Switching to Period Pants Is the Ultimate Act of Environmental Activism - And Self-Liberation

What started as a half-hearted act of eco-activism has overhauled my experience of periods. Suddenly, I was free.

Switching to Period Pants Is the Ultimate Act of Environmental Activism - And Self-Liberation

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"At a time where brands of single-use period products want to sell us perfumed tampons and more body-shaming novelties, trying to make a joke of our vaginas, it does feel good to go back to the basics."

Every single day, around 2.5 million tampons, 1.4 million pads, and 700,000 panty liners are flushed down a toilet in the UK - with 200,000 tonnes of menstrual waste landfilled each year in the country (Source: City to Sea).

I’ve never been a fan of single-use menstrual products anyways. I don’t feel comfortable wearing tampons. This is just my experience, and I know others may have different feelings about them (especially harmless plastic-free tampons). Even sanitary towels - a slightly more adult and socially acceptable version of a nappy - are not that much more pleasant for me. So when I started seeing social media rave about period pants, I knew I had to check them out.

I wasn’t dubious, exactly. But the health and beauty industries offer many trend-led products - so I was going to evaluate these period pants for myself. Available in a range of sizes, fits, and absorbency tiers, period pants give you maximum protection for eight to twelve hours and can go in the wash along with the rest of your clothes.

Hassle-free, potentially more comfortable, and good for the environment? I always thought periods, in general, proved that this kind of good form doesn’t exist. But, I’ll also try anything.

Turns out, this was the best decision I ever made. 

In fact, part of me is annoyed I didn’t experiment with period pants sooner. First of all, they can be washed and reused almost endlessly, or at least until they wear out, like your other clothes. They also absorb blood just like a pad, all you need to do is choose the absorbency that fits you best.

Of course, one pair of pants costs as much as several boxes of tampons, but unlike tampons, you won’t flush them down the drain. Research shows that the average period pant user saves approximately $750 (around £545) over a five year period when switching from single-use to reusable period products (Source: GreenMatters). Obviously, not everyone has the budget for period pants, and I am aware I was very fortunate to afford the initial investment. 

I am all for eco swaps - If all I need to do is a quick and easy change that can help the planet, who am I to say no? But after trying period pants, I found that what started off as a half-hearted act of environmental activism actually overhauled my experience riding the crimson wave. Suddenly, I was free.

Free from last-minute supermarket rounds to buy products that don’t agree with my body, and will take hundreds of years to decompose. Free from the old-age notion that periods are ‘dirty’.

For starters, period pants confront us with the reality of periods. Blood. Nothing dirty here but something that naturally flows inside of us.

Now you might be disgusted by the idea of touching your own blood-soaked panties when you have to hand wash them, but the good news is that you can just throw them in the washer if you really can’t stand the sight of them.

Period pants definitely don’t sugarcoat periods, and you’ll be shocked by the amount of blood that comes out of you each time. Potentially amazed by your own body’s resilience too. And at a time where brands of single-use period products want to sell us perfumed tampons and more body-shaming novelties, trying to make a joke of our vaginas, it does feel good to go back to the basics. Simpler times indeed.

I know most people might also be turned off by the idea of wearing bigger than Bridget Jones-style pants. However, as most people who get periods know, you kind of end up wearing those huge knickers anyways. So we might as well embrace not being our sexiest selves for a week, and do our bit for the planet instead.

Wearing period pants is the most comfortable and secure I’ve ever felt while bleeding. Every person experiencing periods is entitled to do whatever they feel is best for them - and not everyone can stand feeling, or seeing, their blood pouring out. On a personal level, I am simply in awe that I found something that makes me feel comfortable, and reduces my environmental impact.

Be warned. Once you’ve tried period pants, you probably won’t look back - like most people I’ve talked to. They’ve certainly made menstruation much more bearable for me. Maybe not fun, but bearable. It is also worth noting that, although period pants do not alleviate the physical pain, it feels good to have the option of wearing something close to regular underwear and go about your day.

The only inconvenience is changing on-the-go or the occasional leak. You’re fine if you can last through the day, then come home, wash and change. But what about after-work drinks? Or a Friday night date? What happens then, now that we’re finally allowed to do these things?

So some organisation is definitely required, but it feels like a small price to pay for comfort, environmental protection, and self-liberation. Someone once told me they always carry around a travel-sized bottle of hand wash for clothes, and use a hand dryer to dry the pants post-cleanup. That is commitment to the cause. Now I have not yet tried this myself (it has been a long year of lockdowns after all), but stay tuned on this one.

Period pants also don’t have to be boring. I enjoy a high leg and a seamless design, but there are plenty of options in the market, for all shapes and sizes. Some designs are even getting ‘racier’, with lace and mesh cutouts, so you can still feel yourself on those dark days.

I go for ethically-made and eco-sourced materials, giving my hard-earned money to brands breaking down the period taboo feels like an act of activism in itself. Most of these brands are led by people who bleed, therefore putting ourselves in charge of what fits us and what doesn’t. Some also donate a percentage of sales to fight global plastic pollution, some donate period pants to those in need, or fight for better access to puberty education and menstrual equity.  

Nothing should hold us back during Mother Nature’s visits. And now that I’ve ditched tampons and pads for good, not only do I feel free to move as I please without discomfort, I also really enjoy keeping things low impact - for my body and the planet.