Six eco-friendly menstrual hygiene products you need to have a healthy, sustainable period

Gayatri Vinayak
·6 min read

Disposable sanitary napkins are considered to be a God-send, especially in a country where access to affordable menstrual hygiene products is still a concern. But, have you thought about the amount of waste that is being generated through a lifetime of disposable sanitary napkin use?

Consider these facts. A sanitary pad is made up of 90 per cent plastic, the same amount as in four plastic bags. In India, alone, out of 336 million menstruating girls and women, around 121 million use disposable napkins. A woman disposes of around 10,000 sanitary napkins or 15,000 tampons in her lifetime.

Most pads and tampons can’t be recycled, they end up in landfills where they sit for hundreds of years. One napkin takes around 500-800 years to decompose. Do the math, and you will realise how much we are adding on to an already over-polluted environment.

However, by making a conscious decision, we can have safer, healthier and more sustainable menstrual cycles. Here are some menstrual hygiene products that you can switch over to if you would like to have environmental friendly periods:

ILLUSTRATION - 08 December 2020, Berlin: A woman points to a menstrual cup. Photo: Annette Riedl/dpa (Photo by Annette Riedl/picture alliance via Getty Images)
ILLUSTRATION - 08 December 2020, Berlin: A woman points to a menstrual cup. Photo: Annette Riedl/dpa (Photo by Annette Riedl/picture alliance via Getty Images)

Menstrual Cups: A great choice – both in terms of cost-effectiveness and sustainability. Menstrual cups come in the price range of Rs 250-Rs 1,000, but you don’t need to dispose of them after each use. A cup can last several years, so you also don’t need to worry about running out of them, or be concerned about all those pads piling up in landfills.

Menstrual cups are made from silicon, are safe to use and ensure protection as well. The cup does not absorb your period flow; rather it collects the blood, which you need to discard after each use.

Most people are apprehensive about using menstrual cups, considering that you need to insert them. But, the process gets simpler and faster once you get the hang of it. You just need to make sure you clean the cup thoroughly by following the instructions, after each use.

There are plenty of options to choose from and most e-commerce platforms sell menstrual cups. Indian brand Shecup has a range of non-toxic, non-allergic menstrual cups made of silicone, which offer a safe and sustainable alternative to disposable sanitary pads.

Reusable textile pads for women in trendy colour combinations.
Reusable textile pads for women in trendy colour combinations.

Reusable Pads: If menstrual cups are not your thing, you can also opt for an eco-friendly alternative to disposable sanitary napkins – reusable cloth pads. These pads have many layers of cloth in them, rather than plastic, and that makes them organic and sustainable. Much like a disposable sanitary napkin, a reusable pad contains a lining to prevent staining, a holder and an adjustable band to hold it in place.

However, what makes them more sustainable is that after each use, you can reuse the pad by washing it thoroughly and ensuring it is properly dried. Reusable pads last for several years, help you save money and the environment as well.

Organisations such as Ecofemme, a women-led social enterprise which produces and sells reusable cloth pads, Aakar Innovations, a social enterprise which enables women to manufacture and distribute affordable,100 per cent biodegradable, high-quality sanitary napkins and Goonj, which works at the grassroots level with women to raise awareness about menstrual health and hygiene, manufacture and sell reusable pads.

NEW DELHI, INDIA - AUGUST 27:  A woman looks at a Janaushadhi Suvidha sanitary napkin during the launch of Oxo-Biodegradable Suvidha Sanitary Napkins priced at Re 1  at Safdarjung Hospital on August 27, 2019 in New Delhi, India. The app was launched by Minister of State for Chemical and Fertilizers Mansukh Mandaviya and Minister of Chemicals and Fertilizers DV Sadananda Gowda. (Photo by Biplov Bhuyan/Hindustan Times via Getty Images)
NEW DELHI, INDIA - AUGUST 27: A woman looks at a Janaushadhi Suvidha sanitary napkin during the launch of Oxo-Biodegradable Suvidha Sanitary Napkins priced at Re 1 at Safdarjung Hospital on August 27, 2019 in New Delhi, India. The app was launched by Minister of State for Chemical and Fertilizers Mansukh Mandaviya and Minister of Chemicals and Fertilizers DV Sadananda Gowda. (Photo by Biplov Bhuyan/Hindustan Times via Getty Images)

Organic, biodegradable pads: Where regular disposable sanitary pads are made of plastic and contain bleaching agents and fragrance – all of which are harmful to the health, organic pads are made up of natural elements like bamboo fibre, organic cotton and banana fibre. These are chemical-free, odour-free pads that do not cause any allergies. They serve the double purpose of being safe for your skin and for the environment.

Brands such as Saathi and Pee Safe offer biodegradable and compostable pads which use plant-based material such as bamboo or banana fibre to make sanitary napkins.

Period underwear: It might feel odd bleeding into your underwear without any pad or tampon to protect yourself. But, that is where period panties come in. They are affordable, absorbent and washable – you don’t need to invest in panties and sanitary napkins/tampons separately. If you are not comfortable using them on a regular basis, you can supplement your sanitary napkins with these period panties to reduce the number of sanitary napkins you dispose of in a year.

While there are a number of options available on Amazon, Myntra and other e-commerce platforms, if you are looking for organic period panties, you can try Lavos period panties. Made from bamboo and cotton, these panties are anti-microbial and reusable.

Biodegradable sanitary disposal bags: While the Government has mandated providing sanitary napkin disposal bags along with the pads, most bags are non-biodegradable. This is where eco-friendly, biodegradable sanitary napkin disposal bags come in. Homegrown feminine hygiene brand, Niine, for example, offers biodegradable disposal bags with its sanitary napkins. Sirona also offers oxo-biodegradable sanitary bags for disposal of intimate care products.

Make Your Own Pad: You can also make your own eco-friendly sanitary napkins – this will ensure that you are one hundred per cent sure of the materials you use. They are environmental friendly as well. Here are some basic materials you would need to make your own sanitary napkin:

  • Flannel cloth (ensure it is clean and 100 per cent cotton)

  • Scissors

  • Tic tac buttons

  • Old towel

  1. Trace the outline of a sanitary pad on the flannel cloth. Cut out the top and bottom layers of the pad.

  2. Cut out rectangular-shaped liners with curved edges from the towel. You can cut out two-three layers depending on your requirement. Ensure the liners are an inch shorter than the flannel and that you give enough space so that the pad’s wings can fold well and overlap through fastenings. You can keep the layers in place using a pin.

  3. Sew the pieces in place by hand or using a sewing machine. Stitch the sides, making sure that you include the towel as well. Stitch the centre once you are done with the sides.

  4. Sew the tic toc buttons to the wings, this will hold the pad in place.

Your own eco-friendly, reusable sanitary napkin is ready.

Do your bit for the environment and your health. Make that switch to sustainable, safe and organic menstrual hygiene products.

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