use. The products must be dealt with in either our water systems (if flushed) or our landfills (if thrown away) and the cost is astronomical when you consider it over time. Environmentalist estimate the average woman will throw away 300 lbs of feminine products in her lifetime.
How many times have you gone to the beach and found pink plastic applicators washed up on shore? There didn't used to be alternatives but that is no longer the case.
The Menstrual Cup
The menstrual cup is a small, reusable cylinder that is inserted in the vagina to collect menstrual fluids. The cup is folded and put into the vagina, near the cervix, where it unfolds and collects nearly 100 ml of fluid before it needs to be emptied, washed, and reused. It should be emptied ever 8-12 hours regardless of whether or not it is full.
There are two sizes. One is for women who have not had children and the other is for women that have had children. There are two types of cups. One is made of latex and the other of silicone. They are designed to last up to 10 years! There are no reported cases of Toxic Shock Syndrome fro use of a menstrual cup, and they are regulated by the FDA for safety.
Some advantages of the cup are:
- can be worn up to 12 hours without emptying
- contain no harmful substances
- will not encourage bacterial transfer from the anal area as pads can
- does not dry the vaginal wall or interrupt the natural lubrication process
- one time cost
- It takes time to get used to insertion technique
- requires access to soap and water
Reusable fabric pads are becoming increasingly popular. Similar to modern cloth diapers, the reusable pads are crafted from materials like hemp terry, polar fleece and soft flannel in a variety of sizes, colors, and styles. They normally have some type of moisture proof barrier to prevent leaks and stains. The pads are attached to your panties with velcro or snaps and placed in a container until they can be washed, dried and reused.
It is amazing how comfortable and workable these can be. Women who use them vow never to go back to anything else! An added bonus, many of these are crafted (and i do mean crafted) by cottage industries and work at home moms and sold on the Internet. Not only are you supporting the environment but also cottage industry.
- no technique to learn for use
- no toxic chemicals
- one time cost
- used pads must be stored until they can be washed. You have to carry a waterproof bag in your purse to keep them in
- For someone used to tampons they can feel a little bulky
Organic Disposable Feminine Products
There are several brands of disposable and chemical free feminine products. All are made with oxygen bleached materials and some can be composted. The initial cost is higher than the traditional products but users claim that there is a lessening of cramps, shorter period and less bleeding with these products because of the lack of chemicals.
- must be manufactured in a factory, ie: there is a large consumption of fossil fuels in manufacturing and transporting...added trash from packaging.
- cost is ongoing
Sea Sponges have been used for centuries to absorb menstrual fluids. The FDA no longer allows sea sponges to be sold as menstrual products due to concerns about pollutants and chemicals, there are however other options in sponges produced for menstruation. They are inserted into the vagina like a tampon and absorb the fluids. Every few hours they must be removed, washed and dried before being reinserted. The safest way to clean them is by boiling for 5 minutes to be sure any bacteria is killed.
- contains no toxins
- Must be replaced every 6 months
- can leak more easily than other natural products