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Eco-Friendly Alternatives To Feminine Products

Updated on February 4, 2013
Marye Audet profile image

Marye Audet-White is an internationally known food writer, food editor for Texas Living, cookbook author, and food blogger.

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.

Menstrual Cup
Menstrual Cup

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

cloth pad, Tie Dyed Dream Pad, from Joyful Living Naturals
cloth pad, Tie Dyed Dream Pad, from Joyful Living Naturals

Mama Pads

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.


  • comfortable
  • soft
  • absorbent
  • 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.


  • disposable


  • 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

menstrual sponges
menstrual sponges


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.


  • sustainable
  • contains no toxins


  • Must be replaced every 6 months

  • can leak more easily than other natural products


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    • profile image


      8 years ago

      I have always wanted to try natural alternatives for woman's products. I don't do well with the regular products out there because my skin is so sensitive. Thanks for bringing attention to these alternatives. I wonder which ones work the best. I guess just trial and error.

    • profile image


      8 years ago

      I live in Nepal and these are not available here. Any idea which is the nearest country i can get it from? I can always ask one of the travelling friends to get me one if it is in the area they are travelling to! I am interested in moon cup and the cloth pad!

    • ceholmes profile image


      8 years ago from Chicago

      Wow, never ever heard of eco friendly feminine products, great hub :) you learn something new everyday!

    • midnightbliss profile image

      Haydee Anderson 

      8 years ago from Hermosa Beach

      I actually don't know about these alternatives, tahnsk for the information.

    • profile image

      Nikita Blu 

      9 years ago

      Great hub :)

      I use the mooncup and although it looks a bit awkward at first it only takes a couple of goes to get used to it. Fyi, you don't need access to soap and water as they can just be wiped with a tissue making them popular with back packers etc.

    • profile image


      9 years ago

      Thanks, Marye, I really needed to see this.

    • profile image


      9 years ago

      i have just started using cloth pads and my mooncup in the day. i think it is fab i have two children in cloth nappies so why shouldnt i take a stand for my self. my husband things it is horrible but dosnt seam to think the kids in cloth is :{ but now he gets it.

    • kerryg profile image


      9 years ago from USA

      Nice introduction! I've used cloth pads for years on light days, and just bought my first Diva Cup. So far, so good!

    • profile image


      9 years ago

      Yes, this encourages me to go back to cloth and am going to tell about this to my girl friends.

    • KT pdx profile image

      KT pdx 

      9 years ago from Vancouver, WA, USA

      I started using cloth pads about 6 years ago. Like others, I would never go back to regular ones again!

    • profile image


      9 years ago

      This is why I came up with new feminine products. Emergency Feminine Kit. It has eco-friendly fabric (great for your health and the enviroment), laundry pouch, wipe, and maxi pad. All green and biodegradable.

    • profile image


      10 years ago

      Like many other women out there I have never thought about changing my feminine hygiene products. I never even thought that there were alternatives. What ignorance I had! This is an amazing breakthrough for me that I will be sharing it with all of the women I know!!

    • Terri Paajanen profile image

      Terri Wilson 

      10 years ago from someplace in Canada

      I used to use cloth pads regularly, until we moved to the country and the hard well water made them impossible to keep clean. Now that I am back in the city again, I've started using them on light days and will eventually get back to using them full time, provided they clean up decently. :)

    • Marye Audet profile imageAUTHOR

      Marye Audet 

      10 years ago from Lancaster, Texas

      Absolutely but this is not at all a sacrifice. Regualr chemically processed products are toxic to our systems..By making some changes we can be healthier as well as benefit the environment

    • cgull8m profile image


      10 years ago from North Carolina

      I hope other women readers read this. I think we as a whole human beings should make lot of sacrifices now, if we want to give a good future for the Children.


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