In my teens and 20’s I was a tampon user. With the tampons and taking the contraceptive pill for many years came also lots of infections and medications to treat the infections. Then came the first child and an IUD. With the first child came awareness about alternative, better choices. When we were planning for our second child, that IUD came out I announced to Tim that I had done my time taking contraceptives and it was his turn. Luckily he agreed and one tiny invisible snip later we lived happily ever after.
I learned about all the nasty stuff in tampons and how they leave tiny particles and what havoc the contraceptive pill creates in the body. I changed to pads until I learned that they too have lots of nastie’s in it. Then I found a good organic brand of pads in the NZ supermarkets. That ticked most boxes for me, until I realised the amount of rubbish that I was throwing out on a monthly basis. That led me to my first menstrual cup, a mooncup quite a few years back. That was not a very successful first start. I leaked and it was uncomfortable after just using pads and it slightly freaked me out to put it in. I must admit I wasn’t very persistent, so gave up pretty quickly and went back to using my organic pads. I researched washable pads, but the prices put me off and I was too worried to leak and to pay all that much money and then it might not work. I just found excuses not find a better option.
When we decided to live and travel on a boat it was clear to me, that I would not have the option to just go and buy my preferred organic brand of pads on deserted islands and also with now more time on my hands I really wanted to do the right thing for the environment and have a wastefree period.
But first lets look at some facts here, why it is a good idea to switch to a period cup or washable pads.
⦁ The average woman uses 36 tampons / month and 14,000 tampons in a lifetime.
⦁ North America alone has 12 billion menstrual pads / tampons coming to the landfill every year! Approx. 45,000 tonnes of menstrual waste go into landfills worldwide annually. They take decades to degrade and since disposable pads are approx. 90% plastic they will never disappear.
⦁ The average woman spends $150 – $300 per year on tampons or disposable pads.
⦁ 1 disposable pad can have the same amount of plastic in it as approx. 4 plastic bags.
⦁ I found a really well researched article on hannahpad.co.nz about all the nastie’s that you will find in tampons and disposable pads. With the vaginal tissue being one of the most permeable in the body directly linked to our reproductive organs we really don’t want to put anything near there other than natural, good stuff. Unfortunately menstrual pads and tampons, just like most cosmetics and perfumes (don’t get me started) don’t need to be TGA approved and don’t have to fully disclose whats in them. You can find that article HERE.
After I did my research I approached 3 companies with products I liked, to see if they would support me in in my switch to more eco friendly period care. The Hello Cup, hannahpad and Moontime Aotearoa all provided me with samples of their pads and cup to try. I will outline my honest experience after 3 months of using those products below.’
Hello Cup / thehellocup.com
I have had so many friends raving about menstrual cups I knew I had to give it another go. I was unsure about the sizing and Hello Cup provided me with all 3 sizes in gorgeous colours and also sent some of their beautiful period liners.
What I really loved is that they are made in New Zealand and the creators are based in my home area of Hawke’s Bay. When that parcel arrived it showed straight away how much thought has gone into the product. Its all paper and cardboard packaging. The period cups have all their own fabric bags to keep them in. The cups are recyclable, top notch medical grade TPE and the colours are certified food grade. If you use them according to the provided instructions they should last you for at least 5 years. They come in gorgeous colours and also they offer double boxes so you can try different sizes for different flows. And not that it really matters for our periods, but the whole branding strategy is just so gorgeous to look at from the colours of the cups to the fabric of the liners to the card with a personal message and the quality of the product. Everything seems to be just right.
I trialed the different sizes of the cups and soon found the biggest one is the one that works best for me. The Hello Cup definitely feels more comfortable than the Mooncup. The toggle to pull the cup out, the rim to grab all works well. The Mooncup had a really long toggle that you had to cut off to suit your size and I found that the bits where you cut off length felt quite sharp / hard. The hello cup toggle is round and smooth and feels so much better.
One thing that I really noticed while using the cup is that you really get a proper idea of how much blood you are loosing. I have been iron deficient for ever since I got my periods and docs tell me it will probably be this way until I come into menopause. Upon inquiring if I have heavy periods I would have rated mine average. But emptying my cup now I think gosh, that is a lot of blood to loose every month! Usually its absorbed by pads or tampons, so you only get a rough idea, but with the cup you really know exactly how much you loose.
After 3 months of regular and persistent effort I insert it well most of the time, but must admit I am not a cup master yet. I wear a washable pad with the cup to catch any leakage (not much most of time), but it gives me a better sense of security, especially when going out for a while. I found sometimes it sneaks away a bit once inserted, sometimes I don’t insert it deep enough, sometimes its not the right angle, but there are good instructions on the website how to fold the cup correctly when inserting, what to do when you can’t find it etc. The tutorials are great and I found them really helpful to get comfortable with the process.
I clean my cup out and rinse it every time I go to the toilet, although on the website it says you can leave the cup in for up to 12 hours and do your toilet business without removing it. On the website it says that the Hello Cup holds approx. 3 times as much blood as a tampon would. The cleaning and changing works perfect on a boat toilet, since the toilet and sink are so close together. I remove the cup and rinse it it in the sink and back in it goes – really easy. They also offer a sanitizing spray on their website to clean the cup while you are out an about. To clean the cup after your period you can boil it in water for 3 minutes to sterilize and pack it away in the little fabric bag that comes with it until you need it again.
The Hello Period pads have gorgeous fabric and fold up really tiny. Each pad holds up to 2 tbsp of liquid, so perfect to catch any leakage. I actually use the as panty liners too now, so save me washing undies too often, as we don’t have a washing machine on the boat. The pads are organic & fairtrade, manufactured in India. The clips on the wings of the pads are metal. The pads are relatively small, so for me they really only work to have an extra layer of security when wearing my Hello cup or for those first days when where is spotting or as panty liners. I wouldn’t be able to use them as period pads without the cup with my flow. Because the fabrics are so colourful they clean up really well and they also have a a waterproof layer already sown into the pad.
I am really happy with both the Hellocup and the washable pads. I would highly recommend them to others. You can purchase them at thehellocup.com. They ship worldwide. A double box of cups is $69.95, a starter pack with liners, a double pack of cups and the sanitizing spray is $119.95, a 3 pack of liners is $55, a 6 pack $89 (NZD)
hannahpad / hannahpad.co.nz
hannahpad sent me a sample package of 4 different sizes, a wet/dry carry bag and a washing tag. Again all packing was eco friendly. The courier bag was compostable, the box the pads came in was cardboard. The coloured fabrics are gorgeous.
hannahpad offers 7 sizes altogether. hannahpads are designed and manufactured in Korea at the time of writing and available in most counties.
The pads fold up really small. The carry bag that was provided has a wet and dry compartment, so you can pop any used pads and have a spare in there when you are going out. Also the little fabric strip that came with the pads is really handy for hanging them all in a row on the washing line, without even needing a peg. The pads have wings, that clip together under your undies to hold them in place. The clips on the pads are plastic.
The pads are made from organic cotton without dyes. Most of the parts of the pads are compostable or biodegradable. The coloured fabric layer is the only part that would have to be disposed in general rubbish.
The hannahpad blog has really good articles. There was one where their staff explain how many pads they use for their periods and also photos of how the pads look after 4 years of usage. You can read it HERE. I have heard from friends that their washable pads last for many years.
The pads are really easy to use, as they have a waterproof layer sowed in the layers, so they are pretty much ready to go. They are super comfy and steady in the undies. I have a little soaking box with a lid in our toilet with water and washing powder. When I change the pad I give it a quick rinse in the sink and put it in my soaking box for a day. The next day I give them a good hand wash in the sink and hang them out in the sun to dry. Of course hand washing on the boat is not as efficient as a proper washing machine, so there is a bit of staining, but they clean up pretty well and the sun gives them a bit of a bleach too.
I really love the hannahpads as they are so handy and ready to go. They look pretty too and stack away quite small because you can fold them and clip them together with the buttons that hold them in your undies. They feel very comfortable and I would highly recommend them. I will definitely get some more of them at some stage.
You can purchase them at hannahpad.co.nz. They offer singles and package deals. The pack for one week comes with 2 small, 5 medium and 3 Ultra Overnight pads for $265. (NZD)
Moontime Aotearoa, moontime.co.nz
Moontime Aotearoa, was super helpful on the phone to see which size pads would suit me, which fabrics are organic and which are not, how to add the waterproof layer and how to use the washable pads in general.
Moontime offers 4 sizes of pads and also offers package options. Again I like that they are made in NZ and I really like to support local outlets. I received a range of different fabrics and sizes and find them all super comfortable to wear. I was also provided with a wet/dry bag, where you can store a spare pad and it has a waterproof compartment where you can put your used pad. The Pad consists of 2 parts, the inner and the outer. The outer is open at the back with a slit where you insert you inner and a waterproof layer. I was provided with a sheet of plastic that I cut into the shape of the inners for the waterproof layer. If you have a heavy flow you can add 2 inners. The pads have wings, that clip together under your undies to hold them in place. The clips on the pads are metal.
Compared to the Hannah pads I found the assembling a bit fiddlier and on a couple of occasions I forgot to add the waterproof plastic under the inner which resulted in leaking. But its pretty much just a question of getting your routine sorted. The pads are super comfy to wear and all the fabrics look beautiful. I found the Moontime pads clean up a bit easier than the Hannah Pads, perhaps because they don’t have the waterproof layer sowed in. The organic cream coloured ones show a bit of staining too, but that might be, because I am hand washing here on the boat. The Moontime pads are a bit bulkier to store than the Hannah Pads.
When I talked to the owner, she said that she was still using pads she had made 10 years ago, so that is a pretty amazing track record for sustainable, long term use. All in all I am really happy with the moontime pads and would definitely recommend them. The service was super friendly and I like its a small New Zealand boutique business. You can purchase them at moontime.co.nz. A starter pack with 3 more, 3 regular and 3 light pads is $116.50 (NZD)
I am really happy to have finally made the step to a waste free period routine. I think for me a combination of washable pads and the Hello cup will the way forward. I am so happy I don’t have to buy products on a monthly basis anymore and am able to save money with our relatively tight cruising budget.
I am also really happy, even happier than about the saving money part, that I don’t contribute all that period product waste to the landfill anymore. Every month I felt guilty about buying those disposable pads and adding to the landfill. Its feels so good to just use a bit of water to clean up and be all ready for the next month and many more months to come.
I also feel like I am being a good role model now to my daughter, that when she comes of age, we have healthy and environmentally friendly options on the boat.
I think waste free periods are totally doable on a boat, even without a washing machine. It just takes a bit of rethinking to establish new habits and let go of old ones.
My recommendation is to just do a bit of research first and find a company you trust, that works ethically and uses good, ideally organic materials.
I hope this inspires more woman and girls to make the switch to a more healthy and environmentally friendly period care.
A huge thank you to the Hello Cup, Hannah Pad and Moontime teams for supporting my switch to a waste free period. I really appreciate your kindness and support.