Sex and Pancakes

Dear Melissa,

I’m 21 and I’ve been a woman since the tender age of 13. Five days a month, every month, for eight years I’ve used five tampons and one pad a day. I’m not a math major—but that’s a whole lot of plastic sitting in a landfill because of something my body does naturally. I know there are some natural products, but they seem so extreme. Can you explain my options?

—Going Green

Dear Going Green,

It really is shocking when you realize how much these products add up. The average woman will use between 8,000 to 15,000 disposable tampons, pads and liners in her lifetime and each comes with plastic wrapping and applicators. You’re right— they all end up in landfills and sewage systems. At a time when we’re all concerned about protecting the environment, we can begin the sentence with our periods.

Menstruation isn’t seen as a positive thing in our society and that attitude gets transferred onto a lot of these products. I think that women want to think of their period as little as possible, so when the alternative doesn’t involve wrapping it up and throwing it away immediately, they’re hesitant. So please keep an open mind when reviewing these options because as extreme as they may seem, they just take some getting used to.

Here are two common alternatives you can try:

Menstrual cups: These are my recommended alternative to women who use tampons. The popular Keeper brand is made of latex and placed in the vagina to collect menstrual blood for up to 12 hours. Instead of changing the cup you just empty it, wipe it clean with toilet paper, and it’s ready to go back in. It costs about $50 and can last up to 10 years! You can find The Keeper at Le Frigo Vert near Concordia, or online. Also check out The Moon and The Diva Cup for non-latex options.

Reusable pads are basically the same as disposable pads but they’re usually made of cotton and instead of throwing them out, you wash and reuse. They can be washed by hand or by machine, but it’s recommended you soak them if you want to avoid staining. You can find them at Le Frigo Vert for $8 to $12, or look online for Lunapads. You can also find patterns online to make your own!

I really recommend trying these two products, for the environment’s benefit as well as you own. If you use five tampons a day for five days a month, that’s 300 tampons and at least $100 per year that you’re paying for them (There are 18 tampons in a $6 box of Playtex tampons). Multiply that amount by the 30-40 years you have your period. A Keeper will cost you $50 and last 10 years, and a set of seven Lunapads, also good for a few years, will only cost you $70. Think about how much money these products can save you.

If you insist on sticking to disposables, there’s a really easy change you should make: start using 100 per cent organic cotton, applicator-free tampons and pads, if you don’t already. They cost a little more, but they’re becoming easier to find and they’re better for you and the environment. Le Frigo Vert carries these as well.

Alternatives to anything require a little effort and will take some time to get used to, but think back to when you first got your period. Remember how weird it was to get used to tampons/pads? If you could do it then, then you can do it now.

Good luck and go green!

—Melissa Fuller

Le Frigo Vert is located at 2130 Mackay St. Send your questions to and check out “Sex & Pancakes” on Facebook.

This article originally appeared in Volume 31, Issue 22, published February 8, 2011.