We deal with it every month ladies and it is an opportunity to use products that are environmentally friendly. It is estimated that a woman could use 12,000 tampons in her life which could cost as much as $11,000. You might have strong preferences on how to deal with your menstrual cycle but in case there is some room for improvement, I have compiled a list of suggestions.
Cup: The option for the least waste as possible would be the menstrual cup. With this option comes two concerns, the price and the comfort. I am aware that leading brands such as the "Diva Cup" are pretty pricey, however, there are many options on Amazon that you could buy for less than $15. Keep in mind that you are reusing this cup month after month and year after year, so if you are spending that on tampons or pads, this is actually a cheaper option. I use the Athena cup I believe it was around $16. I love it, will never go back. It also comes with a cute storage bag so you can throw it in your purse in case you will need it. In between uses I just rinse it out with soap and water. After the week I will use really hot water and soap and store it for the next month. As far as comfort, I know it can be intimidating and there is a learning curve. I would compare it to using tampons for the first time. After a few uses, you don't even know it's there. Stick with it, you will be so proud of the amount of waste you are eliminating.
Reusable Pads: There are many options available on Amazon for reusable pads. These come with easy snaps as well as reusable pouches to help you transport them once they have been used. This is another zero waste way to handle your period.
Tampons: There are many types of tampons and I have listed them in my option of best option to worst. Of course, for all of these options I suggest be 100% organic cotton which has become much more easily accessible in the last few years. My personal favorite is Lola, you can subscribe to the products you want and they will be sent to you as often as you like. You can also customize your box with as many of each size you may need. They have recently started selling Lola products at Walmart as well.
No applicator 100% organic cotton
Cardboard applicator 100% organic cotton (recycle the applicator)
Plastic applicator 100% organic cotton (these are not recyclable)
*I know many of us flush tampons down the toilet, please don't do this, the best thing to do is throw them in the trash. If they are 100% organic cotton, they could be compostable, but they take a significant time to break down.
Pads: Pads are the least preferred option when considering the planet. However, if pads are your preference I would suggest making sure that they are 100% organic cotton and Lola also offers those as well.
Birth Control: If the option you are most comfortable with are the plastic applicators or pads, I encourage you to explore some options that will decrease the amount of periods you get. Many birth control options like the implant or IUD can lighten or even stop your periods all together. If you are taking the pill you might want to explore the option of using a brand that limits you to 4 periods a year. So instead of 12 weeks of waste there would only be 4 weeks.
Dealing with your period is a very personal choice and I am of course not telling you what to do, just simply providing some suggestions in case you are interested in lessening your impact.