How to Have an Eco-Friendly Period While Travelling
In all my years on earth, I’ve never heard anyone say: “You know what I really look forward to? My monthly period.”
As why on earth would you? They’re annoying, inconvenient and sometimes painful. In some countries (like my own of Australia) items like condoms and lubricant are tax-free, whilst pads and tampons are not considered a necessity and carry a goods and services tax (why do I feel like it was a man who made this decision?).
It’s estimated that a woman’s period will cost her almost $20,000 over the course of her lifetime (taking in other factors like birth control, new underwear and satisfying those darn chocolate cravings during times of PMS).
Yet at least we Western women have access to sanitary items – the same can’t be said for many women around the globe.
Don’t forget the waste
From an environmental perspective, our periods wreak havoc on the planet. How many sanitary items do you use each cycle? Quite a lot, I imagine.
When I started my war on plastic in early 2016, my periods were the first area where I had real success. I have not had to buy a single pad, tampon or pantyliner for over two years now and that is indeed a cause for celebration.
On average, I was purchasing two packets of Libra pads, which retailed at around $5 each. So, ten dollars straight up. Every couple of months I’d buy a new box of tampons, nighttime pads, pantyliners, the whole kit and caboodle. So, I was probably using around 15 pads and maybe 3 or 4 tampons a month, plus the odd pantyliner here and there. This would retail to around $45-ish dollars a quarter.
Then I bought my first menstrual cup, which I still use to this day. Since then, I’ve saved myself over $200. Not an amount of cash to be scoffed at, by any means.
And what about when travelling?
Putting all of that upsetting information firmly aside, reusable feminine hygiene items can prove to be a godsend when travelling. I used to have to devote a corner of my suitcase to pads and tampons alone, which was annoying as I would have much rather have packed things like books or snacks.
A menstrual cup on the other hand, folds up relatively easily in a toiletries bag and you can pop a few reusable cloth pads in amongst your undies/pants, for time of crises.
More room for souvenirs and snacks, after all. This can only be a good thing.
An ode to menstrual cups
Buying a menstrual cup was indeed a life-changing moment. My periods have gone from being a monthly nightmare, to something I barely notice. I simply pop the cup in at the first sign of bleeding and empty it morning and night, until my period is over. Easy, peasy.
The first (and so far last) menstrual cup I purchased is a Lunette Reusable Menstrual Cup and it has been worth its weight in gold. Lunette is a Finnish company, but fortunately retail in Australia, which is good as we often get left behind in these sort of things. I originally bought my cup off Amazon all those moons ago, whilst living in London. Click here to check out the colours and prices.
Menstrual cups take a bit of adjusting to at first. You have to learn to insert them properly and pull them out (much like the pain of learning to use a tampon as a tween). I also remember being very aware of its presence the first couple of times I used it, although now I don’t notice it at all. You simply fold the cup over and push it into your vagina. Here’s a handy guide, if you need further assistance.
I empty the cup every morning and night. When I’m done using it, I pour boiling water into a jar and place the cup in there to sanitise it, then pop it in my bathroom cupboard for the four weeks until my next period begins. It’s so simple, it is actually ridiculous.
The Lunette cup has saved my butt (or pants) in many a travel situation, noticeably during long-haul flights between Australia and the UK, long bus and train trips and a two day horse trek in Kyrgyzstan.
Yet, what about when you need a little bit of extra assistance?
Reusable cloth pads for extra protection
I’m totally stepping a toe over the line of how much personal information you should share on a blog here – but my periods aren’t exactly light. I’m an active kinda gal (well, when travelling – at home I tend to sloth around the house with cups of tea and a book) and there have been times where I’ve known that a menstrual cup alone isn’t going to cut it. Sometimes you’re stuck within a flurry of movement from place to place and things like “emptying your menstrual cup” don’t rate as a high priority on your daily to-do list.
Then there are people who flat out can’t use menstrual cups. Yet, you don’t need to default to disposable sanitary pads, when products like Gladrags exist.
US-based company Gladrags make reusable cloth pads that you can chuck in your undies for that layer of extra protection – or just freeball (perhaps an unfortunate choice of words) with them alone.
Their cotton pads are extra cute, with lovely patterning (I like the spots!) and are available in a range of different sizes – from day pads, to night pads and pantyliners to boot (which you can buy as G-String or Thong sized, if that is your personal pants preference).
Here’s a step by step guide for cleaning your reusable cloth pads after use, so that they’re ready to go by your next cycle.
Here’s a possibly inappropriate question – how sustainably friendly are your periods?
Please note: Gladrags and Lunette supplied me with the products reviewed in this post (although my first Lunette cup was purchased out of pocket!). All opinions expressed remain my own.
This post contains affiliate links to products I use and therefore recommend to all other environmentally minded travellers.
Pin me baby, one more time.