How to have a sustainable period

Eva O’Beirne shares advice on finding environmentally-friendly menstrual products

According to a report from the EU in 2018, menstrual products are the fifth most common item to be found washed up on beaches. Mainstream brands of tampons and pads can consist of up to 90% plastic, with each packet of sanitary products being the equivalent of using 4 plastic bags. These pads and tampons are destined for landfill or to be flushed (incorrectly) down the toilet. In Ireland, approximately 260 million single use period products are used every year – this equates to over 700,000 period products per day. But what steps can we take to achieve a sustainable period? What products are out there? Can an environmentally friendly menstrual cycle be affordable? Let’s find out. 

Menstrual cups

Menstrual cups are certainly the “it-girl” of contemporary period products. They’re having a moment, but they still appear super elusive and mysterious. How do you use one? Is it safe? How many do I need? Menstrual cup awareness, I believe, is key to tackling both period poverty and the environmental effects caused by single-use plastic products. Data from the Marine Conservation Society indicates that on average, 4.8 pieces of plastic are found per 100 metres of beach cleaned. We are seeing the physical effect of single-use plastic as well as the monetary impact it has on everyday people – with menstrual cups there is no need to constantly buy new ones every month. Menstrual cups can be used for up to 10 years with the most student-friendly brands costing around €20 which works out at around 20 cent per menstrual cycle. 

You can purchase menstrual cups from Irish websites such as LittleGreenShop.ie , GreenOutlook.ie , TheHopsack.ie and EarthMother.ie

Period-proof underwear and swimwear

Period-proof underwear sounds too good to be true. Period-proof swimwear even more so. The worry among environmentalists is the possible plastic content in each pair. After some research, I’ve found some brands that are environmentalist approved and suitable for a student budget.

Best overall: Modi Bodi 

Modi Bodi appears to have the full package: the majority of their products are under €35, they have a vegan range of underwear available as well as period-proof swimwear, all in multiple styles to fit everyones’ preferences. With an average of 5 stars across the majority of their products online, Modi Bodi is certainly my top recommendation to those looking to start having a sustainable period. You can check out Modi Bodi products at ModiBodi.com 

Best Website: Rael

Rael works out as the most eco-friendly brand with the combined benefit of a relatively low-cost. Each pair is $20 (€17) and absorbs up to 3 tampons worth of blood. With plenty of discounts and period-care sets (containing eco-friendly wipes, pads and tampons) for every situation, I definitely recommend Rael for those looking to be more environmentally conscious but not sure if period-proof underwear is the way to go. 

You can find Rael products on GetRael.com

Best Style: Femtis

Femtis is Germany’s first period-underwear brand, with bio-cide free and vegan products. I have to admit, I was amazed by the amount of styles and colour available from the site. There’s a common trend amongst period proof underwear in the sense that most brands only have a large brief in black, grey or nude. Instead, Femtis offers numerous styles and varying colours which allows for more expression as well as the feeling of luxury. If you’re looking to be sustainable in style, check out Femtis.de 

Organic menstrual products

If you’re hesitant to move away from tampons and to try new products, you can switch to something more familiar – biodegradable and chemical free tampons. The issue with most tampons is that they are either flushed (please don’t do this) or end up in landfill. NatraCare and Ilo are both well known brands that are stocked in most eco-friendly stores. If you’re looking for organic pads however NatraCare and another brand, &Sisters, supply cotton-based sanitary pads. The only issue with organic products is that they tend to be more expensive than standard plastic period products, so organic brands may not be suited to the student budget.

Reusable menstrual products 

Reusable menstrual products are unfortunately a bit more inaccessible than most sustainable period products, with most packs of three averaging at a cost of  €18. Reusable pads are certainly an investment and will pay off in the long run but it is important to research which brands will suit your needs. If you want to support small Irish businesses, you can buy reusable cotton pads from Handmade by Kata, Other Mother Creations and at Pads.ie. 

Eva O'Beirne

Eva O'Beirne is the Deputy Life Editor of Trinity News and a Junior Sophister History student.