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Personal care... feminine hygiene

Fast & Easy Info

  • If you're like most women, you'll use as many as 11,000 tampons during the course of your lifetime.
  • Add to that a couple of thousand pads and panti-liners and the ecological impact of your monthly cycle really starts to add up.
  • All that feminine hygiene creates tons of trash. Particularly egregious are the plastic applicators that come with some tampons. They're capable of escaping from any landfill - or wastebasket, for that matter - just so they can plop down in a lake, river, playground, or just about anywhere else you'd rather not see them. The darn things are so indestructible even a car can run over them and not destroy them.
  • Conventional products may contain a mixture of rayon and cotton. Rayon has been implicated in Toxic Shock Syndrome, particularly for super-absorbent tampons. Cotton is highly pesticide-intensive; twenty-five percent of the pesticides used globally are devoted to growing cotton. To look as white as possible, conventional pads and tampons are usually bleached with chlorine, a process that can create dioxin, a known carcinogen.
  • Tampons, pads and panti-liners made from organic cotton are becoming increasingly available on-line and in the marketplace.

Dollars & Sense Options

If you're going to use conventional products, choose those sold in the simplest packaging.

If your retailer doesn't carry organic tampons and pads, ask the store manager to consider adding organic products to the shelf.

For Your Shopping List:

O.b. tampons
Conventional Options:

O.b. tampons come in a small box with no applicator. They're compact, easy to use, and take up very little room in your purse.

Original-style Tampax are wrapped in paper and have a cardboard applicator which breaks down relatively quickly when exposed to the elements. They're highly preferable to the Pearl brand, which has a plastic applicator and is wrapped in coated paper.

For environmental options, consider:


Natracare - chemical-free, non-chlorine bleached biodegradable pads, pantiliners, and tampons.  Available from whole foods and natural foods stores and food coops.

Seventh Generation - chlorine-free products made from organic cotton. 

The Diva Cup - a reusable cup worn internally like a diaphragm. It may require emptying 2 to 4 times a day depending on your flow. This option generates no trash, but is not quite so convenient as a tampon.

In My House

Sometimes what you try is all about convenience. It's been a little easier for me to come by Natracare products, so those are the ones I'm personally most familiar with. I've been satisfied with them, but I can only get them at the food coop. If I'm at the grocery store and I'm in a pinch, I'll buy Ob or Tampax Original. Then I go see the store manager and ask him or her to order Natracare. Someday, maybe I'll be pleasantly surprised to see the low-polluting, chlorine-free, eco-friendly tampons sitting right there on the shelf next to the indestructible plastic-coated options!


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