Updated: May 6
How many bottles of shampoo have you bought this year, 3? Maybe 10? What about beauty products, more than 5?
And what about menstrual products? If you use tampons or sanitary pads, chances are that you have used around 100-200 individual items so far in 2022, all of which usually come with their individual plastic packaging and applicators. Actually, some pads have been reported to be 90% plastic (as much as 4 supermarket shopping bags!!😱). Estimates say that on average, any menstruating person will use 5,000-10,000 items throughout their reproductive years.
The number of menstruating people on any given day around the world is between 300 and 350 million people. If you are not feeling dizzy already, let me make that calculation for you:
If each person uses 2-4 products per menstruating day, that adds up to 1.6 BILLION used pads or tampons EVERY SINGLE DAY.
If you are also concerned about your carbon footprint and want to know which options are available in the market, and the 3 reasons why you should consider switching to more green alternatives, keep reading!
Let’s start with the bad news: most of menstrual and intimate products contain big amounts of plastic and/or not very healthy chemicals. Besides packaging, a lot of the disposable design of menstrual products is plastic-based: for example, tampons not only come with single-use plastic applicators, but they usually contain plastic in the absorbent part to hold it together, and even the string can be made of polyester or polypropylene.
Even further, many substances added to menstrual and intimate products are potentially harmful for the vaginal health and its natural bacteria. Many brands sell condoms and lube with spermicide and lubricating chemicals that can cause irritation and alter the vaginal pH, leading to yeast infections and inflammation.
1. Reduce your carbon footprint
This year, a study about menstrual product waste in the UK found that 26,903 tons of waste are generated every year from disposable products (mostly pads) in that country alone! Just pad waste is responsible for 6,600 tons of CO2 released into the atmosphere, the same amount Australia generated in 2019 by burning coal 🙈
If possible, switching to non-plastic packaging and more natural components is the safest option. However, if you thought that using cardboard tampon applicators instead of plastic ones would help, think again: disposable applicators are considered medical waste, so they can’t be recycled or composted (unless you do it by yourself). If you are a tampon user, consider switching to non-applicator versions or invest in a reusable applicator that will last you a lifetime.
READY tampon case which is reusable and contains tampons made of organic cotton will help you take care of your menstrual hygiene. The cardboard box is made of ecological materials and partial income counteracts menstrual poverty - check for yourself!
2. Reduce your exposure to dangerous chemicals
Did you know that regular tampons used to be treated with bleach? Yes, the same bleach you’d pour down the WC to clean it. Luckily, companies are no longer whitening tampons with chlorine. The harmful effects of bleach in products you keep inside yourself for a few days every month are a no-brainer, but nowadays tampon producers sneak in many other chemicals that can be disrupting your vaginal flora and pH, your hormones, and your general health. This is because menstrual products are used on the highly permeable and sensitive vaginal and vulvar tissues, that absorb higher amounts of chemicals and irritants than your skin and can quickly reach the bloodstream. So even low doses of these substances, which would be harmless in contact with your skin, can be absorbed and accumulated in your system to more dangerous levels.
Volatile organic compounds are added as fragrances, adsorbents, moisture barriers, adhesives, and binders to many feminine hygiene and intimate products, or they can be present in their packaging and therefore, transferred to the product itself.
In another recent study, menstrual pads had the highest health risks of all products, mostly because of their high content in n-heptane, associated with irritation to skin, respiratory tract issues and effects on the central nervous system. They also found 1,4-dichlorobenzene in 59% of tampons, a substance that has been linked to higher risk of developing cancer. Some of these products even may contain dioxins and pesticides! According to the World Health Organization, dioxins are highly toxic and can cause cancer, reproductive and developmental problems, damage to the immune system, and can interfere with hormones.
3. Reduce the risk of infections
Tampons can be a potential carrier of dangerous microorganisms such as bacteria and fungi. Also, watch out if you keep them inside your bag or other every-day-use containers:
More than 95% of personal purses and bags are contaminated by bacteria, especially those made of leather or cotton!
Some studies even found that the average bag contains more bacteria than a toilet, especially cosmetic products and bag handles, and some of those bacteria can cause diseases like UTIs and pneumonia.
If you want to reduce the probability of taking those microbes in contact with your intimate parts, it's actually very easy - just follow these 3 basic hygiene habits:
Use containers (pro tip: with anti-bacterial properties) to keep your menstrual products.
Regularly wipe bag handles and other items inside the bag that you constantly touch (like your phone) with sanitizer gel.
The basics: wash your hands thoroughly with soap before unpacking any menstrual or sexual product. Do not use the sanitizer instead, as this may actually transfer irritating substances into very sensitive parts of your body.
Finally, watch out for the harmless-looking products! For example, most water-based lubes contain glycerin, that increases the lubrication but can dry out and damage of the vaginal tissues in the long run, which may come together with burning or itching sensations, as well as recurring candidiasis. Even worse, damaged tissues can potentially increase the transmission of STIs such as herpes and HIV.
Who are the good ones
At READY, we care about your health, but also about the environment's. Here is a list of green alternatives to old-school items that are generally safer to use:
Reusable sanitary pads
Female condoms (reusable up to 7 times)
Natural latex condoms = 100% biodegradable!
Menstrual cups (reusable up to 10 years)
Menstrual underwear (reusable up to 2 years)
Reusable tampon applicators and tampon cases
When in doubt, apply the rule of thumb: the more natural and less processed, the better 😉
Sometimes, the right product might come with an increase in price. Hopefully, this increase is worth it for you compared to the cost for the environment and your own health. So yes, some products will actually be a little more expensive, but we also must think about the long-term savings!
If you enjoyed this article, don't hesitate to share it with others who might find it just as useful, and let us know in the comments or on our social media if you have ever tried any of our proposed green alternatives!