This one’s for all my fellow menstruating humans!
Bleeding every month is a topic that seems to be incredibly taboo… Billions of people experience it, but we still don’t like to talk about it? It’s inconvenient, yes. But it’s also NATURAL! So let’s not be shy in talking about our flow.
As I’m sure we can probably all agree, “that time of the month” is already a bit of a nuisance… And not just for you, but for the planet too. And when we travel, that nuisance seems to be incredibly heightened. But today I’m here to help you turn the table!
What if we could still make our period relatively convenient, whilst creating zero waste, saving money AND improving our overall health? Sounds amazing, right?
Although I’m aiming this post around managing a zero waste period while travelling, please don’t forget that you can apply all of this advice to your life at home too – no discriminating here!
Regardless of whether you’re a pad or tampon user, there’s something on this list here for you. But first, let’s talk about why we need to make some changes…
The issue with disposable menstrual products…
Like most single-use disposable products, when we “dispose” of them, they don’t actually go “away” and the environment ultimately suffers. The problem when we’re talking about menstrual products, however, is that we’re multiplying the waste by billions.
There are currently around 3.8 billion females on the planet (or ‘bleeding humans’ for those that don’t identify with the label) and the average person has around 450 menstrual cycles in their lifetime. If they bled for 5 days every month, using 5 pads or tampons every day, that’s 11,250 disposable products that will end up buried in landfill, littered around the earth or floating in our waterways. Not to mention the plastic packaging they’re often wrapped in…
Now multiply that by 3.8 billion… It’s a lot of waste!
It also takes 500-800 years for disposable pads to biodegrade. Some of the products you use during your period are still going to be around when your great, great, great, great grandchildren are alive. It doesn’t seem right, does it?
This is an instance where we really need to choose consciousness over convenience!
Not only that, but disposables also run the risk of Toxic Shock Syndrome and hazardous chemicals to be absorbed into the body. Many of the traditional disposable products are a result of bleaching or purifying the fibres with chlorine, and as cotton is not a food product, pesticides are often heavily used… So when you’re inserting your cotton tampon, you’re also potentially allowing pesticides and harmful dioxins to be absorbed into your body. To put it lightly, they’re not great for your health either!
In a travelling sense, the inconvenience of disposable products is that you constantly have to go out of your way and buy new pads and tampons. But switching to some of the items I’m about to mention will not only will you save you time AND money, but it will also stop thousands of items from ending up in landfill or polluting our waterways.
If all of this doesn’t convince you to try and make the switch, I’m sure these incredible products will:
Menstrual cups, in a more simple term, are reusable tampons!
A small, soft, silicone cup that is inserted into the vagina just like a tampon, but catches the menstrual fluid rather than absorbing it. The cup is folded when inserting, where it then opens up and forms a seal amongst the vaginal walls to reduce leakage and catch all of your flow! Empty the contents into the toilet, clean, reinsert and you’re good to go.
If you prefer tampons as your period product of choice, this is without a doubt the zero waste alternative for you!
But what brand?
Made by women by women, JuJu Cups are the only Australian made menstrual cups on the market! Made from 100% medical grade silicone derived from natural sand (silica), the JuJu is free from harmful chemicals, chlorine, fragrances and absorption agents. They’re hypoallergenic, do not cause vaginal dryness, come in 100% recyclable packaging printed with plant-based inks and are incredibly cost efficient… I don’t know about you, but that sounds like a win to me!
What makes JuJu so unique, is that unlike many other menstrual cup brands, there are 4 different sizes to suit different anatomy, pelvic floor tone and cervical position. Having a cup that suits you and your body is so important, and with JuJu, you’ll feel confident in knowing that there will be one that’s best suited to you. Click here to find your size!
One of the biggest benefits of menstrual cups (aside from not polluting the environment of course) is that, depending on the heaviness of your flow, your menstrual cup can be worn for up to 8 hours at a time – which is 2-3 times longer than a disposable pad or tampon. It can be worn by those with even the most active of lifestyles, swimming included, which makes it perfect for travelling, on a long journey or during big days of adventure!
If you would like to have some added protection, you could also use a reusable pad or period underwear as a backup. More on that below…
The JuJu cup retails at $49.95 AUD, which I admit can seem quite expensive at first, but please note that with proper care, your cup will last you for up to 10 years! It costs about $5 for a box of 20 disposable tampons, and if you buy one box every cycle, you’d have spent $600 in 10 years. Which basically means that with good care and maintenance, your menstrual cup will save you $550. So look at it as an investment… One that’s good for you, AND for the planet.
If this sounds like something that you’d like to try, have a thorough read of this guide to find out if menstrual cups are the product for you. Make sure it’s something that aligns with you, your contraceptive methods and your health too!
How to clean:
During your menstrual cycle, wash your cup with warm, soapy water after removing and before reinserting. The JuJu Cleansing Wash is recommended due to its special PH balanced formulation that won’t irritate your skin and cause a residue to form on your cup. It is in a plastic bottle, but it’s all about perspective; one plastic bottle is better than hundreds of pads and tampons. The JuJu wash is plant-based, palm oil free, cruelty-free, and it can even be used as a face and body wash too… It’s a travellers dream if you ask me!
When you’re out and about or using a public bathroom, take some bottled water into the cubicle with you to rinse your cup, or simply wipe with toilet paper instead. When you next have access to running water, give it a proper clean and you’ll be good to go.
Do make sure that you’re only using water that’s safe for your body. If you can’t drink it, you probably don’t want to be inserting it into your body either. If you can find potable water, that’s best! Otherwise, use a kettle in your hotel/hostel to boil some water and use it to clean your cup. It’s better to be safe than sorry!
At the end of your cycle, place your cup in boiling water for 3-5 minutes to disinfect. This can sometimes be difficult to do whilst travelling without access to a stove, but like I just mentioned, most accommodations have a kettle. If you’re camping or somewhere without that luxury, clean to the best of your ability and then disinfect when you get back home… Do what you can, whenever you can.
Leave it to dry and place in the pouch provided, in a well-ventilated area (not in a tightly enclosed section of your bag) until your next period – easy peasy!
We live in a disposable society, there’s no doubt about it, so for many people, the words “reusable menstrual pad” can come with a lot of negative assumptions. I mean, it would be so much easier to throw your pads in the bin and forget they ever existed, but the environment sadly suffers the consequences… And they’re also not great for your body either.
Like I mentioned earlier in this post, disposable pads are made from plastic and synthetic fibres covered in bleach; a bad concoction that you don’t want near your private parts. Reusable cloth pads, however, are soft, comfortable, breathable, non-irritant, incredibly absorbent, good for your body AND environmentally friendly.
Pad wearers, look no more!
It’s easy to instantly assume that cloth pads are difficult to use, but just like disposables, it’s actually very simple. Clip the pad to your underwear, remove every 3-4 hours (depending on the heaviness of your flow) replace with a clean one, wash, dry and repeat – a zero waste period dream!
There are a lot of cloth pad brands on the market, but after trying out a couple of alternatives, I’ve certainly found my fave.
Ecopads Australia is a social enterprise supporting female education, empowerment and environmental projects. They don’t just sell reusable pads, they also work towards providing clean water and sanitation, educational workshops surrounding sex, health and hygiene, general access to cloth pads, encouragement to empower women and educational programs to challenge the cultural stigmas around menstruation.
They have a variety of different shapes and sizes to suit you; from panty liners and overnights, all the way to postpartum and thongs! There’s no doubt that Ecopads will have something here for you. And if that’s not the case, they also welcome custom orders for those who need special absorbencies or designs.
And the very best bit?
For every Ecopad purchased, one pad is donated to a woman, girl or gender nonconforming human in need! How amazing is that?
Aside from all of the incredible social aspects of this Australian company, it’s important to also note that Ecopads are handmade here in Australia, as well as a few ethical partnerships around the world. They are made with love and care, and are created from the most absorbent materials that are used for their environmental stance and impact.
The price of the pads varies depending on the style; the basic starter kit (including 3 pads and a wet bag) is only $50 AUD! And in a very similar sense to the menstrual cup, these are an investment that could last you for many years to come. Some have even claimed to have used the same pads for 18 years! Thorough cleaning and good care will save you a lot of money (and divert thousands of disposable from landfill too – hooray!)
Without getting too graphic or TMI, I recently had a procedure on my cervix which resulted in a lot of blood… My Ecopads were my best friend; they were so easy to clean, super absorbent, they didn’t slip like a lot of other reusable pads, and they were so unbelievably comfortable.
If I’m honest, I’m sad I hadn’t made the switch to Ecopads much sooner!
How to clean:
In general, the best way to clean your reusable pads is by running them under cold water until the water runs clear. From there, you soak them for 24 hours in COLD natural detergent and then pop them in the washing machine with your load as normal (no fabric softeners – they’ll make your pads go mouldy and that’s not very fun!) It’s super simple and perfect for everyday life, but obviously, that’s not always possible when travelling…
So, what’s the alternative?
For those moments when you’re out and about on your period, make sure you take a wet bag with you! When you need to change your pad, fold it up, clip it closed and place in the bag where it’s protected and secure. When you get back home or to your accommodation, soak and hand wash as normal!
If you don’t have access to a sink or somewhere to soak your pads (or if you’re sharing a bathroom and want to be discreet) you can even take a silicone ziplock bag (like this one) or a container of your choice to soak your pads in. Then hand wash and hang somewhere to dry – simple!
I’m not going to lie, cleaning can sometimes be difficult depending on your location, the length of your stay and who you’re travelling with. The same goes if you’re on a fast-paced trip and changing accommodation frequently, as you obviously won’t have time to soak, wash and hang out to dry… But there is an option!
If you know you’re not going to be able to wash, just take an extra wet bag. Be prepared with the number of pads you’ll need for your entire cycle, and just wash them whenever you get the chance. No matter whether you’ll be gone for just a few days, for an entire a week, or whether you’ll be without the time and place to wash for a while, your pads will be fine in your wet bag until you get the chance to give them a good clean!
AND DO NOT BE FEARFUL OF THE SMELL!
I think that’s one of the biggest misconceptions and fears in regards to cloth pads, but periods do not have a bad smell… Especially if you have good hygiene and change your pad regularly! That overly distinct smell that you’re probably aware of, is when your natural bodily fluids (menstrual blood, sweat etc) mix with the many chemicals that are used in disposable pads. But fret not… Ecopads are breathable and made from natural materials that don’t create the same reaction!
You won’t even notice that they’re in your wet bag! I promise.
And hey, don’t be ashamed! Periods are natural and they shouldn’t be taboo. Embrace your monthly bleed and if anyone asks questions, you can use it as a way to spark an inspiring conversation about the positive impact of reusable menstrual products – you got this!
Okay, this is a zero waste period option that you may have never considered…
Period underwear, just like the name suggests, is absorbent period-proof underwear that can be worn throughout all stages of life. They can be used on their own as your daily underwear, as your only menstrual product, or as a back up with other zero waste period products of your choice.
“That time of the month” isn’t normally when you’re feeling your most confident, but Modibodi is an Australian company that helps you feel safe, sassy and sustainable during your monthly bleed.
Modibodi underwear is designed to look like regular underwear, with the added benefits of keeping you dry, leak free, odour free, stain free and stress-free too!
There are 4 different linings that work for different life situations – periods, pee, perspiration and pregnancy. The 4 P’s!
One for modern periods, heavy discharge and bladder leaks. One for getting hot and gloriously sweaty and never smelly. One for dips in the pool and laying in the sand. One for feeding hungry bubs and leaky boobs – Modibodi
All of the four Modibodi designs are made from high-quality natural fabrics that allow the air to circulate while still catching all of the fluid, stopping leaks and keeping you feeling dry. They even have swim and activewear… It’s seriously genius!
I must also note that merino wool IS used in the product lining, BUT they do also have a Vegan range for those that would prefer to steer clear of the animal products!
They have a number of different absorbency levels; super light, light-moderate, moderate-heavy, heavy/overnight, moisture wicking, and maternity too! Sizes range from 3XS all the way to 6XL – there’s something here for absolutely every body type.
Unlike pads or menstrual cups, period underwear can be worn ALL day! Make sure you’ve got a pair that is the right absorbency rate for you and your flow, and you’ll only have to change twice a day; right before you go to bed, and before you start your day the next morning. You can literally go the entire day without knowing you’re even bleeding… Trust me, this is kind of revolutionary.
The only thing with period underwear is that unlike the other alternatives, you’re buying entirely new underwear rather than buying products to use alongside what you already own. But once again, it’s an investment!
The price for Modibodi underwear starts at around $25 AUD and increases with different absorbency levels and product types. It’s said that with good care, Modibodi products can last up to 2 years. It admittedly doesn’t seem as long as the other options mentioned in this post, but that’s about the turnover rate of regular underwear anyway. Not to mention that these products can be worn throughout all stages of life (literally)… It’s a real win!
With menstrual underwear, having your period when your travelling really is no different to being at home. You can do all of the normal activities and have confidence in knowing that your flow is staying exactly where it needs to.
How to clean:
The Modibodi cleaning process is incredibly simple!
After your underwear has caught all of your flow, rinse in cold water until the water runs clear and pop them in a delicates bag on a cold wash cycle. DO NOT SOAK, and do not use fabric softener as it breaks down the natural fibres… Hang out to dry, reuse and repeat!
The great thing about this is that when you’re travelling, the process is really no different. Instead of washing them in a washing machine, just handwash them like you would with your normal underwear when you’re away. If you’re going to be without running water or washing facilities, just take a wet bag with you and store them in there until you return home.
What more can I say? Modibodi has made periods a breeze.
What to do with your unused disposables?
Sustainability is a huge privilege for more reason than one, so if you already have a lot of disposable menstrual products and are looking to make the change, instead of using up your supply, the best thing you can do is give them to those in need!
You can send your unopened disposables to this address:
PO Box 6200
… Where they will be donated to various organisations and community groups who help those who need it the most! You can send the products out of their original box, but please ensure that the individual pad or tampon packaging is unopened and intact.
This is obviously a great option for my fellow Australians, but you can alternatively donate them to a local women’s shelter/charity near you!
So, what are your thoughts? Are you going to make the switch? I’d love to know which of these products is going to be your zero waste period alternative of choice… Let me know in the comments below!
This post is sponsored by JuJu and Ecopads Australia! I only work with brands that I truly love and admire, so you can trust that my words and opinion are 100% my own. Modibodi links are affiliate, meaning that if you purchase through them, I will receive a small commission at no extra cost to you. Your support is much appreciated, as always!