How to have a sustainable period

Read time 9 mins
Updated 09 Feb, 2021
Three black Modibodi period pants hanging on washing line, with green outline
How green is your period? Even one reuseable pad or pair of pants can save you money and plastic.

An eco-friendly period is better for the environment as well as your body. For something so delicate, it seems strange to allow harmful single-use plastics, adhesives and bleached cotton near our vaginas...

Not everyone is ready to make the full switch to an eco-friendly period, and that's fine. To guide you through, we've sourced the most affordable, practical and easy-to-find products for a greener period.

Find out about the best reusable and body-friendly period products including:

  • Washable period pants
  • Reusable pads
  • Organic tampons

What is the cost of conventional period products?

Periods aren’t cheap. As we all know, the period tax was recently abolished after years of campaigning, but it still costs a lot each year.

We know it can feel hard to justify spending what seems like a lot on a more sustainable option. Whether it’s a pair of pants or a pad, let’s have a look at the figures.

Tampax tampons, Bodyform liners and a pack of Always night sanitary towels are a pretty average trio of products for a period.

If you purchase organic tampons and/or pads, you’ll spend about £65-80 annually. And they’re going into landfill or clogging the toilet. If you can make a switch to a period pant, which costs on average about £14 per pair and last around two years, you’ll save money, your body and the environment.

Did you know that you can save up to £2,000 compared to the cost of using throwaway sanitary products? The cost per reusable pad change is about 3p per change compared to 12p per change for disposable pads and tampons.

Best reusable period pants

No matter which period product you prefer, period pants are a solid option to make an eco-friendly switch. They effectively replace liners and sanitary towels.

Depending on your flow, they can also completely replace your need for tampons or cups. If you don’t feel protected enough, you can still wear a tampon or cup with them.

Any reduction in single-use products is a step in a greener direction.

Below we cover the best features of each of these reusable period pant brands:

  1. Modibodi
  2. Wuka
  3. Thinx
  4. M&S Confidence

Modibodi period pants

  • Modibodi period pants come in many styles and sizes, but the bamboo fibre pants are incredibly comfortable and soft to the touch.
  • The range includes full pants, lacy pants, thongs, sleepwear, swimwear and activewear with built-in period pants.
  • Get different pants for different flows. Options include a heavy flow for night, which has the absorbent material all the way up the back.
  • Care is easy, rinse them in warm water and leave to drip dry (outside if possible). They recommend not to use detergent as this can shorten the life of the pants.
  • Modibodi also offers a 60-day risk-free trial, option to refer a friend and free UK delivery.

How much do Modibodi pants cost?

  • One pair of Modibodi pants will cost you around £20.
  • Thongs are cheaper at about £14.
  • The bestselling bikini and boyleg styles are around £22.

Modibodi offers a 10% discount for new first-time buyers, as well as 15% off for NHS staff.

Our favourite Modibody product

Shop at Modibodi

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M&S Confidence period pants

  • These are cheaper than period-pant specific brands. Perfect if you’re on a slimmer budget, or prefer a high street brand you know well and can access easily.
  • The M&S Confidence range does a great job for an affordable range, although they don’t seem to be recommended for a heavy flow period.
  • These pants are more for day one or your last day (or whichever days where you might have worn a disposable liner).
  • Some styles are marketed as anti-leak knickers, rather than full-on period pants. They state that the pants are more suited to lighter days, holding about one tampon’s worth of liquid.
  • These pants are an eco-friendly alternative to single-use incontinence pads too. They come in cotton, lace and microfibre materials depending on style and absorbency.

How much do M&S Confidence pants cost?

  • All pants in the M&S Confidence range cost £12.

You might even be able to pick up a bargain on the 4 for 3 knickers deal, which is normally online and in-store. There’s also free delivery on orders over £50.

Our favourite M&S Confidence range product

Shop M&S Confidence products

Thinx period pants

  • Thinx period pants are another discreet, stylish range of very effective period pants.
  • Can take a very heavy flow, but note that the more absorbent styles cost a few pounds more.
  • Thinx offer free delivery on your first order, a 60-day trial and free returns.
  • If you’ve had a baby, there is an additional postpartum specialist range for you.
  • There is a complete range made from organic cotton if you have sensitive skin.
  • Hi-waist, boyshort, french cut, thongs, cycle shorts and leggings are among the many styles.

How much do Thinx pants cost?

  • Thinx period pants are as cheap as £18 for low-absorbency thongs.
  • The mid-range pants are all between £22 and £28.
  • Super-absorbent styles are over £30.
  • Activewear products are more expensive, with running shorts at £48.

Our favourite Thinx product

Shop Thinx products

Wuka period pants

  • Wuka styles and designs are simple and effective, including the seamless Perform range. These seamless yet absorbent pants are one of their unique selling points.
  • You can get Wuka period pants in supermarkets like Sainsbury’s, making them easier to find on a regular shopping trip.
  • The very affordable Wuka Basics range starts at just £12 for one pair.
  • Wuka offer a ‘first period’ pack bundle which is great to get someone into sustainable periods from an early age.
  • For cotton styles, the Fairtrade cotton material is certified by the Better Cotton Initiative.
  • Free UK delivery and a 40-day refund or exchange policy if they’re not right for you.

How much do Wuka pants cost?

  • Wuka period pants are affordable, as little as £12 for the basics range of briefs.
  • Heavy flow briefs in the Ultimate ™ collection are £24.99.
  • You can buy multipacks and save a little, for example £50 for a three-pack of medium flow Bikini rather than £54.

Our favourite Wuka product

Shop Wuka products

Best reusable period pads

Reusable period pads, unlike pants, can be worn in your normal pants just like a sanitary towel. These are great if you want something a little more discreet than a full pant.

They might suit you more if you want to change throughout the day. You can carry more than one pad on you, and use like you would use conventional towels.

Some of the best reusable period pad brands are:

  1. Bloom and Nora
  2. The Eco Woman Store
  3. Dame

Bloom and Nora period pads

MaterialsBloomers are made from bamboo fleece on the surface. Noras are stain-free and a bit more hi-tech. Both are made of multiple layers, the surface being the main difference. Surface (stay-dry polyamide interior, or bamboo fleece), core (polyester microfiber), soft waterproof exterior (recycled plastic bottle waste).
AbsorbencyFor the Bloomers, you get mini (up to 65ml) , midi (up to 90ml), maxi (up to 170ml) and mighty (up to 195ml). For the Noras, you get liner, mini (up to 40 ml), midi (up to 50ml), maxi (up to 125 ml), mighty (up to 140 ml).
Care infoRinse in cold water and wash at 40°c non-bio. Don’t let the pads dry out fully between rinsing and washing. Don’t use fabric softener and air dry after washing.
Cost per pad£4 - 8.75 (depends on Bloomer or Nora, plus the absorbency you choose).

Shop Bloom and Nora period pads

The Eco Woman Store EcoPad period pads

MaterialsSustainable and odorless bamboo charcoal, two layers of absorbent microfibre and waterproof polyurethane laminate (PUL). In total four layers.
AbsorbencyThere are three different sizes. S for light flows, M for medium and L for heavy. There are also night pads available. The flow size just means a larger surface area of the absorbent layer. Their site claims the pads are three times more absorbent than a regular disposable pad.
Care infoRinse or soak in cold water for 30 minutes. Then you can hand wash or machine wash at a max of 40º C.
Cost per pad£9.97 - 12.97 depending on the size (plus tax, depending where you live).

Shop The Eco Woman Store period pads

DAME period pads

MaterialsMade of multiple layers. The wicking layer (polyamide, polyester, lycra), top and bottom layers of natural fibres (lyocell, organic cotton), odour-proof inner absorbent layer (organic cotton, bamboo, polyester), watertight backing (polyurethane).
AbsorbencyDAME Reusable Regular Pad absorbs 9-12 grams, or roughly a super tampon. They also offer liner and nighttime sizes.
Care infoThe pads can be washed up to 40°C. Leave them to air dry. Don’t use fabric softener.
Cost per pad£8.99 for one regular pad.

Shop Dame period pads

Best organic tampons

Period pants and reusable pads are not for everyone. Especially if you don’t have the privacy to wash out reusable items. This is a common concern about using cups too.

Another issue is that some of us don't feel as comfortable freely bleeding into material, opting for something which you can insert to absorb the blood.

So to help the environment and your body, try switching to more gentle tampons. You can mix and match the way you use period care. Switching doesn’t have to mean sticking to one method.

Let's take a look at what brands have to offer. You can get most of these organic tampons in their own online stores. Plus high street shops like Boots and supermarkets such as Sainsbury’s.

The best organic tampon brands include:

  1. TOTM - shop TOTM
  2. Lil-lets - shop Lil-lets at Boots
  3. Flo - shop FLO
  4. Kind organic - shop Kind organic at Boots
  5. Natracare - shop Natracare at Waitrose

Below you can see how they compare. Both in terms of how they are good for your body and the environment.

Comparing the best organic tampon brands

TOTMLil-letsFloKind OrganicNatracare
Recyclable packagingYes Yes (but not sure about the tampon wrapper)YesYesYes
Vegan certifiedYesYesYesYesYes
Organic cotton certifiedYesYes Yes, plus organic bamboo productsYesYes
Applicator Non-applicator and biodegradable cardboard Non-applicator Non-applicator 95% plant-based, recyclable Non-applicator and biodegradable cardboard Non-applicator and biodegradable cardboard
In-store Tesco (UK and Ireland) Boots, Waitrose, SuperdrugBootsBoots Waitrose (check their website for full list of independent stockists)
Online Subscription available, plus free UK delivery if you buy two items Ocado, Waitrose, Boots Mix and match subscription available, plus free UK delivery Ocado, Health & Her Ocado, Ethical Superstore,Abel & Cole
Price (based on medium flow, regular pack) 10 for £2.70 (27p each) 16 for £3 (18.7p each) 14 for £4.99 mixed regular and super flow set (35.6p each) 18 for £3.10 (17.2p each) 16 for £2.50 (15.6p each)

What are the benefits of eco-friendly or organic tampons?

  • Free from chlorine and bleach, making it safer for your vagina's PH balance
  • Made from organic cotton or bamboo fibre which is good for sensitive skin
  • Plastic-free or very little plastic use, better for the environment
  • Mostly vegan certified, meaning no animal products were used in production
  • Biodegradable, so that the tampon and its applicator doesn't clog up landfill
  • Option to subscribe, so that you only get as much as you need and save money overall

Organic cotton is farmed without pesticides. It also produces 94% fewer greenhouse gases compared to regular cotton. During its production, it uses 88% less water and 62% less energy than regular cotton.

Ever heard of a reusable tampon applicator?

If you’re using non-applicator organic tampons, another switch you can make is a reusable applicator. The best we found is from DAME.

As well as DAME reusable pads, DAME has a reusable tampon applicator called the D.

It costs £24.99, which can feel quite steep as a one-off period purchase. If you don’t like non-applicator tampons but want to invest in a green option, consider it more of a luxury addition to your period set.

Over time, this is a very reasonable price anyway. It also comes with a storage tin and travel pouch, plus six organic cotton tampons.

The DAME organic tampons are also worth looking into, but are a little more on the expensive side compared to our list above.

Buy the D applicator

Why should we try to be greener folk?

Billions of us bleed monthly. Which means hundreds of billions of tampons, sanitary towels and liners are flushed or binned every year. If we can cut down single-use products, the environment will be much cleaner.

Regular sanitary pads contain the equivalent of up to five plastic bags.

Research estimated that around 220,000 tampons and 122,000 menstrual pads are flushed down the toilet in Scotland every day, nearly 125 million per annum, suggesting around 30% of all disposable products are flushed by the user.