Green for Girls: A Feminine Perspective
Women, girls and super-involved eco dads interested in green feminine products, this one’s for you. If you want the details on what’s out there, read on to find out your options.
Alternatives to Traditional Tampons.
Reusable menstrual collection cups.
There are several on the market, but the two best known ones seem to be The Keeper and The Diva Cup. Basically, they are nearly identical except that the first is made out of latex rubber and the second is made out of silicon. They are worn internally and removed when necessary to empty the fluid before reinserting. Cleaning is basically hot soapy water and in between heavy uses and periods a good scrubbing with a specially assigned toothbrush (or something similar) and baking soda with a spray of vinegar. There are two sizes: pre childbirth and post childbirth. The life of the product? About ten years. And in less than a year you can recoup the initial cost outlay in tampon savings, which you may not need to buy again if you so choose. Wa. Hoo. For storage and transport between periods, I’m happy with the funky tribal print drawstring bag mine came with. But if you really want to celebrate your inner moon diva, there are apparently specially made containers you can have an artisan custom make for you. There’s one pictured below.
Word to the wise? Unless you want to have a . . . shall we say Jackson Pollack type of experience, follow the removal instructions. Precisely. ‘Nuff said.
Eco Friendly Versions of the Old Classics.
Many are out there on the market made of organic cotton and / or produced without the use of chlorine. The brand I test drove was Seventh Generation. Definitely compact and able to go the distance on heavy days. At least that was my experience. Ridged for extra surface area and applicator free, I found they had way less packaging than some of the other brands I’ve used over the years. My only request would be that they shrink wrap them a little less effectively. Trying to get some of them open when you are on day one and your last hormonal nerve will leave you wishing for hand grenade. Honestly. Had I known ahead of time how well they were sealed, I would have made certain to have a pointed nail file or small knife on hand to slice them open. Definitely an effective product though. And what a difference in size between a box of their compact no applicator product versus a box of the traditional kind. Way less space and materials used. In my younger days, I really couldn’t embrace the no applicator concept. But after having spent several months on the road with The Keeper being my internal product of opportunity, I’m much more comfortable with it. Would I take a box of these on the road with me for times when I just didn’t feel like dealing with the reusable cup? Absolutely.
Who knew? There is actually a brand out there sold as a sea sponge tampon, but apparently you can also use any of those categorized as cosmetic sea sponges and cut them to fit. Personally, I like the stem factor that you get with a menstrual cup. While I’m relatively comfortable with my body, there’s only so “up close and personal” I’m willing to get. However, if you’re comfortable with this, go for it. From what I’ve read about the cleaning procedures, you give them a thorough under the tap rinse with warm soapy water to get them as clear as possible of fluid and vaginal residue and then boil them for a period of time. They can be reused until they start to get a bit ratty and begin to fall apart. Here’s an article.
Traditionally styled pads with an eco twist.
If you still want to go disposable, these are basically your only option. For a product test drive (hey, that’s what I’m here for) I went once again with Seventh Generation. They don’t use chlorine on their pads either. The results? No issues with adequate adhesive and pretty decent absorption. If you are one who needs to supplement your tampon , sea sponge or menstrual cup use on a regular basis and aren’t up for embracing cloth pads, I feel confident you’ll be happy with Seventh Generation’s product.
I’m not a big fan of the all in one styling on some of these or the ones that require special undergarments with elastic slots for holding the pad. If you’re going to embrace the concept, my recommendation is the style that has the snap around wings and a slot for removable inserts. This allows you to customize for flow rate and also makes for easier drying. You can purchase them premade online or attempt a DIY version from old terry cloth towels and recycled flannel bathrobes, as I recently recommended.
For cleaning, you’ll definitely want to do a strong pre-rinse in the sink followed by either a presoak in a container similar to a diaper pail, or setting them aside pretreated to go in with a separate load of dirty towels to be sanitized and dried. As with the menstrual cups, some women really want to celebrate the experience. If that's you, custom made pottery is available for this use, and is pictured below.
I’ve been wanting to research the DIY possibilities of this topic for a while. Since I was already researching the other two items, this seemed like the perfect time. Apparently, there is a way to do this on your own with a hygienic reusable system at home. There are normal sized douche / enema / hot water bottle combo systems and also a smaller travel size called the Tiny Kit. Who knew it was that popular that someone would make a travel sized option? Certainly, you’ll want to keep a separate soft bristled brush on hand for the cleansing of various attachments, but yes ladies, there is an eco option. Need some ideas for mixing up your own formulas? Here, here, here and here are all places to check.
Online Resources for Further Nitty Gritty Details.
This article is meant to hit the highlights. However, there are clearly other issues to touch upon for those truly interested in exploring some of these options further. Public restroom success strategies for one. Outdoor wilderness use and discreet transport for a couple of others. Would I let you down? Here are some links from around the web:
- An outdoor survival article for outdoorsy women travelers regarding menstrual cups.
- This article is one I wrote before we went on our around the world adventure. It deals with various details and ideas for alternative menstrual care on the road.
- Got some questions on how to survive with cloth pads while running errands or traveling? This piece has some suggestions.
I have to admit, this took a while to figure out a helpful framework from which you could explore further details if you chose. To my knowledge these are all of the basic options out there for eco friendly feminine hygiene. If you are aware of others, please share below. My hope is that people will feel super comfortable sharing questions, knowledge and specifics. If no one is willing to open up, then untold numbers of people might never take the leap for planet, budget and health. I know laying myself bare to the entire internet community about my menstrual practices took forethought, guts and more than a few stiff drinks. Since everyone seemed comfortable sharing deodorant strategies and feminine info in the Tom's of Maine and green on a shoestring discussions, I'm thinking the same should have a good chance of happening here. Thanks for tuning in!