Eco-Friendly Periods for Female Travelers

Women spend 1/4 of their mature lives dealing with their periods. We all deal with it, and yet I think we tend to avoid any sort of reflection or meditation on just how significant periods can be.

Have you ever stopped to think about how disposable pads and tampons all end up in a landfill? Each women tosses between 250-300 pounds of menstruation-related garbage away in her lifetime. In one year, 12 billion pads and 7 billion tampons are used once and tossed in the US alone. Think about not only all those tampons, but also plastic applicators, wrappers, and boxes!

Other downsides: Tampons can cause toxic shock syndrome and many other infections. They also leave chemicals and fibers on the walls of your vagina, and can dry it out, which can lead to even more infections!

To top it all off, tampons are expensive and annoying. How many times have you needed a tampon but forgot to throw one in your purse? How much money do you spend on them every cycle? Have you ever traveled in a third world country where tampons aren't even an option, only big diaper sized sanitary napkins? NO FUN.

That's why about two years ago, I finally decided I had had enough. No more abuse. There was a craft market in Quito around winter break and I found a booth of awesome hippies selling reusable pads and menstrual cups. I'd heard about Diva Cups for years, and decided it might be time to finally check them out.

So I invested in a set of reusable pads and a menstrual cup. 6 pads were about 30 bucks, and the menstrual cups can run anywhere from 26-40 bucks for one. Seems like a lot of money up front, but they last a long time.

Cloth pads work like this. You buy different sizes and use them according to how heavy your flow is. I just sleep in them (don't like to wear pads during the day because of the diaper feel), and let my parts breathe at night. One set can last a couple of years. I have had my pads for two years and they seem to be fine. In the mornings, I rinse them out in the sink, and then wash them with a normal load of laundry.

Many different options-

Menstrual cups are a little more tricky. These are a small silicone or latex cup that you insert in the vagina and leave for 8-12 hours. That's about how long they take to fill up (although on a heavier day, you might need to empty it out every 4-6 hours). Then you just dump it out into the toilet or sink, and pop it back in!

Pick your favorite!

Menstrual Cups have been awesome for me as a traveler. They are clean and I don't have to worry about replacing or disposing of them. You can wash them with soap or boil them. Cups are great for exercising, and I used mine while scuba diving with no problems at all. One cup can last up to ten years so it's a real money saver when you are on the road.

Learning to use menstrual cups takes a couple cycles. For me, it works if I am standing; I rotate it once as I am inserting it, and then run my middle finger around the edge to make sure it is sealed and not bent. And voila! This process took about three months for me to figure out, and it's different for every female. Also, make sure you get the right fit. There are different sizes for women who have given birth, or women of different ages.

I know there is an 'ick' factor to dealing with disposing your blood, but it doesn't have to be! In public restrooms, I just bring a bottle of water with me in the stall to rinse the cup out, and it's never a big deal. The hippies I met in Quito recommended I save the leftover blood to use as fertilizer for my garden, but that's a little extreme for me personally, and I think I'm really doing my part as is.

I feel a lot more in touch with my body, and overall healthier and more aware. I know what I am doing is better for both myself and the environment, and I urge anyone reading this: get on this menstrual cup bandwagon!


  1. It took me a couple months to get the hang of the Diva Cup but I'm glad I stuck with it because it works so well! Thanks for spreading the word about this! So many girls still have no idea these exist.


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