Plastic Free Periods

Hey friends, here again to complain about P L A S T I C.

I’m deep into some research on the plastic - hormone connection so I can be better informed for my clients on this topic. The evidence is compelling, long standing, and clear : Plastics contribute to our changing hormonal landscape for the worse.

super cute illustration with permission from @kissmyangst

super cute illustration with permission from @kissmyangst

There are loads of ways we can reduce our plastic consumption, everything from ditching the plastic water bottles and leftover containers to purchasing fewer items that come in plastic containers.

One huge way we can lower our environmental imprint and help adjust our hormones back to healthy levels is to swap out plastic period products for more sustainable and healthful options. Though studies have shown that the concern around dioxin in bleached tampons and pads might be minimally risky to most, the petrolum-based chemicals and plastics in the absorbant materials, fragrances, and other dyes and packaging has not been properly studied in regards to period products, but have been shown to be in dangerously high quantity in our everyday environment. Most period products are petroleum-based plastics through and through. The packaging they come in, the applicators, the sticky bits, the material they’re made from, the chemicals they’re soaked all comes from petrol plastics and made by some of the worst corporate environmental companies around.

plastic free period via Natracare

An added bonus to switching to reusable period items -- many of these brands are run by progressive women and often have components of their business practices that focus on wider environmental impacts, ending period stigma, and creating more access to sanitary items for those who need it most. This feels like a win-win-win. Oh wait...there’s more! Reusable period products are more cost effective. Reusable period products help you get in touch with your own anatomy. Reusable period products reduce common infections and don’t come with the scary reality of toxic shock syndrome. So WHAT ARE YOU WAITING FOR!?

Here are a few great options :

  • Reusable period underwear from Thinx, Moon Undies, Sustain Natural, and more

  • Washable pads from loads of great companies like Luna Pads, Glad Rags, and about a million small vendors on Etsy and maybe at your local natural market.

  • Sea Sponge - Okay, this is usually the hardest sell, but I love mine for backpacking. You can trim this little guy down to the size that’s the most comfortable for you and there’s zero added anything to be concerned about.

  • Soft menstrual cups from Lunette (you can buy it from Zero Waste Shop and have it shipped plastic free, too!), a natural rubber one from Fair Squared, the XO cup from Glad Rags, the Keeper Cup, the Bella Cup, the Ruby Cup (they donate a cup for everyone you buy), the Zero Cup (their insta page is DOPE), the UltuCup, and a million others.

Not ready for a full conversion, Natracare uses organic cotton and low/no plastic in their products and packaging.

Without going on a total tirade, I also want to point out the issues around using baby wipes around your period both for your health (loads of toxins you’re just schmering directly into your vagina) and the environment, but I’ll let some of these articles do the work for me. If you want some ideas on how to make your own sustainable and healthy wet wipes, here are a few cool options.

  • A full how-to for making and using reusable wipes

  • “Wet bags” for portability and all natural spray for wetting the wipes from Bum Genius

  • More info on the chemicals in baby wipes along with a super easy how to for DIY natural and reusable wipes

Hope this helps you have a safer, healthier, happier period free of plastic. I give $5 off every hour of consulting services if you bring period products to our appointments for me to donate. Reusable items are tricky for those who need it most (I usually donate items to a women’s shelter in SF) so anything is welcome, but if you can swing it, organic items with minimal packaging would be awesome!


Pick up many Plastic Free Period products at Life Without Plastic

WE ARE ON FIRE -- What to do about it

These fires raging through CA have my mind drifting harder than ever into how to reduce waste.

As someone who meets with 10+ new people a week in interviews, consultations, doula prep sessions, postpartum visits, meetings with colleagues, networking events, etc., I realize I’m in a special position to make suggestions that might make a difference. Even if every person I meet with doesn’t make some sustainable switches, or if they don’t go full in on making a change, I am not an all-or-nothing person. When you look at the real numbers, having even just a few folks at a time convert aspects of their life to more environmentally friendly options can make a difference over a lifetime. Those people, too, now can help others make meaningful changes by showing how it can be done. That kind of organic ripple effect really excites me and encourages me to keep going.

Here is my list of a few simple, but impactful ways we can make greener choices in our lives.

1. Reusable menstrual products

One of the biggest ways we can start to effect change is by moving away from disposable period products. The average person who bleeds will go through nearly 300 pounds of period products in their lifetime. That’s not even including the amount of resources and energy used to make these products and properly dispose of them.

There are loads of good options here :

  • Soft menstrual cups

  • Flannel pads

  • Period Undies

  • Sea Sponge

Many of the companies that make these items are also woman owned, progressive, local, environmentally conscious, world conscious organizations, too, which can’t be said about most of the larger companies that make most menstrual products.

If nothing else, switching to organic cotton menstrual items is better for the environment and your health.

2. Ditch the wet wipes

The wipe industry has expanded beyond baby wipes into everyday / every flush items for adults. It’s boomed in the past five years into a $2.1 billion dollar industry. Many of them are made by companies with horrific environmental records, making up some of the worst pollutant offenders around.

Though many wet wipes are now made out of wood pulp instead of plastic, that’s not a universal practice. And that’s mostly for wipes labeled “flushable” and marketed to adults, not babies. In addition to the wipes going down the poop pipe, baby wipes and disposable diapers generate 7.6 billion pounds of trash annually, making them the 3rd largest consumer product in landfills and 30% of all non-biodegradable waste.

You can make your own wet wipes super

easily following this guide from the Wild Minimalist.

If you really need to get a cleaner booty, you might want to look into some of the more accessible bidets available now. These little gadgets often pop right on to your toilet and don’t need elaborate pipes and setups like traditional bidets. You could even consider using these to move away from toilet tissue and wipes altogether!

3. Adios, paper cups

This might seem like a no-brainer at this point, but we still have a massive problem with to-go waste. According to Carry Your Cup, American’s are the leading consumers of coffee globally and toss out 25 billion non-recyclable styrofoam coffee cups per year and 5000 paper cups PER DAY! According to one study of Portland alone, roughly 50 million paper cups are used in just that one metro area alone per year.

I had a pal who would bring her own glass or steel containers to restaurants if she wanted to take things to go. This might not be where we all are quite yet (wouldn’t it be cool if we all thought this far in advance and were this environmentally thoughtful?), but we seem to mostly be jumping on the reusable cup wagon, so let’s keep going!

If you stop into a local coffee shop and aren’t taking your cuppa out in the world, make sure you ask for a mug. It’s amazing to me how many places still put everything in a paper cup, even if you are staying in. If you are heading out with you java, make sure you pack your reusable cup with you when you head out the door. Ideally, you’re not using plastic containers, especially not for hot drinks (Who wants to put all that plastic directly into their mouths?). Stainless steel coffee cups are ubiquitous at this point and it’s worth having a few of them for your hot and cold drinks to go. Best to make sure you’re ditching the plastic caps in favor of full stainless steel, too — they last longer, are better for the environment, can withstand high heat cleaning, and won’t seep horrible chemicals into your body when the hot liquid passes through them. Ew.

4. Stop Amazoning everything

Sorry friends, but stop. Or, at least cool it so we can cool the planet down a bit.

This is a multi-layered issue worth looking into :

  • Transportation took over from power plants in leading the way in pollutants

  • Much of the items on Amazon are made and shipped from China, where production pollution is the highest

  • Much of what you are buying online is made of thin, poor quality plastic, which leeches toxins easily and has a short life overall

  • Diverting money away from major corporations that cause much more damage than any individual is the most crucial step in slowing global climate change. When you shop on Amazon, you are moving money away from local shops, even local box stores, which provide more hours and benefits to its employees (minus WalMart, which is a major offender on both fronts)

  • Amazon is a major contributor to rising package waste with one-item-at-a-time shipping

  • The design of online marketplaces is geared towards buying more in general, generating more shipping and more waste

I find this issue to be especially important to communicate to the new parents I work with. It’s incredible how much they purchase when they’re sitting on their phones with new babies in their arms. Especially for exhausted and stressed families, they are so vulnerable to purchases that promise to help ease them through a rough patch, but many of the gadgets and gizmos of infancy targeting new parents range from senseless to unsafe, so it’s best for your wallet and the environment to not get sucked in.

I know I’m being a total buzz-kill on this issue and that few, if anyone will listen, but as Amazon becomes the place where more and more we are buying everything from birthday gifts to our weekly groceries, it’s worth looking into how big of an impact all this shipping and packaging and one-click plastic consumption is having as we are LITERALLY ON FIRE all across California

5. Eat less meat AND less soy and almonds

milk almonds soy environment

I’m likely not going to say much that’s new here about the environmental impact of meat production and consumption so I’m not going to even bother. It’s a huge issue and we need to all be more aware.

I do want to note that the meat alternatives also have a huge impact on the environment that we need to also pay attention to. Almond production is huge here in CA and is a massive consumer of water and other resources. Switching from meat to very processed alternatives like almonds and soy (much of which is grown commercially without good environmental considerations) is not necessarily the best option.

I also feel the need to note the hormonal issues around eating a lot of commercially produced meats and soy products. It’s an issue in water sources, as well, with agricultural waste runoff dumping loads of xenoestrogens and other harmful chemicals causing infertility and early periods directly into our waterways. An overload of soy can also alter hormone levels.

One option is to remove meat from a few meals a week to whole plant meals. That means not replacing the meat dish with a processed alternative, but simply a meal with all proteins made from the whole plant.  This will cut down on processing resource usage AND packaging, hitting the environmental issue from many angles.

If you are continuing to eat meat, more local, organic, and grass-fed is the best way to go here, for sure.

I know what a stick in the mud this post can be, but it is important for us to start making some serious changes in our daily lives. The impacts of our waste are not long in the future, they are right here at our front doors.

I am happy to bring an environmental focus to any consultations I am apart of, and would like to recommend my friend and collaborator, Friday Apaliski aka The Sustainability Concierge, who will come and do an environmental walk-through of your home and help make some big time changes that could save you money and help reduce your carbon footprint.

You don’t have to throw the baby out with the bathwater and go live in a tiny home in the woods to make a difference! Small steps, done in community, will help make lasting change.  

Here are some shops to check out instead of Amazon:

Package Free Shop

Preserved here in Oakland

@moonundies for handmade period underwear made in San Francisco

tonlé a low-waste, handmade shop in San Francisco

Luna Pads

Wild Minimalist

Life Without Plastic