Periods Got A Serious Makeover: The Sustainable Choices That Are Better For You & The Planet


It was 1998. Having hidden a sanitary towel inside the sleeve of my school jumper, my attention became focused concealing the rustling so as not to give the game away. Even though I went to an all girls school, and we had a matron offering a rotation of hot water bottles when the need arose, the embarrassment around periods was second to none. You didn’t talk about it and you suffered in silence – apart from when it was the only accepted excuse for getting out of a 9.15am swimming lesson in the unheated outside pool.

Periods were seen as mortifying and shameful, despite every single girl within that school experiencing them at some point during their time there, and despite them being such a normal part of growing up. Our sanitary wear was clunky, packaged in bright pink wrappers and not exactly designed to make your period a pleasant experience; we were told we shouldn’t be held back by our periods, but also subconsciously lead to believe they should still be hidden away from public view; we were made to feel like we were dirty for simply menstruating, but also that wallowing was the only way to get through those uncomfortable and messy few days.

Unfortunately for teenage me, the conversation and attitudes surrounding periods hasn’t changed in decades; it’s only recently that we’re opening up and discussing our intimate health and the choices we’re making, even if periods remain one of the last taboos. The products we use every month hadn’t been re-designed or re-imagined in generations, while the pure amount of waste caused by tampons and towels wasn’t even on the agenda – but that’s now all changing, thanks to a whole new crop of period products driven by sustainability, optimum health and convenience.

8 Sustainable Tampon Brands: Periods Better For You & The Planet

It’s estimated that the average woman uses up to 12,000 towels or tampons in her lifetime, with over a billion predominantly plastic period products ending up in UK landfill annually. (100 billion globally.) We’re increasingly concerned about single use plastic and collectively make every effort to remember our reusable bags / cups / straws, but an area that impacts 50% of the population has been left to remain an invisible contributor to our waste issue; until now that is.

With a wave of innovative, kind-to-body and sustainable tampon and towels launching into the mainstream (now available at Boots, Superdrug, Waitrose & Sainsbury’s – but Tesco, ASDA & Morrisons need to do better) there’s never been an easier way to make better choices.

Driven by the knowledge that millions of plastic applicators are thrown away every year, DAME* have invented the first ever re-usable applicator that’s designed to last a lifetime. Self-sanitising thanks to its medical grade plastic, it’s been designed to work with every tampon while offering an easy solution for on-the-go; the handy lid ensures you just need to give it a wipe between uses if you can’t get to a tap to rinse it, while the award-winning design ensures it’s incredibly discrete. Although I no longer use applicator tampons (ironically because I was concerned about the amount of plastic waste!) this is a great alternative for those of you that do.

Available in a starter pack (£24.99) which contains the re-useable applicator, a stash of their own design cotton tampons and a pouch you can pop in your bag, I’m so pleased that it’s now available from Waitrose as well as online. DAME is a brand really trying to make a difference and has sustainability at the heart of everything they do – with minimal packaging, recycled materials and even a donations made to reduce period poverty part of their brand ethos.

8 Sustainable Tampon Brands: Periods Better For You & The Planet

Another increasing area of concern is the pure amount of chemicals the mainstream brands use in the production of their tampons; historically they’ve featured dyes, fragrances, dioxins and even pesticides, none of which are going to be beneficial to your body and all of which could be soaked up by our highly absorbent vaginas. A brand worth discovering to resolve this issue is Callaly*, who use only soft organic cotton across their range to ensure your period is kinder to your body and the planet; not only that, but their gynecologist founder has invented the first innovation in periods for over 80 years in the form of the Tampliner – a tampon and liner combo. (Who knew a sustainable tampon could also be so clever!)

With 70% of women reportedly wearing a liner alongside their tampon ‘just in case’, this removes the need for extra products by combining a discrete liner that sits inside the labia to offer increased protection. It may take some getting used to, but I love what they’re trying to do and I love the fact they’re sustainable, give back to communities who need support (they’ve committed to invest at least 1% of sales into projects that support and empower people with periods,) and are committed to ensuring 100% of their product is biodegradable (currently it’s 95%.) They even offer a subscription service so you can tailor exactly what you need to reduce wastage, excess packaging and inconvenience.

And they’re not the only ones.

TOTM also offer both organic and sustainable tampons, towels and menstrual cups in non-patronising discrete-but-cool packaging. Ohne not only offer an organic cotton tampons with a no-bull approach to periods, but they support this with a range of cramp-reducing and mood-balancing CBD oil to ensure you don’t have to put up with unnecessary discomfort. (I haven’t tried this yet, but you bet an order is on its way to me!) Flo have designed their organic cotton tampons to fit inside an ‘ice cream tub’ (who says you can’t have fun with periods!) while their pads are made from natural bamboo; order as a one-off, buy from Boots or sign up to have a box delivered to your door every month. And if that’s not enough to tickle your fancy, then I urge you to discover Kind Organic, Cottons and Freda too – all of whom are doing great things to make periods healthier, kinder and less taboo.

8 Sustainable Tampon Brands: Periods Better For You & The Planet

Finally, in 2020, periods are getting the same level of attention as every other area of our daily regimes. Brands are identifying the need to be more transparent, positive and ethically driven while making period products to suit our genuine needs – rather than just making them pink and telling us to get on with it.

Those few days a month are uncomfortable enough as it is without having to worry about things like tampons; this new generation of names really do care about women as much as they care about the world in which we live, and I’m totally here for it.

Moving forward I really want to make better choices when it comes to the products I buy and the amount of waste I contribute, and my monthly visit from Mother Nature provides a great place to start. I’m committing to leave the Lil Lets behind in favour of some of these brands that are really trying to break down barriers, bring periods into the mainstream conversation, give back to communities, protect the planet and ensure optimum body health. Will you commit to using a sustainable tampon too?

8 Sustainable Tampon Brands: Periods Better For You & The Planet

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1 Comment

  1. February 13, 2020 / 9:57 am

    I like that period supplies are now being offered gratis in schools. It never occurred to me that “period poverty” is an issue, so its great to see that part of the stigma being addressed as well as eco-friendliness.

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