How to Have a Zero Waste Period While Travelling
Monthly cycles generate a heck-tonne of waste, that gets sent straight to landfill. Here are some tips on how to have a zero waste period, saving you money in the long run, too!
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 have always been tax-free, whilst pads and tampons are not considered a necessity and carried a goods and services tax for years upon years (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.
Read more: 30+ Eco-friendly Travel Products
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, which is why a zero waste period would be ideal.
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 four 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 zero waste cup, which I still use to this day.
Since then, I’ve saved myself over $400. 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.
Zero waste periods: 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. It’s by far my favourite zero waste feminine hygiene product.
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 [easyazon_link identifier=”B00NB3SMOY” locale=”US” tag=”birdgehls10-20″]here[/easyazon_link] to check out the colours and prices.
Read more: Menstrual Cup Madness – An Interview With Lunette Australia
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.
Read more: Everything You Need to Know About Zero Waste Travel
When I’m done using it, I pour boiling water into a jar and place the cup in there to sanitise it, clean it with the [easyazon_link identifier=”B0041MJGAI” locale=”US” tag=”birdgehls10-20″ localize=”y”]special solution[/easyazon_link], then pop it in my bathroom cupboard for the four weeks until my next period begins.
It’s so simple, it is actually ridiculous. Ta-dah – zero waste period.
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 – do you have zero waste periods? If not, why not?
Other posts you may like
Go plastic free with a zero waste travel kit
How to avoid plastic when you don’t speak the language
Eco friendly products you should always pack
Responsible travel bloggers you should be following
7 benefits of a plastic-free lifestyle
20 ways you can travel responsibly and save money
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.
I love that these kinds of topics aren’t taboo for you! Most people in Australia seem to suffer almost a heart attack if you dare mention the word ‘period’. Or maybe I just hang out with the wrong kind of people! 😉
Anyway, this is something I’ve been thinking about for some months now. I’m still not convinced that they’d be awesome going camping (without facilities other than basic composting toilets) or overnight hikes. But then I think often I’m actually doing that compared to being comfy at home / having easy access toilets!
And do you really only have to empty them 2x a day?! So you wouldn’t worry about having to empty them at work, for example?
Oh and that GST thing… gee, that bugs me no end! As if you had a choice?!! Yep, I agree, that decision was definitely not made by a woman.
Thank you Kati! I’m sure elsewhere there are heaps of weirdos like me who are always willing to complain loudly about their cramps. 🙂
Re the camping issue – I don’t go camping a lot, but I typically got mine when I went to Kyrgyzstan and had to empty it in squat toilets, with no showering facilities around for two days. I actually think it ended up being less of an inconvenience than dealing with disposables, as I’m not sure where I would have put them. Whereas I could just pour a bit of water on my cup and it was right to go again.
Possibly TMI, but I hope it helps shed a bit of clarity on the situation. And nope, never have had to empty them at work, then everyone’s bodies are different (I also made sure to get the biggest cup).
Well, if you managed in Kyrgyzstan, I’m sure I can manage in Australia! 😀 I’ve had to deal with period stuff while overnight hiking in Peru for three days and it was a pretty horrid affair (I managed but it’s not in my top 5 things ever done and dealing with the rubbish was less than exciting). You’re certainly making me quite keen to try them out now!
Menstruation is a ruiner of fun activities. Period. 😉
Oh crikey, you crack me up! 😀 😀
I’ve never come across someone who looks forward to them, but if such a person does exist, they’re more than welcome to have mine too! VAT on sanitary products has only recently been lifted in the UK – I don’t know how it took so long for legislation to cotton onto the fact that periods are not a luxury, and something that (I suspect) many women would happily go without. I’m intrigued by these menstrual cups, though I think I’d need to do some more digging to figure out whether they’d work for me (long story short: contraception has wreaked havoc with my body).
Ah yeah, I think was still in the UK whilst the debate was being had. Hopefully we’ll catch up eventually in Oz, but the pollies drag their feet on nearly everything that isn’t in their best interests. o_0 I think most women would happily go without! So much less drama involved. Yeah, look into it for sure – dunno if it helps, but I get bad cramps no matter what I do or use – which is why I’m also glad the reusable pads exist.
Only been using a menstrual cup for a couple of months but absolutely love it – hygienic, eco-friendly, cost-effective and so much more convenient! Haven’t been on a long haul flight with it yet but I already know it’s going to be so much better than dealing with pads or tampons. Well done for spreading the word!
Thanks Laura! When I finally got one in 2015 I was like “Ah, why did I wait so long?” Love the savings environmentally and in a monetary sense, as well as the fact that I get to stick it to the taxman!
This seems to handy! I should really get myself one! It’s a shame that pads cost so much… we should all start using a menstrual cup.
Yes! I think their should be subsidised by the govt!
I’ve been meaning to invest in one for ages. And by ages, I do mean at least four years. Although until now I’ve kind of thought of them as almost too good to be true and all the rave reviews online as some sort of conspiracy, but I’m going to take your word on it (as a person I know-ish and trust) and actually get myself on Amazon and buy one of these bad boys (or girls). LC of Birdgehls, saving the planet 1 woman at a time!
Haha, oh man pressuuuuure! They do seem a bit too good to be true, but I think they’re worth the hype. What colour did you pick? Hope you love it.