A Green Cycle: Alternative Feminine Hygiene Products

Everyone knows that once a month every woman gets her period and this requires a supply of pads and tampons. There are all kinds of commercials advertising the latest in pad technology to ensure you feel as comfortable as possible. Well that’s great but I have to say when I really started to think about it, a super absorbent pad did not ease my comfort level when it came time to throw it out, thinking to myself about how much waste it was contributing to.  An estimated 12 billion feminine hygiene products are dumped into the North American environment each year.

So tampons might be better right because they are smaller? Well maybe but its still waste (7 billion tampons dumped each year) and there can be side effects to using tampons such as toxic shock syndrome and vaginal ulcers. Moreover most tampons are made of non-organic cotton and the treatment of this cotton with pesticides and insecticides has a very high impact on the environment. $2 billion US worth of chemicals are sprayed on the world’s cotton crops every year. Close to half of these chemicals are considered toxic enough to be classified as hazardous by the World Health Organization and yet these chemicals leach into the waterways and are breathed in by the locals farming these fields.

Alternative feminine hygiene products

So what are the alternatives? Well there are many. To start with, if you do like to use pads, you can choose ones made from organic cotton and that are biodegradable. I have bought feminine hygiene products by the brand Natracare at Loblaws. There are of course many other brands out there, most found at health food stores. With the Natracare brand, they are made of organic cotton, are chlorine free (another benefit to the environment) and have a lot less packaging than the standard pads i.e. not every pad is individually wrapped.  The best part is these will not cost you any more than the less green kind. For comparison, a box of 14 Natracare pads costs $6-7 while a box of 14 Always pads costs $6.

A Green Cycle: Alternative Feminine Hygiene Products

Image via Wikipedia

If you prefer to use tampons, an alternative is to use a Diva Cup. The up front cost is more ($40-50) but one Diva Cup will last you at

least one whole year and over that one year you will save a lot of money compared to using tampons. The average box of 18 tampons will cost about $7.  Say you need a minimum of 3/day for a week every month that means you will need 14 boxes of tampons which will cost you $98/year!  The feminine hygiene product Diva Cup will cost you half as much.

The Diva Cup  is not difficult to use. It can be washed with normal soap and water on a daily basis and cleaned in boiling hot water from time to time when discoloration occurs. And although the Diva Cup is made from silicone, it is phthalate-free, latex-free, plastic-free and BPA-free. Personally I think that this feminine hygiene product is one of the greatest inventions for women!

So like the adds say “Have a Happy Period”, I say have a green one!

Have you considered greening your feminine hygiene products?

30 comments to A Green Cycle: Alternative Feminine Hygiene Products

  • I’ve had my Diva Cup for over three years now. I think they’re actually meant to last ten years.

    • Aryn, glad you are also a Diva Cup fan! The Diva Cup site says its up the the individual user to determine when it is time to discard it but does also say that because it is a personal hygiene product, its best to replace it once a year.

  • Great post. This is definitely something that should be discussed when it comes to being green.
    I am personally a tampon girl. Pads feel too much like diapers.
    I must say I am not a huge diva cup fan. Being a health care professional, the cross contamination that can occur while cleaning it etc, is not something I want to be at risk with.
    What I am into though is the smaller tampons, those with eco friendly wrapping and biodegradeable components. I have been trying a few out and once I find the one I like the best I will follow up with a comment.

    • thanks for the feedback Miss T. I have not seen these tampons with the eco friendly wrapping. What is the wrapping made of? Good to hear they are biodegradable. I look forward to hearing about your favourite pick.

  • The Saved Quarter

    I’ve had mine for 5 years and it hasn’t occurred to me to toss it, since it does its job just fine and I clean it well each month after I use it.

    I wrote about it recently in a post about 7 unexpected ways to replace disposable products.

  • I am eco-concious and use reusable pads from the makers of the Divacup: Lunapads. I use to be a tampon girl but never got use to the diva cup… so now its reusable cotton pads for me. They are really easy to use, just throw them in the washing machine. I have used them for over a year now, and they are great. The bonuses are: no more sticky adhesive, no more pads that don’t breath… fewer yeast infections, higher comfort level and smaller expense. I figured a year I would spend around $105 on the tampons I was using, and liners as backup for the first day or two. I got setup with Lunapads for less and they will last much longer! Reusable products are a fabulous money-saver!

    • thanks Avigayil for the comment. I have heard and seen these reusable pads but have never used them myself. Do you give them a quick rinse before the washing machine and then throw them in with other clothing items? It took me a while to get used to the diva cup and now I love it but I know its not for everyone. Glad to hear you have a green solution you like.

      • Thank you for your reply. Giving them a quick rinse is best, that way they won’t stain. I throw them in with a delicate load in the washer and hang them to dry. If they do stain a bit I use an all natural stain remover stick, and it works wonders. I am excited to try the new soak bag Lunapads has released, but is current out of stock.

        I do love the concept of the Diva Cup. I wanted to enjoy it so much. But It is painful for me to insert and then my vagina tends to swallow it.. so it becomes painful to remove. O.o Makes me think I am abnormal!

  • I’ve seen lots of discussion about the Diva cup, but I almost feel like an instructional video would make me more comfortable with that option.

    Like Miss T, I’ve been concerned at the number of feminine products that end up in the waste system and have make a concerted effort to reduce usage and switch to biodegradable, paper applicator, and paper wrapped tampons. I’m also not fond of the use of chemicals in the cotton either.

    Thanks for sharing alternatives! There are millions of reproductive aged women the world around. Switching to more sustainable products can have a HUGE impact.

    • thanks Sandy, I agree if every women chose a greener option it would make such a huge difference, probably cut down on the number of landfills. The diva cup does take some getting used to. Glad you have found a green solution for you

  • I’m a big fan of as little mess as possible, so I may look into the same products Miss T mentioned…

  • I should definitely green up my feminine hygiene products… I am not a big fan of the tampon. Yeah, the idea of toxic cotton up my hoo ha does not appeal to me!

    My friend used the diva cup when we were traveling in India a few years back- she was brave!! I haven’t tried using the Diva cup, but it seems a bit messy.

    The Natracare products seem really good. We don’t have a Loblaws here in Vancouver. I haven’t ever seen them before- perhaps they have it at Superstore?

    • Loblaws = Superstore.
      I’ll let Mrs. SPF respond to the rest :).

    • thanks for the feedback YoungandThrifty-yes you might be able to find them at Supertore, I imagine you can also order them online too. Yes the Diva Cup is messier than tampons but if you empty it out at home twice a day in the comfort of your own bathroom then I find it does not really matter. I hope you try it out!

  • Barb Friedberg

    Hi Mrs, The diva cup sounds really great. It kind of sounds like a diaphram! Glad you brought this topic up, it’s difinitely an INTERNATIONAL green topic. The Diva cup would be great for donation to women in underdeveloped countries!

    • You know Barb, I was thinking that too. In some areas women have to stay apart from their families when they are menstruating since they are considered “unclean”. I’d be interested in donating some Diva cups to developing countries. Imagine if a school aged girl could be in control of her body and not have to sit at home missing valuable education for 5 days out of a every month.

    • that is a good idea Barb! The key thing with the Diva Cup no matter where it’s used in the world is access to clean water and soap which is not always possible in some developing countries…

  • I’ve definitely considered trying the Diva Cup but haven’t quite brought myself to terms with it. I usually have to double up (tampon + pad) for a couple of days to avoid, er, leaks. The mess factor is definitely a concern!

    Tampons with applicators are pretty rare in NZ, so I’ve only ever used the normal, non app type.

  • Thanks for writing about this topic. There are so many compelling reasons to explore alternatives to the wasteful options out there, and it’s great that you included specific brand names and prices in the article. Bravo!

  • I’m too chicken to try the diva cup yet, but have used reusable pads and love them! They made a BIG difference for two years that I used them. I just might go back to them now that we have our own washer / dryer at home.

  • Camellia

    I have been using menstrual cups for more than 10 years and I can’t imaging using anything else! They are great! I currently use one I bought online called Lunette – I like the shape better than the Diva Cup.
    This link has tons and tons of info about cups and which one to pick : http://menstrual-cups.livejournal.com/

  • susie

    I have just started using an environmentally friendly feminine wash.I had never used a feminine wash before but now I highly recommend it. Not only is it good for the environment but I can definitely credit it to the decrease in infection. It’s called fresh control has anyone else here heard of it or tried it?

  • Awesome! I actually only recently discovered this product, if you can believe it, thanks to the savvy commenters on our blog. So, I went out and got the diva cup (only $17 after using up some Amazon Visa points!) and the first month was a complete disaster (basically it got stuck up waaay too high and I couldn’t get it out). At the encouragement of my fellow bloggers, I tried it again and read a whole bunch about it and finally got a good fit. It turns out it wasn’t opening up and was going up way too high as a result.

    Anyway, the only reason I mention this is that if you’re having trouble, persevere! You will prevail! Once I did it the right way, it made a world of difference and I might now be an official diva cup user. :)

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