Feminine hygiene practices can generate a lot of waste for the landfill, whether it's from pads or tampons. Both usually come encased in plastic, complete with plastic applicators. If you are trying to lower your environmental footprint by generating less waste, then you need a reusable option for that time of the month. The following are three alternatives to the high-waste methods used in the past.
#1: Reusable Pads
Reusable pads are generally made from several layers of highly absorbent fabric stitched together. They may also have a water proof liner on the exterior to help prevent leakage. Almost all designs come complete with wings, which fasten together around the central liner of your panties to keep the pads in place. After use, rinse them in cold water and then simply wash them for later reuse.
These work well if you are already a pad user, as they have the same drawbacks as disposable pads. They can leak or shift throughout the day. If you don't like the bulky feel of pads, then reusable pads probably won't work well for you.
#2: Menstrual Cups
The cup is a suitable replacement for tampons, if those are your preference. Most cups are made of silicone, although rubber models are also available. Two size are commonly available – one for those that have had children and one for those that have not. You may need to experiment to see which size is best for you. Using the cup is relative straight forward – it does need to be emptied and rinsed out a few times a day, and then thoroughly washed and stored between periods.
Insertion does have a learning curve, much as it would with tampons. You will need to practice putting it in, and you may need to wear a panty liner at first until you have mastered the maneuver.
#3: Period Panties
These can be used on their own or as a back-up system for pads or cups. They come in different absorbency levels, from minimal to high, so you may need to purchase several to match your flow throughout your period. These panties use several layers of wicking fabrics, which move the moisture away from your body and then trap it in a waterproof layer. Wearing these is very similar to wearing regular panties, although the material is a bit thicker. Except for the heaviest days, you usually don't even need to change your panties until the evening because there is no moisture or odor.
The special washing needed is the biggest hassle with period panties. They do need to be washed in cold water and hung dry, but this isn't much different than the needs for other delicates.
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Using one of these methods, or a couple of methods together, could provide the zero-waste feminine care solution you need to quit generating waste.