Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Eco Friendly Alternative for Women- and a Coupon Code to Caroline's Creations

*This subject may be taboo, most of us don't talk candidly about our cycles, but we should. Please read with an open mind. This isn't just about the environment or saving money, it's about our health.

If you've been following along with the blog you know that I started on my green path with the birth of my first son, Canon, four years ago by deciding to use cloth diapers. I made some easy small changes but didn't fully throw myself into this green mission until my second son was born this past September. I decided to use cloth diapers again and also found that in the interest of being environmentally friendly and cutting costs to help us survive on one salary I wanted to do more.

Something that I had never thought about or even heard of kept grabbing my attention as I was shopping for Colt's cloth diapers -
menstrual product alternatives. Seriously, how had I never heard of this before? I've had a menstrual cycle for over 15 years and even though I am only really starting to make big changes I've always been interested in eco alternatives. Some of you might be thinking, "Ewwwww... no way!". If you're grossed out by the reuse or washing part, think about this, I know I have had numerous leaks over the years with disposable products, even had underwear specifically for "that time of the month", did you throw out those panties and clothes or did you wash them? If you answered like I think most people will, you washed them and if they were stained relegated them to the period panty pile, right? So, there is no difference, wash them.
There are two alternatives- cloth pads and menstrual cups- used in almost identical ways as their throw away counterparts.
I decided to start with cloth pads since I was mostly a pad user before- seriously, have you seen that picture floating around of the moldy tampon, just frightening, totally gross and another good reason to switch! I am planning on trying out a menstrual cup for swimming, beach trips, and for when I prefer not to wear a pad but for now I am entirely pleased with my choice.
Here are some of the main reasons to switch from disposables to either a cloth pad or menstrual cup;
  • Cost- while it might seem that disposable products are not a big ticket item, the cost over months, years does add up. Cloth pads can be used anywhere from 5-10 years and menstrual cups can be used 10 years, maybe longer.
  • Environment- ok, this one is obvious, but the amount of plastic, bleached paper, and packaging piles up and over the the course of a woman's menstruation lifetime, approximately 41 years, that could average to 10,000 tampons/pads or more (based on the assumption of 4 pads/tampons per day for a 5 day cycle). Not to mention the pollutants and carcinogens leaching out into the soil and streams once they get flushed or reach the landfills.
  • Health and Comfort- this, I think, is a huge consideration. Disposable tampons and pads dry you out and pads chafe. Disposable tampons and pads contain surfactants, adhesives and additives. Most pads and tampons also contain known pollutants and dioxin which is a known carcinogen. A carcinogen next to your girly parts? Really? Cloth pads are made from soft natural materials that breath and menstrual cups are made from medical grade silicone and collect rather than absorb therefore they don't dry you out.
  • Fashion- ok, so you're probably not going to show off this fashion statement but it is much nicer putting a cool design on instead of some plastic-y white pad with a blue center.
So lets focus on the pads now, since that's what I opted to try first. There are a ton of choices out there and many patterns, materials, and price points and after much research I decided to purchase a custom 12 pack from Caroline's Creations on Etsy. I decided to order from CC for a few reasons, she is a WAHM and I love supporting hard working moms, she uses quality materials in a great assortment of colors and patterns, the pads are well made and her prices are the most reasonable out there.
The only negative of a custom order was the wait time, but if your ordering anything custom this is to be expected. Caroline was very up front with the estimated date of manufacture and her customer reviews were very helpful with knowing how long it might take. She does have many ready for purchase products but I knew I wanted to select my own patterns and colors so the wait was worth it. The wait was approximately a month.
When the pads arrived I was so excited, yes excited, can't say that about disposables right? Anyway, they lived up to my expectations on appearance and construction and though Caroline pre-washes her materials to prevent shrinkage I wanted to do a wash to prep them. Then I had to patiently wait to get my cycle, yup, I waited to get my cycle. That was definitely a first.
I have now used the pads through a full cycle, washed and reused and I was not disappointed. I was much more comfortable with the cloth, and though I had been worried that I would feel 'wet' I did not. They were plenty absorbent and I had no leaks. They passed every test, day, night, and held up to the wash.

Key features of Caroline's Creations pads from her Etsy site;

* soft flannel
* Custom Core (See below)
* 1 Layer Decorative Cotton
* 1 Layer PUL (Fully lines the entire item, including wings)
PUL not stitched through to prevent wicking
* Turned & Topstitched for durability
* Snaps- YOUR CHOICE- either KAM polyresin or KAM Metal (applied with commercial grade press)
*ALL= 1 layer Bamboo French Terry,1 layer microterry1 layer PUL, 2 layers flannel
(All flow covers the widest variety of flow, with the best dry time, thickness)

*LIGHT= 1 layer Bamboo French Terry, 1 layer PUL, 2 layers flannel
*MEDIUM= 2 layers Bamboo French Terry, 1 layer PUL, 2 layers flannel
*HEAVY= 2 layers Bamboo French Terry, 1 layer Microterry, 1 layer PUL, 2 layers flannel

~~Microterry is up to 7x more absorbent than cotton alone. It reduces thickness and will accommodate "gushing" or any flow. It is a synthetic fabric. The microterry I use is diaper quality, NOT SHOP RAGS, it is not chemically treated in any way
~~Bamboo French Terry is 70% Bamboo Fiber, 30% Organic Cotton blend

Machine wash & dry. Soak in cool water until washing to minimize staining. Change water daily until pads are washed. Do not use fabric softener this will reduce absorbency.

My notes:
  • Don't let the soak scare you, I simply rinsed mine in cool water folded it onto itself and stored in my wetbag.

  • PUL is the most commonly used waterproof barrier for modern cloth diapers.

  • A wetbag is a good idea if you work out of the house, plan to travel, etc. It is a waterproof (usually PUL) zippered bag, Caroline sells these as well, you just have to message her and she will work with you on price and style. I recommend getting a small double zippered wetbag- one zippered compartment for clean and one for dirty.

  • A good rule of thumb is to have enough pads to get through a wash every 2 days and have 1-2 for during your wash. I opted for the custom 12 pack and that seems to be the perfect amount for me.

  • Caroline's Creations has many options from single to sets, pads, liners, even pads made for thongs. A custom set of 12 is currently listed for 61.19 shipping included. Use the coupon below for an even better deal!

Simple, environmentally friendly lack of packaging

Is your period protection this pretty?

Easy to find the right absorbency- Medium

Snap closed to take with you and after use

Discrete- I bet no one would guess what this is- cute coin purse?

Snaps to secure into place

Nice and thin
Caroline has offered Mission Green Family readers a 5% off coupon code- on top of her already reasonable pricing! Thanks Caroline!!
Use code NBK12 for 5% off including custom orders.!/CarolinesCreations09

I'd love to know what you think of these alternatives to disposable tampons and pads. Had you heard of these alternatives before? Would you consider making the switch and if not, what's holding you back?


  1. I switched to cloth about 9 months and I never want to go back to disposables. You don't realize how uncomfortable disposables are until you try cloth. I don't think they're gross at all...I put them in a lidded container filled with water and a bit of laundry soap (hidden under the sink)and just change the water everyday. If they're really "full", I rinse them before I soak them. I wash about every 2 days. So far I haven't had much staining.

    1. That's a good idea about the container under the sink- I may try that! I totally agree about the comfort, too!

  2. Okay... I might be sold. There are so many reasons I don't like disposables & I don't use tampons so I have been wanting to do this for a while. Thanks for the coupon code!! Look how darn cute they are!

    1. That's great! They really are cute, and I think she got some new patterns in, too :)

  3. Cloth pads are much more comfortable. Funny to say, but I look forward to my period now! There are so many places that make cloth pads. I have a few from etsy, and some from Gladrags, but my favorite design is Lunapads. I started using Lunapads in 2009. Their design is slightly less bulky, and you can change liners but keep the same pad. I feel so much better about not filling up the landfill and don't ever have to worry about running to the store for more plastic.

    Jen, from California

    1. Mission Green FamilyJune 22, 2012 at 6:52 AM

      I was wondering about Lunapads- do the elastics that hold the liners in place wear out? I guess I like the convenience of an aio (all-in-one) design but those seem to be really popular so there must be something to it. Regardless of brand, cloth is absolutely more comfortable!