Every week we bring you a simple idea for reducing your carbon footprint and protecting the planet. This week: make the switch to a more eco-friendly sanitary brand with plastic-free products, organic tampons and reusable pads.

Women in the UK will use an average of 11,000 sanitary items in a lifetime, with some 1.5 billion products being flushed down Britain’s toilet’s each year. This can lead to blocked drains and flooded homes, not to mention pollution in natural spaces. And even items that are more responsibly disposed of – that is, put in the bin – are contributing to the waste mountain, as plastic from tampons is considered contaminated. So consider what a pile of 11,000 plastic tampon applicators looks like – that’s all going to landfill.

For a long time, this waste and pollution was considered a necessary evil of sanitary protection, simply because there was no alternative. But today the eco-friendly sanitary product market is overflowing (pardon the pun) with greener, more sustainable options, ranging from menstrual cups to reusable applicators. There’s an eco-alternative that will suit you, however you prefer to manage your period.

The menstrual cup: OrganiCup

There are loads of menstrual cups on the market nowadays, but this one from OrganiCup scores the most points with Ethical Consumer. For the uninitiated, a menstrual cup is a small, flexible cup that’s inserted like a tampon without an applicator. It catches and collects your flow, which can simply be poured down the toilet when it’s time to empty it – you can wear it continuously for up to 12 hours. It’s certainly a departure from traditional sanitary protection, but more and more women are singing the cup’s praises, particularly as it can be reused time and again for years so it saves a lot of money. According to OrganiCup, more than 700,000 women are using their award-winning version, and 9 out of 10 who try it continue to use it.

Price: £21, available in three sizes

The non-applicator tampon: Kind Organic

Not all non-applicator tampons are created the same – even without the plastic some brands can use harsh chemicals, bleaching agents and questionably-sourced materials in their products. Not so with these ones from Kind Organic, which use certified organic cotton and are free from artificial absorbents and perfumes.

Price: £3.29 for 18, available in two absorbencies

The applicator tampon: TOTM

Applicator tampons are one of the biggest offenders when it comes to sanitary waste, simply because the plastic application tube will certainly end up in landfill. TOTM’s applicator tampons, however, come with a biodegradable cardboard applicator. The tampons themselves are made with 100% certified organic cotton – no fragrance, rayon or chlorine bleach – and are individually wrapped in recyclable paper.

Price: from £2.70 for a box of 10, available in four absorbencies

The reusable applicator: DAME

If you like the idea of non-applicator tampons but just can’t part with the applicator, consider buying a reusable one. This award-winning applicator from DAME is smooth as silk, easy to use and is completely self-sanitising – plus it’s carbon neutral! It works with every size of tampon, and comes with its own tin and zip wallet.

Price: £24.99

The plastic-free pad: NatraCare

Did you know that the average pack of conventional pads contains up to five carrier bags’ worth of plastic? These alternatives from NatraCare are plastic free and made from natural, breathable materials, designed to be super soft on your skin and super absorbent for every flow.

Price: From £2.29 for 12, available in a variety of absorbencies, with and without wings

The reusable pad: Bloom and Nora

Traditional sanitary towels are going to end up in the bin no matter what, but these cute alternatives from Bloom and Nora are designed to be reused over and over again – up to 150 times, in fact! Not only that, the company claims that their reusable pads – which should be rinsed in cold water then washed as normal within 48 hours – perform better and are more comfortable than the sticky variety. If you’ve ever had an errant adhesive strip stuck to your nether regions then you’ll know that’s a significant selling point!

Price: From £16.49 for a pack of three, available in a variety of sizes

The period pants: Modibodi

Like the menstrual cup, ‘period pants’ have seen a surge in popularity in recent times. They work exactly as you would imagine – pop the pants on and get on with your day as super slim layers of sustainable material absorbs up to four tampons’ worth of fluid, wick away moisture, prevent odours and fight bacteria. And nope, you won’t feel wet. There are several brands on the market, but Ethical Consumer rates these ones from Modibodi the most highly – they also carry a vegan range.

Price: From £15.50, available in a variety of styles, sizes and absorbencies

The bottom line

Periods are a necessary evil for many, but they needn't take their toll on the planet, too. These eco-alternatives perform just as well, if not better, than the usual big name and supermarket brands. Make the switch away from needless plastic sanitary protection and be rest assured you're doing your bit for nature, even if you're spending several days a month cursing it.

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