Giving Female Hygiene a Green Makeover

By Angela Tague in Thinking Sustainably

Let’s break the stigma and get a little personal about female hygiene products for a second.

Tampons and pads are disposable products that a woman may use for more than 30 years of her life, as you know. But what you may not realize is the potential environmental impact of these items.

Seventy percent of American women use tampons, with each tossing or flushing away a total of 11,000 to 16,000 of the feminine hygiene products during her reproductive years. While they’re considered necessities, these personal care items take up space in our landfills and clog septic systems. Plus, they may affect your health. As you adopt a greener style of living, it’s worth learning about eco-friendly products to manage menstruation and how they impact your personal wellness and environment.

Using Traditional Female Hygiene Products


Everyday feminine hygiene products—including pads, tampons, douches, deodorizing powders, and body washes—may contain endocrine-disrupting chemicals (EDCs), carcinogens, or allergens, according to Environmental Health Perspectives. For women with sensitivities to fragrances, nonorganic cotton, synthetic fibers, or bleach, finding the best feminine care products to meet their needs can be tough.

Plus, the disposable products are finding their way (usually tucked in plastic wrappers) into waterways and landfills. In total, it’s estimated that 20 billion pads, tampons, applicators, and plastic packages make their way to landfills in North America each year. However, you obviously need to manage your flow, and while those stats may be scary, you don’t have to give up all you know about periods just to protect the planet.

Choosing Eco-Friendly Products

Thankfully, the feminine care industry has taken note of women’s requests for more health- and environmentally-conscious options. When I was in college, I remember a friend talking about a classmate who used to make her own pads. We all thought it was a little different, but really, she was being resourceful and simply trying to live a minimalist lifestyle without leaving much of a footprint on the environment.

That’s definitely an option, but if you’re not a crafty person you may not feel comfortable or secure doing so. Here are a few more green feminine care options to research and consider adopting:

diva cup

  • Menstrual Cup: This portable, washable cup is made of a soft, rubbery material and inserted into the vagina much like a diaphragm. You are able to remove, empty, and rinse the cup when using the toilet. You may find, however, this option is too messy for you.
  • Period Panties: These specially lined underwear are designed to absorb a day’s worth of menstrual flow. They come in a variety of underwear sizes. This could be a reasonable option for women who prefer to wear pads or have light periods.
  • Washable Pads: These cloth pads can be changed as often as disposable pads and then just added to your laundry. If you work in a public place or attend school, transporting soiled pads home would take some mindful planning—but could easily become a routine.

Do you love learning new ways to make a positive impact on our environment? Browse the @TomsofMaine Twitter feed for inspiration and ideas and share with us!

Image source: Pixabay | Wikimedia Commons | Flickr

This article was brought to you by Tom’s of Maine. The views and opinions expressed by the author do not reflect the position of Tom’s of Maine.

Why It’s Good

Eco-conscious women are overhauling their beauty, cleaning, and personal care products—so it only makes sense to give feminine hygiene a second look, too. By switching to reusable, washable feminine care products, the amount of disposable waste you add to landfills (and your exposure to synthetic chemicals) decreases.