As a result of several conversations on this topic over the past couple of months, I decided that a post could be helpful to other females out there who are curious about environmentally and economically friendly methods of feminine care. SO, here's the disclaimer: This post discusses feminine products. Read on if you like, but don't feel obligated!
I am a self proclaimed outdoor adventurer. I may not have as many opportunities to explore and take advantage of the outdoors as I did before my life as a Peace Corps volunteer, but those crazy adventures and the time spent outside left me looking for feminine products that were more environmentally friendly and convenient. This search also led me to more economically friendly products. After many days, weeks or possibly months of researching, I finally took the leap and moved into the world of reusable (yes, you read correctly, reusable) feminine products as a method for caring for myself during my menstrual cycle.
The thought of reusing your feminine products may sound disgusting at first, but when you consider the chemicals and such that are being used to make disposable items (and the idea of carrying used feminine products around with you while backpacking - remember, Leave No Trace!) it all balances out. While there are many similar products out there, I decided to try the Diva Cup. It was an investment to be sure, but when you consider the price of buying tampons, pads and/or pantyliners on a monthly basis it becomes a true money saver. Plus, you don't need to worry about how many of the above listed items you might need to carry with you on a week-long outdoor adventure (or reschedule if you are worried about your period coming while in the great outdoors) you just bring one item, the feminine cup.
While you can't buy the Diva Cup directly from their website, I followed their link to Lunapads.com and entered into the world of reusable pads and pantyliners as well. I did some more looking around online and decided to purchase a starter kit with the Diva Cup and a couple of Lunapad pantyliners. When they showed up in the mail I opened the package with curiosity. I was even more curious now and when my next period came I jumped in and tested the products. As most things say on discussion boards about all of the reusable products that are out there, it takes some getting used to.
Some people may have a longer adjustment period to this new method of personal care during menstruation, but after about a day I pretty much had it down. I must admit, I love the change. It has been about four years now and I have not purchased any other feminine products since [initial purchase: ~$55, estimated cost of disposable products over four years: ~$380 (depending on your flow and preferred products); that's a whopping $325 saved! I said economically friendly before, right?]
My Diva Cup and Lunapads (I've also tried and liked GladRags; so really I guess we're looking at $300 saved over four years) have been with me on numerous backpacking trips, through months of martial arts classes, bike riding, horseback riding, running, dancing,and rock climbing among other things. They work, they work well. I recommend looking into them a little further if you're interested.
If you're concerned about usage or care of these products, it's really quite simple. You can wash the pads just like anything else, soaking them in cold water after use and before laundry day is a good idea for stains, but they are durable items. The cup can be washed out with soapy water in the shower, you can use baby wipes on the go and at the end of your cycle most can be boiled for a few minutes to sanitize them.
And if you're curious, a video about how to use the feminine cup watch the following video:
The other product that I looked into was an epilator. A friend had mentioned this method of hair removal to me; she had told me that she never shaves, but instead epilates every 4 to 6 weeks. I was intrigued to say the least, but forgot about it after our visit. Upon Chris and my acceptance into the Peace Corps I started thinking about what our living conditions might be and when we found out we were going to be in tropical Costa Rica hair removal systems were once again on my radar.
Chris solved the purchasing problem for me; he bought one for me for Christmas. I'll admit that it takes a little getting used to and can be a little painful (after all, epilation is just a nice word for "tweezing all of your leg hairs quickly"), but if you stick with it, it's worth it. I may not have my friends good luck of being able to wait up to 6 weeks in between epilating, but I have waited up to 4. It's nice to know that I don't need to shave every morning if I am wearing skirts or shorts. Plus the water here is cold, so no goose bumps to worry about!
Now, this is an economically friendly option as the epilator cost about $80. I use Mach 3 razor blades (yes, this is still present tense as I can't quite bring myself to attempt to epilate my armpits) and if I were to replace the blade every week right now I would be looking at about $170 in razor blade costs over the past two years. That's a whopping savings of $90, and the savings will continue to grow as I continue to use my little hair plucking machine. The obvious environmental factor is that I am no longer tossing razor blades into the trash every week. With the amount of use that my razor blades get now, I replace them about every 3 months or so (so the cost is slightly over $15 a year to meet my shaving needs).
And so ladies, think about saving the planet, think about saving money. These are just a couple of ways in which you can do that!
If you have questions, feel free to shoot them my way: tarah.l.hall [at] gmail