Bleeding Sustainably

How About That Time of the Month?


We are becoming increasingly and painfully aware of the environmental impact of our consumption habits in this seemingly catastrophic age of climate change, oceanic garbage patches, and resource scarcity. Scary stuff!


As a person who lives a relatively wealthy life, I tend to feel like I have an obligation to cut down on my impacts on the environment. Consumption habits are the best way to do this. And I always find myself asking those two questions: 

  1. What can I cut down on?
  2. If I can’t cut down on it, what is the alternative?

Some products are an easy switch, like bamboo toothbrushes, tofu instead of meat, or reusable metal straws. As I am continuously looking to transition foods and other products I consistently use, one has always really irked me:

Feminine. Hygiene. Products.

As a person born with a female body: I menstruate.

There, I said it.


Somehow my body, and the bodies of people like myself (people who MENSTRUATE) have not yet been approached by the discussions in mainstream environmental movement. For those of you who haven’t considered it: female hygiene products are often one time use, include a lot of plastic and in some places are considered hazardous waste. Cool. I produce a lot of that per month:

Leaving behind a carbon footprint of 5.3kg CO2 per year1

Apparently to about 11,000 tampons in my lifetime2

And I’m not alone, obviously.

Est. 20 Billion pads, tampons and applicators end up in North American Landfills every year. 3


that isle.jpg
Literally all of this will end up in a landfill covered in blood and definitely not biodegrade.


There had to be an alternative for this. I realize that menstruation has avoided ‘the talk’ regarding consumption impacts largely due to the fact we avoid talking about it altogether. Women’s bodies are already ignored and stigmatized unless a profit can be made off of them, because — beauty culture. And what better way to ensure making money when a non-reusable, chemical paper-plastic heavy product dominates the market. We stigmatize the topic enough that most of us don’t even feel comfortable or able to ask if alternatives exist.

But not to fear! This environmentalist decided to explore the world of reusable alternatives for a better period.

In the last few years, I have experimented with a few different products. I’ll let you know about some of them here and what’s worked for me and what hasn’t.

Before Pic: depicting my fear and uncertainty toward this new step in my life towards cloth pads. Oh, the taboo! (heavy sarcasm)

o.b. Tampons

These were the first step I took in this journey and are the same effectiveness of any other tampon and sold wherever you can find tampons.

ob are just conventional tampons without applicators, which also makes them far cheaper. Applicators are one time use, and are a lot of plastic to add onto what you already make a month! Applica ting without the assistance of an applicator isn’t as scary as it sounds, trust me. Get to know your body, it’s not gross, we all got one. We also like to save money.


Menstrual cup

If you’re ready to get rid of tampons and want the insertive alternative, Diva cup is a classic home-name brand. This is just a brand, and there are other brands with the same product. DivaCups also come with a little cloth bag so they can fit in your backpack or purse inconspicuously. They can be purchased at any store that also carries feminine hygiene products like grocery stores (Saveon, Safeway, Loblaws), Shoppers, Rexall or London Drugs costing about $40.

I really like these and use them every month. They last several hours (depending on our flow) and only require to be dumped, washed for a minute or two under warm water and reinserted. There is a cleaning product you can purchase for this often sold side by side , that I would strongly recommend since I find soap doesn’t do enough. Diva cups can get gross and residue will build up if you don’t clean it regularly, but cleaning is a routine that adds maybe 10 minutes per period. With proper care these can last a really long time, based on how clean you can keep it for how long! I’ve had mine for nearly a year now.

I use them every day, but like with tampons, I find that leaks definitely happen. Whether you don’t empty enough, or your vagina is just shaped that way, it happens. I would recommend using a diva cup with a liner or pad as a fail-safe.


Reusable Cloth Pads

A few month ago, I purchased lunapad as a reusable cloth alternative to pads. These are a bit harder to find, since I was pleasantly surprised to find it in London Drugs for $15 each. To add satisfaction, the box it came in was also biodegradable!

I would recommend buying them online since you can get more customized sizes, lengths, thickness, and colours, which are all pretty essential when it comes to finding the right pad.

Like any other pad, depending on your flow, check and change at will (I usually do every 6 hours). When on the go, have another in your bag, ready. The used pad can be kept in a plastic bag and cleaned when at home. They are washer friendly, but can also be hand washed (if you’re up for that!). I tend to hand wash them the day of, and then throw them in the washer at the end of the cycle to ensure they’re clean and reduce the amount of times I use my washer.

Additionally, I got some pretty nasty rashes from using conventional pads from time to time. Partially this can be traced to chemicals in treating pads, which don’t even show up on their packaging. Since switching, I haven’t had any problems with discomfort especially since most cloth pads are just natural cotton blends.

What else?

With my current cup-clothpad combo, I’m covered and pretty happy for the time being but also have not experimented with some other products. There are definitely a few things here I’ve missed since I haven’t had the time to try every thing out like:

Thinx underwear are absorbent period undies and next on my list.

Menstrual Sponges highly absorbent tampon alternatives


If money is a concern, this is something that can be done gradually since the upfront cost seems higher, but spending $40 for a diva cup that lasts a year as opposed to the collective $130 per year I spent on tampons is a save.


I would strongly encourage ya’ll to:

  • Talk about your period with your friends- what else are people using?
  • Let us know about any other products you used and why you like or don’t like them?
  • Try out any of the products I talked about for your next period and share your story!
  • Do some more research, see what’s out there!


Never has finding reusable products been so accessible and widespread. For the environment, your health, and your wallet, you owe it to yourself to make the switch!

I’ve included some links to read up on the environmental impact of your period and some products that were used to help write this post and for your own purposes:

The Ecological Impact of Feminine Hygiene Products

Women Spend Hundreds of Extra Dollars per Year. Here’s One Easy Out.

Introduction to Cloth Pads

Lunapads: Why Switch


Sources Cited

  1. Xperc Blog, “A Menstrual Cup? Is That What It Sounds Like? Gross.” (June 10, 2017) Accessed at:
  2. 2.Safe Cosmetics, “Cumulative Exposure And Feminine Care Products” (2016) Accessed at:
  3. Lunapads, “Why Switch: Environment” (2018) Accessed at:

First Picture Taken from the Anti-June Cleaver, “Have a Happier, Greener Period: What you Need to Know About Menstrual Products” (Feb. 14,  2016)

Second picture Taken from smartcanucks, “Government Removing Tax on Feminine Hygiene Products on July 1st”, (May 28, 2015)

Written by Ash Hulewicz

October 11, 2018


2 thoughts on “Bleeding Sustainably

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