Since I had my hysterectomy in June, (Wow! She just jumps right in with the personal stuff, huh?) I have been relieved not to have to deal too much with the issue of plastic-free feminine hygiene products. At the time I started blogging, Crunchy Chicken was running her Diva Cup Challenge and I was happy not to have to consider whether or not to participate.
The Diva Cup, for those who still have not heard about it, is a silicone contraption, kinda like a diaphragm I guess, that you wear inside once a month, rinse out, and reuse. The environmentally-friendly thing about it is that you don’t have any tampon or pad waste each month. But what is silicone?
The Essential Chemistry website says that silicones are “synthetic polymers with a silicon-oxygen backbone similar to that in silicon dioxide (silica), but with organic groups attached to the silicon atoms by C-Si bonds.” It’s the silicon-oxygen backbone that makes it more stable than other plastics. But it’s those organic groups, derived from petrochemicals, that make it similar to other plastics. Is it safe? I don’t know. The makers of the Diva Cup say yes. Feedback from those who can shed light on silicone in general or the Diva Cup specifically is quite welcome.
Personally, I’d rather stick with something more organic. For a while, and before my surgery, I used NatraCare disposable products. The tampons are 100% certified organic, unbleached cotton, and made with or without biodegradable card applicators. The pads and liners are plastic-free, unbleached, plant cellulose and compostable in any backyard composter. I know. I’ve composted them.
Even after the hysterectomy though, I do like to use a liner. (Feel free to move on if this is too much information.) I thought I was doing fine using the NatraCare liners and tossing them in the compost bin until I thought about all the raw materials and energy that go into producing these pads, liners, and tampons. They may be natural. But they are not “no-impact,” are they? So I looked into other alternatives.
LunaPads and GladRags are companies that make reusable, washable cloth menstrual pads and liners. They are sold online and in some stores like Whole Foods and Elephant Pharmacy. I think that tossing a few of these pads into the laundry once a month is probably more eco-friendly than buying new disposables. And much more wallet-friendly too, after the initial purchase.
The problem is that with these pads, you’re pretty much limited to the sizes and shapes available, which, trying not to get too personal, did not satisfy me. I wanted a cloth liner in a different shape.
That’s when I checked one of my favorite websites, Etsy and found a couple of craftswomen who would work with me to customize some handmade liners in the shapes and fabrics that I wanted. The two sellers I’ve worked with are Stella Pads by Ashley Norris (10/2013 Update: Shop seems to be closed) and County Cloth Creations. But there are quite a few Etsy sellers making cloth sanitary products and I’m sure others would be happy to customize pads to your specifications.
The other nice thing about working with the Etsy sellers is that you can communicate how you’d like the package shipped (i.e. no plastic, minimal shipping materials) directly to the craftsperson without having to go through a customer service rep and warehouse and bureaucracy, and you can even check the site to find the sellers closest to your geographical location.
So that’s been my plastic-free feminine hygiene solution. Zero waste liners custom made. What’s yours?