Zero waste can sometimes feel prescriptive. To be zero waste you have to store food in glass jars, you have to own a reusable coffee thermos, you have to… use a menstrual cup. You can work towards zero waste and do these things, and you also don’t have to.
I’ve used a menstrual cup for years and it has made my life (or at least four days each month) much, much easier. No more running to the store for tampons! No more forgetting tampons! No more taking out the bathroom trash! And so on.
Through my work on Litterless, I have a few menstrual cups: some brand-new and never used that I keep as props for zero waste workshops, a clear cup I purchased years ago that is now very stained but just as functional as ever, and a Dot Cup (pictured above), which I love because it doesn’t show stains and is manufactured here in Wisconsin. (Plus, to quote a certain Marie Kondo, that perfect handmade pouch brings me joy).
I’ve written fairly extensively about menstrual cups before, with thoughts on how to choose one, which soap to use, and other notes; you can read that here, if you’d like.
Much of the zero waste period advice out there boils down to just use a cup. And, well, yes, just use a cup, if you can and want to. I can’t overstate how simple and convenient and comfortable I’ve found it. And yet you may not want to switch or it may not work for you. If just use a cup doesn’t feel like helpful advice, there are so many other options for a lower-waste period. A few of them, below.
Note: some of the links below are affiliate links, if you’d like to support Litterless if you make a purchase.
These are the best, best, best, best. I have a few pairs and really love them. They can be expensive, but unless they’re the only thing you want to use, you probably don’t need a pair for every single day of your period. I rotate my two pairs in and out in a combination with other methods.
-Dear Kate: Dear Kate period underwear has no plastic films or layers, although the fabric is a nylon/lycra composite and it does arrive in a small, reusable zippered plastic pouch for storage on the go. The nude pair pictured above is their Nellie hipster.
-Lunapads: These folks are better known for their reusable pads, but I like their period underwear, which comes in a wide range of styles, including a high-waisted version and boxer briefs (for anyone, but perhaps especially helpful for queer or trans folks).
These are new to me, and great. They come in a wide range of patterns (or no patterns), absorbencies, shapes, styles. Here’s the ones that have caught my eye:
-GladRags: The plastic-free pads pictured at right above are made from soft and comfortable flannel in a range of colors. They’ll omit extra packaging material upon request and ship products loose in a kraft paper mailer; I was so, so pleased to shake pads out of the mailer with no added packaging whatsoever. Midwest readers can find a local supplier for GladRags at Litterless sponsor Green Life Trading Co.
-Hannahpads: I rarely choose patterns when I could choose solids or neutrals, but Hannahpads are just so cheerful without being garish or twee; their patterns make me smile when I see them in my drawer. You can buy their variety of absorbencies as a single pad or a set. They fold up and snap for easy stowing in a purse, backpack, pocket, or palm.
-SckoonPads: Reusable pads made from colorful patterns with a brown inner lining, so you won’t have to see stains compound month after month. They’re made from organic cotton and dyed with metal-free, low-impact dyes.
-Reusable silicone Stasher bags can take the place of a single-use plastic bag for storing a used pad throughout the day; perhaps choose a Stasher in a different color than the ones you use in your kitchen so you can always tell them apart.
We’ve all seen tampon applicators wash up on beaches or lakefronts and avoiding them is simple. Though tampons without applicators are packaged in plastic, they come in much less plastic than the version with applicators. When possible, choose organic cotton tampons, which doesn’t contain pesticides or other toxic chemicals.
In lieu of choosing just one option, stocking your cabinet with a range of them can be nicer. Though a menstrual cup is generally my preference, there are days or nights in which period underwear is more comfortable or when not having to think about where I’ll remove the cup is a relief. (In a word, not on airplanes, please).
What other products or brands are your favorites? Other strategies to share?