Monday, July 29, 2013

Disposable to Reusable, Part 2: Hygiene

When I talk to people about trying to live a more sustainable lifestyle, they almost always ask me for advice and/or say 'oh it must be so hard!'.  The first thing I tell them is to start where they can, and that the easiest place to start is by picking something that's supposed to be disposable and replacing it with a reusable thing.  So here are some of the ways I've switched from throwing away to reusing!

In part 1, I talked about switching from disposable bags and containers for shopping, cleaning, and food.  But what about more, um, personal areas?  Disposable products are marketed everywhere, but they aren't the only option.

An easy start is cutting tissues out of old t-shirts.  This is a great way to use old t-shirts that have gotten soft and snuggly - your nose will appreciate it!
I also have an old decorative bucket that I toss the used ones into until laundry day.

I bought some handkerchiefs at rummage sales, although some were free from my Dad.
Yes, you may object that you're putting something you've blown your nose on back into your pocket or purse, but who hasn't done that with a tissue at some point? There's a lot of cloth in these things - careful refolding prevents using the same spot twice.

Recently, I started shaving with a double-edge safety razor that belonged to my Grandfather. It works just as well as a plastic disposable or cartridge razor, although it takes some extra effort.
Going along with that, I also don't use shaving cream: I just use my regular bar of soap.

Ok, any squeamish males should stop reading now, personal details below...

For women specifically, we can cut out a significant chunk of trash and cost with reusable feminine hygiene products.  I started with a menstrual cup.
From SquawkFox, who has a list of top-10 reasons to get one
The Diva cup does come packaged in plastic, although its much less than tampon wrappers and applicators, and the hard plastic might be recyclable where you live. 

From a personal standpoint, I find the Diva cup way more comfortable and less hassle than tampons and pads.  It takes some practice to get used to inserting it and removing it, but it deals with heavy bleeding much more effectively than tampons.  Plus its made of silicon, rather than scratchy cotton.  You do have to take care of it, cleaning it with soap on a regular basis and boiling it at the beginning and end of your cycle. 

I back up my Diva cup with cloth pads.  These have more up-front cost if made by someone else, but some people do make their own.  I bought mine from Pleat and Moon Bees on Etsy.
Muffies Cloth Menstrual Pad Set: Choose Any Five Pantyliners
From Pleat on Etsy
Menstrual Pad Sampler FREE SHIPPING
From Moon Bees on Etsy

Moon Bees pads cost less because she makes hers out of undyed hemp/cotton fleece. It looks like she's only making dyed cotton pads now though.  Pleat's are prettier and her regular/overnight pads aren't as thick, but they're a little more costly.


  1. Did you know that pads and tampons have been around only since WWII? Prior to that everyone used cloth. My mom describes the covered bucket of cold water kept in the corner of their bathroom to put used cloths in to soak until wash day. It was nurses in WWII, after noticing what a fabulous job the gauze/cotton (not sure the exact content) pads did in surgery that devised the first disposable pads. We've come full circle. I'm past using anything these days; but I do use plenty of handkerchiefs. My favorite are linen as they are the softest. Look for them at thrift stores, they usually are pretty cheap. I like them for their versatility too. They don't fall apart or shred when wet, as in using them to mop up something or wash precious little faces; they even dry out between uses. Keep up the good work!

    1. I knew they were relatively recent, but I don't know anybody from the pre-disposable era who was willing to talk about it - that's cool that you've gotten to hear your Mom's story about it.

      I've also found a bunch of handkerchiefs at church rummage sales. They're a good source for cloth napkins too (I think its all the old ladies cleaning out their linen closets).

  2. Thanks for posting about my pads! Moon Bees is now fully stocked with undyed organic pads again :-)

    1. No problem! Thank you for making fabulous pads - glad to hear the plain ones are back :)

  3. Amazing - using silicone just makes sense. It's less painful and more flexible.
    Thank you
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