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Major TMI alert: the low-down on eco-friendly feminine hygiene

Shortly after Renee and I started EnviroMom (just under a year ago!), a reader asked if we would write about reusable feminine hygiene. At the time, being a brand-new greenie, I just stuck my fingers in my ears and yelled, "la la la la la la la la," because that all seemed waaaay beyond what I was ready to think about. (So, those of you who are taking tentative baby steps into eco-friendly living, feel free to skip this one because we don't want to freak you out.) Well, two things prompted my foray into this topic: one, Julie G. sent us a link to an interesting thread on EcoSpace about non-disposable feminine hygiene, and two, someone recently suggested writing about the contents of my once-a-month picked up garbage can. Tampons and pads take up a goodly portion of my trash, so maybe it's not such a crazy thing to consider. So, let's consider:

Reusable Pads: Reusable pads are just that; they are pads that you wear, wash and wear again. If your first reaction is Ew! then you are not alone. But why do we feel that way about our natural bodily functions? Has Tampax brainwashed us into believing that our menstrual cycles are icky? I mean, I don't love having my period, but it's what makes me a woman. So, could I handle rinsing, washing and reusing a pad? Perhaps. There a several varieties out there:

Glad Rags are organic cotton pads consisting of an 'envelop' and a cotton insert. You put the insert in the envelop and snap it around the crotch of your underwear. When it becomes soiled, you replace both the envelop and insert with a fresh one. Lunapads are also reusable, though they have a nylon inner core that claims to more absorbant (yet, less eco-friendly). Instead of a 2-part system like the Glad Rags, Lunapads have just one piece. Moonpads MoonPads are also just one piece, but they come in great colors and fabrics (yes, I'm still talking about maxi pads). These pads are handmade, hand-dyed and made from 100% American-grown organic cotton. There are actually a lot of women who make their own pads -- knit their own!! -- and live among us, acting as if nothing were out of the ordinary. (In a past life I would have judged them. I now admire them.)

Without all of those thick, bulky layers of plastic and dri-weave, how can these pads be truly absorbant? Is it possible? People who use them seem to swear by them (you've got to read some of the comments on that EcoSpace thread). What I'd like to know is how you do you manage the system -- do you rinse them out, toss them into a bucket and then wash in the machine once you have a full load? Someone needs to break down the steps for me so I can visualize the process (what a dork, I know). 

Receptacle, cups, catchers: I'm not sure what the proper term is, but this category is all about collection. You insert a cup-shaped object, it collects the bodily fluid, you dump it out, reinsert, and on and on. Divacup You've got The DivaCup, made of silicone, which is supposedly safe and healthy. Then there's The Keeper, made of natural gum rubber, and its sister, the Moon Cup, also made of silicone. All claim that they are easy to insert, they are odorless and don't have to emptied very often. My concern would be about leakage and spillage due to improper installation, and potential discomfort. But, strangely, I actually like the idea of this better than the reusable pads. If it the cups really work, it just seems like less work for me. I guess I won't know until I try (if I try).

Sea Sponge Tampons: Yep. Sold as Sea Pearls. They are tampons made of sea sponges. I really don't know more about them, but you can read the testimonials on the site. I'm probably least interested in this option, but hey, you just never know.

Whew. That's a lot of words. Care to share your non-disposable feminine hygiene story? Any other alternatives that I missed? Want to just stick your fingers in your ears?

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