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Top 3 Cost-Saving & Eco-Friendly Alternatives To Pads And Tampons

Sophia Surrett  |  July 21, 2021

Looking to make a sustainable switch that can also save you money on pads and tampons? We’ve got you! Check our list of the best options.

No, women’s periods haven’t changed. But women have. And the menstrual products industry is evolving with us. 

Women are busy, and we need convenience. Enter monthly period subscription box services like Lola, LadyBoxBoutique and AthenaClub, which have completely eliminated our need to head out to the store every month. (And of course there’s next-day Amazon delivery, or even same-day, depending on where you live and how desperate you are.) These subscription boxes have gained traction over the last decade, as Americans began to gravitate to home delivery for almost everything, and women grew to love the convenience of never having to worry about running out of our favorite products. 

But we also want those products to be less toxic for our bodies and the environment — all of the period subscription boxes mentioned offer 100% organic products that are better both for you and mother nature… But many women wanted to take their environmental efforts a step further, and with good reason. Around 12 billion pads and 7 billion tampons are discarded each year in this country alone, and end up in landfills. 

And all this is to say nothing of the financial cost — a box of 12-24 pads in a physical store, from Amazon, or from Lola or a similar service all hover around $10 each. Multiply that times 12 months in the year, and you’re easily spending $120 on your period annually, if not more, as we often end up having to snag a stray box of overpriced tampons at a convenience store due to a random period emergency. 

So in addition to wanting convenience, non-toxic and environmentally-friendly sustainable products, women also want  affordable options. And ladies — have we got options. This week, we took a look at our favorite brands making solid alternatives to pads and tampons… Because honestly it’s a heck of a lot easier to #runtheworld without having to make an extra stop at CVS. 

The Cup 

It seems menstrual cups have been all the talk in my group texts lately, and for good reason. These medical-grade silicone-based cups last up to 10 years, they have a 12-hour wear time and eliminate the need to throw pads and tampons into a landfill every month. Most menstrual cups range in cost from $20 – $40, which means that although they are a steeper investment than a box of your favorite tampons, after about three of your monthly cycles, you’ll be saving money. According to a study from Lancet Public Health, switching to a cup can help you save up to 90% of what you would be spending on traditional products, over the course of a couple of years. 

But the real questions here (ones that I’ve definitely had as I’ve considered making the switch) are: Is it messy? Is it hard to use? The truth is, there will be a learning curve, just as there likely was when you were a preteen learning to put in a tampon, but after a few rounds of experimentation and learning, it will become second nature, says a representative at Diva International, makers of the DivaCup.

And according to Amanda Hearn, Founder of Put A Cup In It, it the cup won’t throw off your natural pH balance like tampons can, since it doesn’t contain any synthetic fibers. Put A Cup In It has a quiz for you to see what cup would be best for you, with a variety of brands to choose from depending on your results. (And Lola, the period subscription service we mentioned also makes a cup.) 

Discs

Discs are very similar to cups, but they’re different in width and use. They’re slightly wider than a cup. But much like the cup, menstrual discs can be kept in for up to 12 hours (depending on your flow) and they come in two varieties: reusable discs as well as disposable disc. On average, disposable discs are priced at around $1.50 each, and reusable discs run around $40. If you’re looking to browse discs, you can do so at Put A Cup In It, which also has a disc comparison chart to help you decide which of 8 different brands might be right for you. 

Period-Proof Underwear 

Period-proof underwear are exactly what they sound like — underwear, but made for flow protection and comfort. With an absorbent liner, these panties completely eliminate the need for you to wear pads or tampons, you just wash out the panties when you get home. These generally range from $10 to $50 per pair, depending on the brand, their level of absorbency and the type of panty. Some popular brands include Joyja, Knix, and SheThinx. Hearn suggests doing your research on these products, as you might only want these as a “backup” to your regular products, especially if you have a heavy flow. If you’re not sure what kind of panty to get — never fear. Most brands have quizzes on their homepage for you to take to see exactly the kind of panty that’s best for your flow and your preferred type of underwear. 

Find What’s Best For You 

For decades, whenever it was time for our periods, we’ve been tossing our pads and tampons into our totes and heading out on our way… It’s hard to imagine that changing. But don’t be afraid to give some of these products a shot. And yes, if you’re on a tight budget, a $40 investment for a product that you’re worried that you might actually hate can seem like a lot. But your investment can pay off quickly if you find something you like and stick with. Also, keep in mind that you can now use dollars from your FSAs (flexible spending accounts) and HSAs (health savings accounts) to pay for menstural products with pre-tax income.

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