For the last two years, my periods have been zero waste (except for the time around my surgery). I decided to go zero waste on my period journey in an effort to reduce my single-use plastic consumption.
The average period haver will use over 11,000 disposable menstrual products in their lifetime and over the course of 10 years, a period having person can use over 2,500 tampons (while one menstrual cup would last that long).
Right off the bat, I will say: menstruating is personal… deeply personal! There is no “right” or “wrong” way to do it, because we all have physical and financial limitations to what we can do, especially when it comes to being zero waste because it is a large financial commitment up front (though it does pay off long term). I have tried to include a broad spectrum of options below for the hopefully all budgets, bodies, and bleeders, while reviewing the options I personally have used. You have to do what makes you comfortable, as a person who menstruates. The choices you get to make about your body are yours and yours alone! However, I had many people online educate me on my journey to a zero waste period and I wanted to share what I have learned over the last few years.
Having a zero waste period is a little more time intensive than using disposable products; however, I have enjoyed that through the process I have become more acquainted with my body and, shockingly, much more comfortable with my own menstrual blood. Luckily there are tons of products to choose from now! We are in a golden age for zero waste periods. If you prefer disposable pads, you might like reusable pads or period undies. If you are a big tampon user, you might prefer a menstrual cup. For me, I wanted to try a few different things before I made any big decisions. I have found that my period undies are my favorite because they are easy to use. On heavier flow days, now that I am post-endometriosis excision surgery, I can double up with a menstrual cup.
I am not sponsored by any company listed below and am receiving no compensation for mentioning any of these brands. For FTC transparency, the only things that were gifted to me were a pair of LunaUndies and two PerformaPads from LunaPads, which were sent to me after I tweeted that I liked their PerformaPads (that I had previously bought myself). I am making no money off of this post. These are my honest opinions on the things I have tried and what has/hasn’t worked for me and why.
Remember: What works for me, might not work for you. What works for you, might not work for me.
MY ZERO WASTE PERIOD KIT
Out of everything I use, period undies are my favorites! Period underwear feels like regular underwear and is comfortable and easy to use.
Thinx – I have a few pairs from Thinx in different styles and for different flow days. Out of my period undies, Thinx has definitely perfected their period-underwear-that-feels-like-regular-underwear-thats-maybe-a-little-thicker thing. It really does feel like your regular undies, which takes a moment to mentally adjust to! I just think the leg elastic on the heavy day undies is a little aggressive and that is my one major setback with them.
LunaUndies – I have one pair of LunaUndies that LunaPads was nice enough to send to me. LunaUndies have been around since 2000 and while they do have seniority in their period undie making and are incredibly soft and comfortable, they definitely feel like underwear with a pad in it; however, they do have less aggressive elastic and feel much softer and gentler than my Thinx (especially on the leg elastic). Both Thinx and LunaUndies have transgender inclusive period underwear as well (boxer brief options linked directly in highlighted text).
Coupons – Check out using the non-affiliated promo code Period Proven to get 10% off your order at LunaPads. Kathryn Kellogg from Going Zero Waste has a 10$ off coupon to get you started on Thinx (might be affiliated to Kellog, I do not know).
GladRags – I bought a GladRags Pads Sampler Kit with a variety of pads. I do like their pads but I will say that I have had a few where the snaps have come off, which is a huge bummer. When a snap comes off, I sew a button hole and button onto it, which so far has worked fine. I also like that the sampler kit comes with a little bag that has two pouches in it (one for clean and one for dirty pads). This pouch has come in handy on trips. The GladRags winners for me are their pantyliners (free first pantyliner deal on their website) and their overnight long pads.
LunaPads – I have a few LunaPads and I absolutely love them — one I bought myself at Target years ago and two that they were kind enough to send me. All of the ones I now own are the PerformaPad and the quality is great! They don’t shift in your underwear, I have never had a leak, and the snap is much more secure than the GladRags snaps and have never broken off. I definitely recommend the PerformaPad if you have a heavier flow.
Other Options – The cool thing about reusable pads are that there are a lot of different pad options out there to fit your needs including Precious Stars (based in the UK), indie creators on Etsy, or even local creators at holiday/craft sales. Pads are sort of trial and error, but so far I have never gone too wrong.
A proper medical grade menstrual cup should last you 10 years when used and cared for properly. If you are looking to use a cup, make sure you measure your cervix! There are tons of helpful videos on Youtube about how to pick a menstrual cup that will fit you properly thanks to Precious Stars Pads and Put A Cup In It. These are simply my opinions on these cups and they might not work for you if they aren’t the proper fit for your body!
Keela Cup (Flex Cup) – I saw and backed the Keela Cup when it was announced on Kickstarter. I couldn’t believe what genius and necessary engineering it is! At the time I was using the Lena Cup and only backed the Keela Cup out of sheer support; however since using it, that pull “string” design is a game changer, especially if you have a disability or issues with your pelvic floor. I cannot feel it when it is in and I have no issues getting it out. I highly recommend this cup if it seems like it would fit your body.
Lena Cup – The first menstrual cup I got that fit me properly. I found it to be more firm than the DivaCup (which I had tried previously). I do enjoy my Lena Cup, but since getting the Keela Cup… there is almost no going back.
Diva Cup – I tried, hated, and got rid of the Diva Cup. It was because I hadn’t properly measured my cervix and the Diva Cup did not fit my body. When you are looking for a menstrual cup you need to measure your cervix. Again, this is just my opinion. Lot’s of people love this cup!
Put A Cup In It made a menstrual cup quiz that you can take if you are looking to figure out which cup would work for your body and budget.
Enamelware container (for soaking)
If you go with the undies/pads route you need a proper container to soak them in. I got my enamelware container from GladRags because I didn’t know what I should be ordering or doing and assumed they did. I have had problems with it chipping on the top and rusting; however, it does a good job of discreetly sitting in my bathroom until I need to soak my undies/pads in it at the end of my menstrual cycle.
The nature of the zero waste period game is that sometimes… things need to be super washed. I find that the cleaning solution BacOut is a great way to get the bacteria out of my undies/pads. I splash some into the soaking container or laundry and let the pads soak in them before I wash them. You can get it at your local health food store in the cleaning aisle, like Sprouts and Whole Foods, or online.
Intimate wash Bags
I got these exact bags a while back for bras, but they work great for discreetly washing your period undies/pads. I put my soaked and rinsed pads in here and then wash them in the washing machine. These are a must have if you share a washing machine with others.
CARE OF YOUR ZERO WASTE KIT
- For period pads and undies, you need to soak them before you wash them. I soak mine for at least 20 minutes (sometimes using BacOut in the water, sometimes not) in my enamelware container before pouring the liquid out in the shower, and then washing the pads. This might seem gross at first, but soon it becomes just part of the process.
- Cup maintenance is important because you can get Toxic Shock Syndrome from a menstrual cup. After each use, I wash it with soap. Then after each period, I boil it in water.
- Don’t forget to clean your soaking container too!
All of these things are my personal preference. Make sure you are using products that do not hurt or harm your body, use them for the proper amount of time, and use things that feel natural and comfortable for you. When I decided I wanted to get into this more, I bought one pad and tried it out. Then after deciding, I liked it, I got a trio of Thinx undies. After that… I moved onto cups and explored more. If you are confused, email the companies and ask their customer service which products would suit your needs — I have had good experiences doing that!
However you bleed, find the way that fits your body and budget.