Sustainable Living

Full Guide to A Zero Waste Period

Estimated reading time: 11 minutes

A zero-waste period is so much easier, so much more budget-friendly, and so much prettier than we could have ever imagined. Today, I hope, will be the LAST time you ever place anything toxic or disposable into your precious body. In this blog post we will dive into the magical world of a zero-waste period and just how beautiful (and comfortable!) it can be.

Zero Waste Period

Tampons and Pads have been a part of our lives since most of us received the gift of our cycle around puberty. Commercials, media and good old' peer pressure lured us into the world of bright-colored plastic-tubed tampons that we somehow figured out how to shove up our vaginas (I'll never forget that first day, pretty sure that scarred me for a while) or big old disposable pads that never seemed to sit quite right. If one could not afford a tampon or a pad, which is quite common at these high prices for single-use items, then we were forced to roll up some toilet paper into a makeshift pad and hope for the best. Can I just say…Thank goodness those days are over! Today I am going to educate you all on the much better options. Better options for our bodies, our wallets, our environment, and our future. Let's do this!



A Zero Waste Period: Why Traditional Tampons and Pads Need to GO

Interestingly enough (but not surprising), the astounding waste that disposable tampons and pads create is pretty hard to track down. Turns out, this plastic waste is deemed “medical waste” and was left unnoticed for years. Rough estimates show that in 2018, those with cycles in the U.S. purchased over 5.8 million tampons and ONE human being, in their lifetime, could use anywhere from 5-15 THOUSAND pads and tampons. Guess where those thousands of pads and tampons end up? Yep….in the trash bin.

If you would like to read a ton more on how plastic became such a “norm” in the menstrual world, check out this amazing blog post by National Geographic. It's a fantastic read!

Toxic Shock Syndrome

I'll never forget that day in the theatre class when I was just 17 years old. I had finally got up the nerve to try out a tampon for the first time (pads were driving me absolutely nuts) and within hours of inserting, my skin turned pale white and I nearly fainted in front of my teacher. I attended an all-girls high school right outside of Chicago at the time and the very first thing my teacher asked me was, “Are you wearing a tampon?”

Looking back, I cannot even believe it. How many girls had nearly fainted, or fainted, in front of this woman in all her years of teaching at this school? I was sent to the nurse's office and then the doctor. Turns out, I was one of many who got Toxic Shock Syndrome from the use of tampons. TSS is typically caused by an overgrowth of bacteria called Staphylococcus aureus. Each year toxic shock syndrome affects about 1 in 100,000 people but the numbers have been on the rise since the popularity of tampons has increased.

Toxic Shock Syndrome began when the tampon companies introduced artificial fibers into the tampons for better absorbency. These fibers are still used today despite this issue and this is something that we all need to be aware of.

Toxic Chemicals Found in Tampons

Toxic chemicals found in tampons include aluminum, fragrance additives, alcohols, and hydrocarbons. Some tampons also contain dioxin that is leftover from bleaching. Dioxin is a very toxic chemical that has been linked to cancer and is not even legal to use in Europe.


A Zero Waste Period: The Reusable Period Cups

While I do believe that these are the most popular (I'm assuming due to the huge social media impact and super busy lives that most of you lead), these are number four on my list of favorite options. If you do choose the cup, I recommend the Lena Brand!

First, let me tell you why these cups rock:

  • Reusable! Just wash them out and you are set to use again and again and again!
  • Compact and come with a little bag for your purse/backpack/pocket.
  • Very aesthetically pleasing
  • Do not contain any harmful ingredients!
  • The cups move with your body; you can dance, run, swim, jump or, if you are like me, sleep all day haha.
  • Different sizes for different ages and size.
  • SUPER afforadable. I mean…..SUPER DUPER affordable.
  • The cups simply collect the blood without absorbing or drying out your sensitive insides.

Sheesh, these really do sound amazing, huh?! So why am I not a big fan? I guess it's just my personal preference but I do not like inserting anything into my body. Again, just a personal preference.

A few things I noticed about the cups that I did not like:

  • While this is washable and reusable, if you are not in a certain type of bathroom then it's a pretty big mess. I was in a public restroom with the sink outside of the bathroom stall and I was in a sort of a period emergency situation haha. Let's just say…I do not recommend using these if you have a heavy month and will be using public restrooms a lot!
  • Insertion: Again, I do not like anything in my body. The insertion process was just uncomfortable (as are tampons for me) and I never like to do it. I will say though, once the cup is inside, I could not feel a thing!
  • Smell: After about 1 month of use, there was this smell that I could not get off of the cup. Thanks to bloggers like EthicallyKate, I found out that placing the cup in the sun cleared this up right away! This is a really big tip for those of you who want to use the cups. The sun is a great disinfectant and works like magic.

A Zero Waste Period: The Reusable Pads

Third on the list, The amazing and super cute reusable period pads! I have talked about this before, but when the boys first started to cloth diaper, I used the extra bamboo inserts for my periods. I LOVED them! About 4 months later, they needed more inserts for their growing urine needs (hahaha!!) and I decided to purchase some pretty reusable pads for my bathroom. I actually keep these in a pretty golden vase right above the toilet and use them as needed.

Why Reusable Period Pads Rock:

  • No need to insert anything into your vagina; just snap them onto your undies and you are set!
  • Super easy to wash, I wash just like I do my cloth diaper inserts. I use soap nuts (any detergent will work) and when finished, I hang dry in the sun. They are totally dryer safe too.
  • Gorgeous – the prints are so cute and they snap into little squares that fit right into the palm of your hand.
  • Absorption: They absorb surprisingly well and I have yet to have any issues in that department.

So Why Number 3 on the list?

  • As many of you know, I ride my bike at least 3-4 times a week with the boys attached with the bike stroller. Oye. These pads are not meant for cycling at all. The snaps at the bottom of the underwear dig right into my body from the cycling seat and it hurts. Best for doing everything BUT cycling haha.
  • A bit bulky: I am a tight and yoga pant wearing lady who doesn't pull out the jeans unless I'm feeling fancy. These are just a tiny bit (really not bad at all) bulky and not the best for yoga pants. These are fantastic for jeans, dresses, and skirts!

A Zero Waste Period: Free Bleeding

I'm actually laughing as I type this right now because I am assuming there are a ton of you with faces like, “What the HELL?!”. Yes, I thought the same when I first found out that folks still do this. Of course, we all know that there were times when we free bled all over the world because tampons and pads were not in existence until pretty recently. However, why would anyone continue to do this today?

It's actually pretty amazing. I was talking to this woman who told me that she has been free-bleeding for 10 years now and can control her body. Meaning, she can control when the blood was released from her vagina and when it was to stay put. I couldn't believe it…so you know what I did? I tried it for myself!

For the entire year of 2017, I free bled.

I talked about it a few times but mostly I kept it to myself and just did my thang. I did as the woman said and bought two, thick red towels that I used when I was at home. For the majority of the week, I simply walked around with just the towel wrapped around my waist (no underwear) and had a t-shirt or sweater on top. Anytime that I felt the release of blood coming, I would either walk to the bathroom and sit on the toilet or I would use the red towel to wipe it up. I am not even kidding you, within 3 months I was so confident in my practice that I would walk around town with nothing on. My body and I were completely in-sync.

Now, if you are going to go this route, you have to take the entire menstrual cycle (4-6 days) easy and really be aware of your body. This practice is best for those who can stay at home for the duration of the cycle to get used to it. I would suggest this to stay at home moms, bloggers, or anyone who works from home. It's amazing how we have lost this natural connection to our bodies through the use of tampons and pads. If you can, give it a whirl!

So, do I still Practice this? Yes! Not all the time, but anytime that I am home, it's just me and my towel. I did start using option number 1 for whenever I do yoga.


A Zero Waste Period: Period Panties

We made it to my number one zero waste period option: The Period Panties! 

I cannot tell you how much I love these period panties. They feel just like regular underwear with just a tad bit of extra padding (which I just call comfort) added to absorb the blood. There are NO leaks. All comfort, no leaks, feels like you are wearing nothing…how can you beat this?!

Why Period Panties Rock:

  • Feels like regular underwear. Yes, I do wear these even when I am not menstruating!
  • Absorbs like a champ: I have never had a leak in all the time that I have used these panties.
  • Holds at least 20ml of blood, which is about 4 tampons worth.
  • Wuka panties are made by MicroModal fabric that is CO2 neutral and 3.5x softer than fine cotton.
  • It can be worn under workouts pants, jeans, skirts, all of it. They are a dream.
  • Vegan approved!
  • Different undies for different days: You can opt for light, medium and heavy flow. I have just the heavy flow ones and I adore them so much.
  • All age approved and different sizes for different ages!
  • Comes in a “first period” pack for our first timers! I love this so much. I feel like this makes that day really special instead of scary. The box contains period panties (based on age), a wash bag and a booklet on everything period!
  • Washes like a champ!

Looking for more zero waste tips?

Guide to a zero waste period

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  1. Tatiana says:

    I am working on bettering my relationship with my period and free-bleeding sound like a great practice for that!

    Thank you for sharing your experience with that!

  2. Arica says:

    This is an excellent post! I switched to a menstrual cup after I had my second child once my cycle returned and I just didn’t like it, but I gave it a second try and as long as you don’t have heavy cycles, it works like a dream! I’ve recently been interested in the reusable pads, so I’m so happy you linked a company! Thank you again!

    • So so happy I could help! I think I need to give the cup another go, but I swear….after period panties – I don’t know if I’ll ever need anything else ever again haha. Looking forward to trying out more brands like Thinx in the near future!

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I'm Danielle, your new *non-judgemental* sustainable friend

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