Many of the single-use plastic items we use on a day-to-day basis have come under scrutiny recently — and rightly so. These products end up in our forests and oceans and are even ingested by animals, and they can take upward of 1,000 years to decompose.
If you’re trying to reduce your impact on the environment, you’ve already switched from plastic shopping bags to reusable totes, have ditched straws or are only using metal ones, and bring your own travel mug to your local coffeehouse.
But what about your feminine hygiene products? If you haven’t considered more sustainable period products, consider this: The average woman is estimated to use more than 10,000 pads and tampons in her lifetime. In the case of tampons, it can take centuries for the plastic applicator to decompose. And because standard feminine products like tampons and pads are capturing human waste, they are largely unrecyclable.
A lot of women, even women who care about environmental issues, may not have thought about the impact their periods have on the environment. Menstruation is still a subject that many people are embarrassed to talk about, and it’s been largely left out of the human waste conversation. One company hoping to change that is Thinx.
You might already be familiar with the company, which was founded in 2014, as the creator of period-proof underwear. Since then, Thinx has expanded its offerings in the space, creating more styles and designs of its signature panties, as well as training shorts, leotards and unitards that give extra support for those with more active lifestyles.
Additionally, in the past few years, Thinx has become a more vocal player in the environmental movement. “Disposable, non-reusable, plastic menstrual hygiene products are a major problem for our planet,” a Thinx representative told us. “According to the European Commission, period solution products are the fifth most common type of plastic pollution found in our world’s oceans. In the US alone, approximately 12 billion pads and tampons are discarded each year — accounting for roughly 275 pounds of landfill pollution per person.”
There clearly was a need in the market for products that offered the same level of support during women’s menstrual cycles but in a more eco-conscious way. Thinx’s answer to this is two of its newest offerings: the Thinx Super panty (which for many will be a full replacement to all single-use feminine care products) and re.t.a, the company’s sustainable solution to disposable tampon applicators.
The latter is the first FDA-cleared reusable tampon applicator, and is meant to be used in conjunction with applicator-free tampons (most organic tampons fit this designation). This eco-friendly creation was envisioned by the Thinx team as a “new way to grow, change and empower people with periods,” and took approximately four years for the brand to develop. The re.t.a is made of medical-grade materials and does not contain BPA or or natural rubber latex. While it’s not going to eliminate your environmental footprint completely (it still requires the use of tampons), the re.t.a does eliminate half of the waste issue that comes along with some period products and is ideal for those who prefer applicator tampons.
An even greener option is the Thinx Super, the brand’s most absorbent period-proof underwear. Each holds the equivalent of four tampons (double the amount of its previous designs), yet feels and looks like typical underwear. How exactly does it work? All Thinx underwear is fitted with moisture-wicking, odor-controlling, leak-resistant and super absorbent layers which soak up fluids quickly without bulkiness, to help keep your clothing and sheets stain-free. That means that yes, you can wear a pair of these throughout the day, even at work, and still feel comfortable. When you’re finished with a pair, you run the undies under cold water and then throw them into your delicate laundry cycle for a deeper clean. Once they’re dry, they’re ready to be used all over again.
If you’re a longtime tampon user, it’s normal to feel apprehensive at first about taking the plunge. But as someone who has recently made the switch, I can attest that my periods feel less debilitating and worrisome. I no longer worry about spotting or planning out my tampon changes during a busy workday. In terms of quantity, I found that five pairs per cycle was the most effective replacement for single-use products. On my heaviest days, or days where I needed the most backup, I would use Thinx as the most foolproof panty liner around. On average, I now use anywhere from zero to two tampons per cycle with Thinx.
Because no two periods are the same, no Thinx regimen is either. Those who are unsure what they’ll want in their arsenal can take a short quiz on the Thinx site via its Know Your Flow questionnaire. Thinx also allows shoppers to test out the brand risk-free, with a 60-day money-back guarantee as well as free, no-hassle returns.
While Thinx was the pioneer in the space, it’s not the only sustainable period player out there. Brands like Modibodi, Knix and Ruby Love are other purveyors of period panties that function similarly to Thinx’s designs, while other companies such as Lunapads and GladRags offer sustainable, reusable alternatives to disposable pads. And another popular alternative to single-use tampons and pads is the menstrual cup (companies like DivaCup and Flex are best-known for these).
Regardless of the method you use to swap out your single-use feminine hygiene products, know that any of these options can have a significant impact on the planet, and no lifestyle change is too small to be overlooked.