The love for eco-friendly and chemical free food, makeup and skin care products is becoming widespread in Australia. One area I feel is overlooked (probably as a result of less marketing) is eco-friendly sanitary products. On one of the most absorbent and sensitive parts of a women’s body, chemical filled pads or tampons are still the norm in Australia. Not only are mainstream pads not ideal for your body, they are far from ecofriendly, only adding to the world’s extraordinary amounts of landfill and pollution. So let’s talk about some more eco-friendly and body-friendly options for managing a period.
The more eco-friendly sanitary product options
Whilst there are other methods used around the world, the most common in Australia are pads, tampons and more recently, the menstrual cup.
The menstrual cup is the most environmentally friendly option; it’s reusable, made from soft silicone (so plastic free) and you can wear it for up to 12 hours before it needs to be replaced. They are free from chemicals, don’t dry out the vagina like a tampon and they preserve healthy bacteria that help protect you from yeast and bacterial infections. The down side is, if you’re out, some may feel awkward emptying or cleaning out a cup of blood in a public bathroom.
Organic tampons have been getting a lot of marketing hype in recent years, partly in response to traditional tampons link to toxic shock syndrome (TSS) – a rare, life-threatening condition linked to tampon use. However, organic tampons do not stop the risk of TSS, they are just more environmentally friendly. The risk of TSS heightens when a tampon (organic or not) is left in for more than 6 hours or is too absorbent for your flow.
Whilst pads don’t have the threat of TSS, it doesn’t mean by default any old pad is better for you. Organic Pads have not had the same publicity as organic tampons, but they are still worthy of your attention, especially if you are most comfortable wearing pads throughout your period. Although a pad isn’t the most eco-friendly sanitary product (as they still go to landfill), you can still choose a MORE eco-friendly and body friendly pad.
Things to consider when looking for an organic eco-friendly sanitary pad
Certified organic cotton
I’ve talked before about the importance of using certified organic products. The most popular certification company in Australia is Australian Certified Organic. However there are other certification bodiesthat are recognised within Australia.
Organic cotton on more than just the top sheet
Many organic pads are only using organic cotton for the top sheet – the part that touches your skin. Whilst this is a better start than traditional pads, it’s best to opt for an organic cotton core too because not only is it better than your body, it is better for the cotton farmers’health (as they farm without pesticides and herbicides) and further, cotton will break down quicker in landfill than other synthetic absorbing materials.
It is so important to make sure that the organic and natural pad really does absorb – because after all, that’s why you’re wearing it right!? Many still have weak absorption compared to their synthetic counter parts so it’s good to look for organic and natural pads that do something to solve absorption issues and guard against those dreaded leaks!
Natural pulp absorbers that are PEFC certified
One way of addressing these absorption issues is by using a natural absorber in addition to the organic cotton. The natural absorber is usually a fibre from wood pulp. This is a more natural alternative to commonly used synthetic Superabsorbent Polymers (SAPs). PEFC certified (Programme for the Endorsement of Forest Certification) wood pulp is important because it means the pulp was acquired in a sustainable eco-friendly manner. PEFC also replants trees to replace what was used.
Totally Chlorine Free (TCF) Bleaching
Bleaching cotton is what gives the pad a perfectly white look. TCF is a bleaching method without nasty chemicals (including chlorine) that can potentially release Dioxins which are persistent organic pollutants (POPs). Synthetic mainstream pads use chlorine bleaching or ECF (Elemental Chlorine Free) bleaching. ECF bleaching doesn’t use cheap chlorine gas, it uses other compounds of chlorine and still may create POPs. TFC however, doesn’t create dioxins or furans and is the most eco-friendly bleaching method.
Breathable waterproof barrier
Leakage is the last thing you want from your pad – so waterproof barriers are recommended! Breathability found in more natural or plant based backings (and organic cotton top sheets + cores) is important for both comfort and avoiding increasing the likelihood of yeast infections which are encouraged in a moist environment.
Independently dermatologically tested on people, not animals
One of the common seals that can be found to cover this is the dermatest-seal. This means dermatologists have tested the product does not cause irritation or allergic skin reactions on sensitive skinned volunteer test persons.
Fragrances are one of the biggest irritants in skincare, so it is best to avoid products that include these.
Biodegrable where possible
A biodegradable product is preferable where possible. Consider the pad and any packaging. At present technology that allows for optimal functionality and shelf life plus a cost effective product can make it difficult to find completely biodegradable pads. However, the more organic and natural the make up of the pad, the quicker it will breakdown in landfill.
Cost and determining what suits you
Sometimes budget restrictions mean we can’t hit all of these preferences. I would recommend choosing what is most important to you and prioritising that in your chosen product. Living an eco-friendly lifestyle doesn’t mean you always have to make perfect eco-friendly choices, all the time. Sometimes, we only have the capacity to make small changes at a time, and that’s okay! As I’ve always encouraged, some change is better than no change. If everyone made SOMEchange towards eco-friendly options, our earth and our bodies would be in a far better position.
My choice pad
I have been using Audrey Sun Double Core Pads and liners, designed in Australia, they have a certified organic cotton core absorber, top sheet and a natural secondary core absorber with a breathable waterproof layer on the back. The patented double layer absorber structure provides an excellent natural solution to the weaker absorption found in other organic brands. I find them an affordable more natural and organic option. Their pads are TCF and they are certified to the Organic Content Standard by Control Union to have 100% organic cotton (OCS 100). Whilst this isn’t an Australian approved certification company, I have reviewed their testing standards and I am happy with an international certification as a trade off for a reasonable price (products range between $8.65-$9.90, although they are on saleat the moment and you can use the code ‘EPW15’ for a further 15% off the sale price!). They are fragrance free, hold an excellent rated seal from Dermatest and have biodegradable inner packaging with recyclable outer packaging. They’re SAP free and PEFC certified, so on the whole, an environmentally sustainable, organic and natural product at a reasonable cost!
The thoughts and opinions expressed in this article are based on my own research, but proudly sponsored by Audrey Sun. Thank you for supporting the brands that make Eat Pray Workout possible. If you have looked into this topic too I would love to hear your thoughts in the comments below!