It’s that time of the month where your stomach cramps are yearning for a hot bottle and a duvet for some comfort. The only thing you can do to be content is put on a movie and binge out on some chocolate. The other necessity is of course – the sanitary product. Some of us use pads, others tampons, or a menstrual cup. All menstruaters need something to keep their knickers clean though. With the majority of people using single use products such as plastic pads and tampons, we are creating a little splash with our cash and causing a huge amount of landfill waste in the process.
Women in the UK use an average of 11,000 disposable menstrual products during their reproductive lifetime. This waste takes centuries to biodegrade and when you calculate just how many tonnes of waste it is when you take into account approximately 50% of the nation produce this waste every month, you realise this amounts to an astonishing volume. I have used sanitary pads since I was 10 years old so for the past 15 years, I have purchased pads, which includes the plastic bag each one is wrapped in, the sticky label you remove so the pad sticks to your pants, the plastic bag the pack of 15 or 24 it comes in and of course the pad itself.
I had been intending to try a more environmentally sound way with cloth pads, but had been wary. After all, in India, many women use a cloth to soak up their blood and even here, people who suffer from period poverty use socks and other fabric because this is cheaper than ‘proper plastic sanitary products’. I did wonder if it would really be hygienic and would I really want to wash my pads after every use? I mean its period blood. Ew. Gross.
But, I did the research and I couldn’t put it off any longer because I knew it was the best way forward. I wanted to walk the walk and not just talk the talk about being an eco-conscious gal, so I purchased these well made, pretty pads from Eco Period. The only regret I had with them is that I did not buy them sooner! If I am completely honest, I felt fatigued, achy and lazy when the first day of my period came…I used my disposable ones. The second day of bleeding arrived…I remained on the disposable. Third time is typically a charm and this is when I brought out the colourful cloth patterned pads.
As they are thicker than disposable ones, I thought it may feel bulky, but they were luxuriously soft! It was like a fluffy pillow had hugged my vulva. I had forgotten I had even made the switch during the work day, as I had them on with ease. I am wearing them as I write this in the heatwave, and usually down there can feel a bit gross when the humidity is this intense, but the cloth pad is far more breathable so it feels, dare I say, BETTER than a disposable pad.
Even washing them was fine after the initial reluctance. These cloth pads are made from a natural breathable bamboo and microfiber, meaning all smells are neutralised and it is up to four times more absorbent than disposable pads. This meant when I hand washed them in my sink, I wasn’t face with a bloody, smelly mess, but it was rather quick and easy. Unlike a normal piece of fabric, this material is made to absorb your blood and to be hygienically cleaned after for reuse. They are also machine washable so you could wait till the end of your cycle to dash them all in the machine.
Usually when my cycle is ending, my vagina sometimes feels a little itchier, but it hasn’t been the case at all this time. An unexpected benefit of the breathable material is that it doesn’t contain the harsh chemicals disposable pads do. I didn’t even realise they had chemicals until buying these! But these can hamper vaginal health, so the reusable ones are actually healthier for your vagina! It is also a plus that they look very pretty, not that anyone besides me will see them, but all of our periods could do with a little brightening up, in even small ways.
As I rave about the superiority of cloth pads, some people might be thinking they are just too expensive. Intimina, the menstrual cup company, found that a female who menstruates from age 12 to 52 will spend an average of £10.24 per month on menstrual products, which totals to £4,916 across the life time of the average menstruater. You could buy a car AND insurance with that money! Whilst we sometimes view disposable pads or tampons as the cheaper choice, the tampon tax and volume we need, means that it is more expensive.
The cloth pads are pricier initially. I spent nearly £40 on 6 cloth pads and a wet bag (for used pads when changing on the go), but as I can use them for around 5 years, I know I will make a saving, even when I buy 6 more so I can use them throughout the whole of my period. Spending an extravagant £80 initially on pads sounds ludicrous, but knowing that I would be able to use those same 12 pads for the next 5 years at least, means it works out to…£1.33 a month and only 12 pads I dispose of in those 5 years. Of course, if I take care of them well, I can use them for even longer, thus save even more.
Whilst I have only just begun my eco-pad journey, and maybe 15 years later than I should have, I am incredibly proud to now be using these as they have already proved their benefits to the environment, my wallet and my vulva. If you are a menstruater and use disposable period products, I cannot recommend cloth pads enough. You will be far more content in actively reducing landfill waste and using a green product that feels almost lavish whilst on your period.