The war against single-use plastics is very much on, and quite rightly too. After experts made the horrific forecast that there’ll be more plastic than fish in our oceans by 2050, we've got our collective skates on to cut unncessary plastics from our lives for good.
Yet there’s one area where around half the population fails to apply this reuse and recycle rule: feminine hygiene products.
Because when it comes to periods, the eco-conscious buck very much stops at a certain time of the month. Not because we suddenly don’t care, but because the alternatives to plastic-laden tampons and sanitary towels are still largely unknown.
Apart from contributing to the global environmental disaster, mainstream period products can also pose a risk to health as they’re often laced with potentially harmful plastics and dipped in bleach which are exposed to your most porous and sensitive intimate areas for hours.
Ms Tania Adib, Consultant Gynaecologist at The Lister Hospital (part of HCA Healthcare UK), says: "The chemicals can be absorbed through the highly permeable vagina walls. These can then travel through the body, and endocrine disrupting chemicals have been linked to heart disease, breast cancer and endometriosis."
Periods are natural, but many of the products we use when we have them are anything but.
That’s why we’ve compiled this list, to show you that sustainable, eco-friendly menstruation products do exist and most importantly, that they really work.
Here’s how to have your greenest period ever.
Best sustainable period products
Mooncup Menstrual Cup
Available in two sizes and made from soft silicone, Mooncup is the ‘healthier and convenient alternative’ to costly tampons and pads.
The concept is simple; a small bell-shaped cup collects menstrual blood (3 x more than a normal tampon), and should be emptied every 4 – 8 hours or after a night’s sleep.
The main hurdle in using Moonups is the initial insertion; it takes a few tries to get right and you may need to trim the stem to get the right fit for you. But once you’ve got the hang of it, you’ve got a period solution for life.
No more tampon tax, no more sanitary product single plastic waste. Just big savings for the lifetime of the product, which is years.
It couldn't be a better time to make the switch to a menstrual cup; a landmark Lancet report found that reusable options like the Mooncup are just as safe and effective than traditional mainstream products, and can save tonnes of sanitary pads and tampons from landfill.
To clean, simply rinse with water, or wipe with a tissue and reinsert if you’re still menstruating.
A London Assembly Environment Committee report found that sanitary towels are made up of 90 per cent plastic. With 4.3 billion menstrual products being used per year in the UK, that adds up to a devastating mountain of single-use plastic waste.
Mondays is here to change all that. The subscription service offers a selection of day and night pads and tampons that are completely free of plastic, even down to the box they come in and the sticky tabs on the back of pads.
The fibres in both products are made from organic cotton and while the pad wrappers look similar to plastic, they're actually made from a fully compostable material called Mater-Bi – stick the wrappers in your compost heap and they will break down in around six weeks.
Meanwhile, Mondays’ tampons – made with an organic cotton core and string - come with a cardboard applicator and are wrapped in paper.
What’s more, Mondays is part of the ‘One Percent for the Planet’ movement, so one per cent of sales are donated to environmental non-profit organisations.
Subscription is easy; head online and fill a digital box with 25 products of your choice (pads, tampons and liners), set your delivery time according to your cycle and never have to worry about shopping for sanitary products that don’t cost the Earth again. With free delivery to anywhere in Europe, that’s a bloody good deal.
DAME Reusable Tampon Applicator
Rapidly gaining cult status on Instagram where followers include Lily Allen, this reusable tampon applicator saves millions of its disposable counterparts from landfill.
Easy to use, the applicator is made from medical grade Mediprene and comes with a selection of organic regular and super tampons. You’ll also get a cotton travel pouch and a reusable bathroom tin with your first purchase.
Once you've used the tampons, you can continue to use the applicator with any naked tampon, so you'll never need to choose tampons with single use applicators ever again. Sweet.
Intimina Ziggy Cup
With a unique flat-fit design and made from ultra-thin silicone, Intimina claims its Ziggy cup can't be felt at all. It's a bit different to the Mooncup; with this, you slide the disc in before angling it behind your pelvic bone. It sounds tricky, but as with all menstrual cups, practice makes perfect.
Best of all, this is the only cup you can wear while having sex. Revolutionary.
Intimina also offers a selection of other menstrual cup options, whether you're a teen having her very first period or starting your cycle again after giving birth.
£27.99 | Intimina *On sale from £30.55
&Sisters Nudie Period Cup - 18-30 Yrs Old (Medium)
Made from hypo-allergenic soft medical-grade silicone and proudly designed by women for women, the nüdie cup can be worn for up to 12 hours, so you won't have to worry about it all day.
They last 10 years, so by investing in one you can expect to dramatically cut your period's environmental footprint pretty much completely.
There are three sizes, and dependant on age and whether or not you've given birth. However if you have issues with the fit, &Sisters promises to send you another, free of charge.
Flo Organic Cotton Applicator Tamponsâ, 14-Piece
A product that looks good as well as does good, Flo's variety pack of 14 tampons (eight regular, six super strength) come in a cute cardboard box shaped like a tub of ice cream.
The applicators are BPA-free and fully recyclable while the tampon itself if made from 100 per cent organic, hypoallergenic and biodegradable cotton. Pads are available too, and are made with bamboo.
Subscriptions are available, but if you want to give them a test run first you can pick them up at Amazon too.
Thinx Hiphugger Lace and Stretch-Cotton Briefs
Thinx has reimagined reusable period solutions completely with their line of period-proof underwear. The NY-based brand has a selection of styles lined with a patented four layer technology, which handle absorbency, leaks and odours to ensure you stay daisy fresh all day long. The top layer is made with moisture-wicking tech to keep you free of any icky wet sensations.
Thinx is so confident in its products that staff at their HQ regularly wear them under an all-white wardrobe.
How do they feel on? Reassuringly thick yet breathable and virtually indistinguishable from regular underwear, looks-wise. These Hiphugger briefs are a best-seller, and incredibly, can hold two tampons worth of liquid, which should be enough to see you through the start or end of your period when your flow is lighter.
There’s also a newly launched design that can hold four tampons worth of liquid for women with a heavier flow.
To wash, simply rinse your Thinx with cool water before machine washing on a cold wash and leave to hang dry.
If the only sort of period dramas you’re interested in are the ones on the BBC, welcome to a world of fuss-free menstruation.
Ohne specialises in tampons; choose between a naked one or one with a cardboard applicator. Both are made with 100 per cent cotton.
As well as organic cotton tampons, this brand also products to use during your cycle, like an Earth-themed bath bomb and CBD-spiked chocolate, Bliss Bar. Shoutout to the website, which was one of the enjoyable we browsed; think tampon loading icons and sass against tampon tax at checkout.
Boxes of 8 - 24 available.
Consider TOTM - that's Time Of The Month - your one-stop shop for sustainable menstruation products, from tampons (with and without applicators), pads, liners, menstrual cups and kick-ass accessories like organic cotton totes and purses.
Your order will arrive at your door in an eco-friendly box made from sugar cane, and you can sign up for one box or a subscription. Cancel at any time; the only strings attached are the ones to the tampons.
If you're curious about TOTM products, they're stocked at Tesco so you can try them out the next time you do the weekly shop.
Bloom & Nora Trial Kit
Presenting a cheerfully stylish option, Bloom & Nora offer reusable sanitary pads in a selection of fun prints.
The pads are Oekotex certified, meaning there's no harmful chemicals used at any stage of production.
Design-wise, each pad is made up of a waterproof layer under a top section of natural bamboo which sits next to the skin. They’re finished with leak-proof binding for extra security, and instead of sticky strips on the pack, the pads have wings with poppers to keep the pads in place.
They come in a selection of sizes and shapes so you can find the right fit for you, but if you're not sure which is right for you, there is a trial kit on offer which comes with a cute pouch too.
Unless your cycle runs as punctually as the Swiss rail system, you've probably been caught short when you've come on. When you're taken by surprise, too busy, or simply forget, to buy femcare products, subscription services like Freda can be a lifesaver.
While not 100 per cent natural (the pads are made with 70 per cent renewable materials but still have a plastic backing - however, 50 per cent of that is also renewable), Freda's Swedish-made tampons and pads are helping to drive the change to period products that are kinder to both women and the planet.
The pads and tampons come through the letterbox in an unassuming brown cardboard box, so you can order them to your desk without worry. Choose from pre-selected boxes or create your own based on your unique needs. Extra points for the millennial-friendly packaging.
Natracare Natural Organic Ultra Pads with Wings 14 Normal
Not only are these pads made with certified organic cotton, but they’re chlorine and plastic-free to boot, all made with biodegradable materials. Even the glue that keeps the pad in place is a BPA-free synthetic rubber kind.
They’re suitable for vegans and Vegetarian Society approved. It really doesn’t get greener than that.
With pollution and overconsumption becoming an ever-pressing issue in the protection of our planet, the Mooncup is the best possible way to cutting your period's carbon footprint to virtually nothing.
It will last you years, and once you've got the knack of positioning it, you need never bother with pads or tampons again. Sounds good to us.