How to Practice Easy Bargain Environmentalism #4
Save & Be Green at the Same Time — #4 Menstrual Cups
I often hear the argument that making greener choices means spending more money, suggesting that environmentally friendly choices are a luxury of the upper middle class and above.
But that is not entirely true. With smart purchases and small efforts, you can help the planet and your wallet.
Each week, I present a new tip that will help save both your money and the environment.
Disclaimer: this tip only concerns folks who ovulate.
This Week’s Green Tip is: Use a menstrual cup
The average menstruater spends 6.25 years living with Aunt Flo (once a month for about 38 calendar years).
I have used a menstrual cup for over three years now, and I wouldn’t trade it for anything else (other than skipping the whole process of menstruation). A menstrual cup is a medical-grade silicone cup that is worn inside the vagina and catches period blood.
Pre-cup days, every time I had to throw away handfuls of wrappers, applicators, and spoiled products, I felt immense guilt for all the waste I was creating 12 weeks out of the year. So, I started researching alternatives. I considered applicator-free tampons, but was more intrigued by the idea of the menstrual cup for its more extreme waste reduction.
Tampons, applicators, and wrappers are found amongst debris in the ocean and regularly wash up on coastlines.
Menstrual cup research left me feeling pretty unsure because the reviews were polarizing. Some people declared the cup the worst thing they’ve ever attempted to use. Others said they would never go back to traditional pads or tampons.
About 70% of menstruaters use tampons.
I decided to try it for myself—so, I bought a Diva cup. I was instantly impressed by the tiny amount of waste involved — one package and that’s it! (The DivaCup website states, “a general guideline is to replace [your cup] once a year, but ultimately, it is up to the consumer to decide when it is necessary to replace the cup.” A high-quality menstrual cup with the basic care/cleaning can last for years, dramatically cutting down on waste.)
Many tampon users also use panty liners for backup protection (additional cost and waste).
After a few rounds of trial and error, I figured out how to make the cup work for my body. And I haven’t looked back.
The average of 20 tampons per period, equates to roughly 240 per year—9,120 per lifetime.
240 tampons, applicators, and wrappers per year per tampon-user is a lot. It might not seem like it when you think about all those tampons fitting in one jumbo box at a wholesale warehouses. It’s just one box of waste, right?
Think of it this way: there are roughly 170 million women in the U.S. Let’s say that half of them are of menstruating age at any given time. That means the tampon-using 70% of the 85 million menstruating women are throwing away roughly 14.28 billion tampons, applicators, and wrappers in the U.S. each year.
It would take the Eiffel Tower and the Statue of Liberty to balance out that scale!
And that is the U.S. alone.
Five years’ worth of U.S. tampon waste weighs roughly the same as the Empire State Building.
It might seem gone and forgotten once you toss it in the bin, but your bloody waste is here to stay. So, it’s probably best to reduce the mess you make.
One average menstruater produces 95 lbs. of waste during a lifetime of periods—that doesn’t include any pads or panty liners.
A user's yearly costs for tampons range from $34 (basic type in bulk) to $108 (organic).
Menstrual cups can cost as little as $15 or as much as $70. The DivaCup, which is what I use, is usually about $25.
Even if you throw out your menstrual cup once a year, you will save money compared to the cost of tampons, and produce less waste.
But, if you buy a quality cup and take good care of it, you should get several years of use out of one cup—saving even more money.
I’ve convinced four of my friends to try using the cup instead of tampons or pads, and all four are now die hard cup fans.
The cup is not for everyone (it is a personal choice and might not work for all bodies), but I suggest that every menstruater try it for the sake of their wallet and the environment (unless otherwise directed by a medical professional).
Bonus benefit! Perfect for travel - lightweight, small, and highly portable.
Note: I use the term “menstruater” to be inclusive of all bodies that menstruate—regardless of “gender.”
If you implement and encourage others to use greener methods of living, you will reduce your carbon footprint and the amount of waste you create.
While every effort to live greener is a worthwhile cause, there’s always more you can do to help. First and foremost, vote for representatives who understand that climate change is real and deadly — people who value the planet and its inhabitants over a pocketful of cash. Second, vote with your wallet. Buy from businesses that make eco-conscious products.