6 Easy Ways to Reduce Your Period Waste

By Alexandra Wee

We need a lot of things during Shark Week – a lot of cuddles, a lot of cute puppy pictures, a lot of chocolate. Or, if you’re like me, a *lot* of bacon on my burger (hey, we crave what we crave).

One thing we don’t need a lot of? Waste.

As much as we love our bodies for doing their monthly magic, can’t say we love all the tampons and pads—nearly 20—that the average person with a period tosses out per cycle. In fact, every person with a period will send about 250-300 pounds of the super soakers, including applicators and wrappers, to the trash in a lifetime.

Unfortunately, much of this waste won’t even begin to biodegrade for years (if at all…!) But fear not: there are so many ways you can still be kind to your body as well as Mother Nature, from all natural-PMS face masks to wrapping up less period waste. Here are some of my faves:

go organic

A simple swap for a more waste-free period is to opt for organic, whether you’re rocking pads, liners, tampons, or sponges. Most period products are made with non-organic cotton, rayon, and a mix of synthetic materials (to make them extra absorbent). In the United States, non-organic cotton often means harvesting with millions of pesticides, and many period products are also bleached.

Chlorine dioxide in my coochie? Yeah...no, thanks. 

Luckily, tons of amazing companies — like The Honest Company, Seventh Generation, Veeda, and Organyc — are making eco-alternatives with 100% organic cotton and plant-based packaging so you can can bleed free knowing your period isn’t hurting the planet.

cup it!

Dare to ditch waste altogether with one reusable answer: the menstrual cup. Most cups are made with medical-grade silicone, tiny, flexible, and easily insertable alternatives that fit snug in the vagina (after a little getting used to) for up to 12 hours.

Another powerful cup perk: it can hold more blood than its cotton counterparts, minus any pesky leakage, which means fewer running to the bathroom omg-must-change-now trips for you. Come cleaning time, simply rinse with a gentle soap and you’re good to go. A lot of cups will even last for up to 10 years, so you can celebrate waste-free menses for a whole freakin’ decade.

Tip: Because every vagina is its own uniquely-shaped creature with a flow all its own, you may need to do a bit of research before finding the cup for *you*.

refuse & reuse

Want to nix putting anything into your love tunnel (and the trash)? Washable and reusable absorbent period undies like Thinx are the ultimate option. If you simply have a heavier flow (like yours truly) and want a bit of extra support in addition to cups or tampons, period underwear will def do the trick, and eliminate any need for liners.

If this much interaction with your period still makes you squirm (no judgment!), just think of it how I do: with all the leaks and spills that already happen during my average cycle, I’m more often than not having to rinse and wring out my skivvies anyway — why not get ones specifically made for the job?

do it yourself

For hardcore zero-wasters who can also steer a sewing machine (100% not me), you can try making your own cloth pads and liners (most homemade ones use snap buttons for closure). This way, they’re completely tailored to your body and you can make as many as you need without spending a dime. For extra eco-points, upcycle with fabric scraps and swatches at your local craft store.

stay (sustainably) hydrated

Whatever liquids help get you through this time of month (water, tea, iced mocha frappes), I can guarantee there’s a waste-free way to enjoy them. Ditch plastic bottles and carry around a super cute reusable one. Skip the plastic straw in your iced coffee or carry around a reusable one; I love my bamboo, but stainless steel sippers are popular, too).

If brewing tea is your jam, opt for loose-leaf if possible — many commercial tea bags are not only individually wrapped but the bags themselves often contain plastic or nylon, making them non-compostable and non-biodegradable. Booooo.

master your skincare

My PMS must-have: a soothing face mask (fine, it’s my must-have all the time #selfcare4life). But don’t be fooled by the single-use sheet masks you see at every drugstore and cosmetic metropolis. Despite their pretty, earthy-themed packaging, many are single-use (zero-waste’s arch nemesis) and individually wrapped in non-recyclable plastic.

So instead, whip up your own—sooo much cheaper, and, yes, you can still fulfill your matcha obsession—or support your local, small-batch, sustainable beauty makers (I’m obsessed with these charcoal masks and this clay buff exfoliant).  

Got any more tips for showing Mother Nature a little extra love during your time of the month? Share them with us!

Alexandra is a freelance writer who loves the planet as much as she loves dogs (so, a lot). Her work has appeared in Martha Stewart and Time Out New York. When she’s not writing, you can find her buying ugly produce at the farmer’s market or trying to do yoga.