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Switched to a Menstrual Cup

If talk about menstruation (periods) or blood makes you squeamish, you might not want to read this post.

Seven months and eight periods ago, I traded in my tampons for a menstrual cup. I’m so glad I made the switch. Note: This post contains affiliate links, each marked with an asterisk (*).

I had two motivations for doing this:

  1. Cost: My Lunette menstrual cup (Model 2)* cost $28.99 on Amazon. It will easily pay for itself in less than a year, and may have already.
  2. Environment: There’s no trash when you use a menstrual cup, just empty, clean, and re-use. Tampons, pads, applicators, and wrappers, on the other hand, pile up in landfills.

Day 1: It Got Stuck

It didn’t get stuck-stuck, but it took a bit to figure out how to slide the cup out of my body. Getting the cup in to my body was easy – squeeze one side in so the circle at the top looks like a “C,” and slide it in. It re-expands back to its circular shape and the little holes near the top create a suction against your skin. You have to break this seal to get it back out, which is challenging when you have tiny hands and short fingers like me. The first time I tried to get it out after wearing it a few hours (you can wear it up to 12 hours) was a complete fail. I got it out that evening, but it took 20 minutes to figure it out.

Leaks Happen – But Not Often

Before switching to a menstrual cup, I dealt with leaks all the time. I have designated underwear for this week. Doesn’t everyone?

I have way fewer leaks with the menstrual cup. I’ve had two leaks because I didn’t quite get the cup into place, and I think I overflowed it once. I just wear black underwear and that seems to be enough. I don’t need to wear a pantyliner or anything for backup.


My Own Horror Movie

Tampons and pads work by absorbing your blood. You can’t tell how much fluid they’re actually holding. Cups are the opposite. It’s just a silicon cup that catches your blood. When you empty your cup when you’re in the shower or sitting on the toilet, it looks like a horror movie. You know exactly how much you’re bleeding.

Thank goodness men don’t get periods. If teenage boys used menstrual cups, they’d be throwing blood at each other in high school bathrooms.

What about Public Bathrooms?

When you empty your cup, you’re supposed to at least rinse it before putting it back in. I’m lucky where I work only has single-user bathrooms so I can easily rinse my cup in the sink.

With multi-user bathrooms, that’s not the case. Thankfully, I’ve only had to deal with this once. I emptied my cup, wiped it out with toilet paper (and dripped blood on my shoe), put it back in, and wiped the blood off my fingers before exiting the stall. It wasn’t a big deal.   

No Rogue Strings (Yay!)

Tampon users know this one: sometimes your string “goes rogue” and pulls in the opposite direction from where it should be. And it hurts. And there’s no discreet way to fix it. You have to reach into your underwear and put it back in place.

When this happened to me, it was usually when I was out running, far away from a bathroom. It happened so frequently, I switched from tampons to “period panties” when I was running. With the cup, there’s no string to worry about.

Equally convenient, I don’t have to worry about having a visible string when I go swimming – which is currently twice a week. (Yes, there’s a true story from my gymnastics days when I was competing in a black leotard with a visible white string!) When I’m at the pool, I always worry that I didn’t put my cup in properly and it will leak. I have a fear of finishing a lap and being confronted by a lifeguard who tells me I’m bleeding in the pool. So far, that has not been an issue at all.

Helps with Dysphoria

Using a menstrual cup* helps with the dysphoria I have about being non-binary and trapped in a female body. When I was using tampons, I had to change it five times a day or more on my heaviest day. That meant I had to have tampons with me, carry them through the office on my way to the bathroom, dealing with the string, and being confronted with my period each time I changed my tampon. Cups are designed to be worn for up to 12 hours, so I only have to deal with it twice a day, three times on my heaviest day. Otherwise, I can “set it and forget it.”

Well, except for the cramps part.

Preparing for Plastic-Free July

I’m preparing for Plastic-Free July, a month where I will be avoiding most single-use plastics.

It’s March.

I know.

It’s 4 months away. Why do you need that long to prepare? You already have the reusable water bottle and bring your own bags to the store. What more do you need?

There are still a lot of single-use plastics in my life. I want to find alternatives for them.

Like what?

Just walk through your day. (Note:This post contains affiliate links, each marked with an asterisk (*).)

I wash and moisturize my face in the morning.

Your soap and moisturizer come in plastic.

I put on my deodorant* that comes in a glass jar. And I brush my teeth with a bamboo toothbrush* and plastic-free toothpaste.

That’s good. By the way, that toothpaste doesn’t have fluoride in it. Ask your dentist to make sure that’s ok.

Some of my zero-waste and reusable products: water bottle, coffee mug, freshly-made almond milk, deodorant, safety razor, toothbrush, and produce bag.

Then I have breakfast – a vegan protein smoothie or a vegan patty on a toasted bagel. I get to have both on my long workout days.

The versions of all those products you’ve been buying come in plastic.

And I have my coffee with almond milk. We make our own almond milk now, and we store it in a glass jar in the refrigerator.

That’s because the carton has that plastic top on it, so we switched. By the way, we need to find a recipe for vegan butter since our brand comes in a plastic tub.

I use reusable containers to take my lunch to work. After work, my preferred snacks are crackers or a small bowl of cereal.

Cereal and crackers come in recyclable boxes, but they have plastic bags inside them. We’ll have to start making our own, find plastic-free brands, or switch to something else.

Oh geez. Frozen fruits and veggies are staples in our diet. They all come in plastic bags.

It’s going to be an adjustment. I don’t know if we can get berries that don’t come in a plastic container of some type. Perhaps at the farmers market.

Wait a minute. Can’t we use plastic bags as long as we put them in the recycling bin at the store?

The point of Plastic-Free July is to not use them to begin with.

Some of the plastic staples currently in my life: protein powder, contact solution, lip balm, moisturizer, and face soap.

We can still eat things from cans, right?

As long as they’re BPA-free. After seeing the documentary, Bag It, I never want that stuff near me again.

What about vitamins – and your prescriptions?! The pharmacy won’t let you BYO container for that.

That’s true, but we can at least switch to brands of vitamins that come in glass. I will continue to take my medications as prescribed.

Umm . . . what are you going to do about lip balm? You have like 5 of those going at a time.

I will find a plastic-free brand.

What about Rosie?

Rosie is exempt from plastic-free July, just like she’s exempt from my veganism. She’s 11 years old and blind. We’re not messing with her life. But I think it would be fun to try making our own dog treats for her.

What about her dog poop bags?

There may be some experimenting with alternatives like using newspaper or junk mail to pick up after her.

This is hard.

Now you see why we’re taking 4 months to prepare.

I’m looking forward to Plastic-Free July, but I have no delusions. I won’t have a 100% plastic-free life. I want to seek out and reward companies that don’t use plastic packaging and look for alternatives to products that I can’t get without plastic. This will be a challenge, and I’m looking forward to it.  

Shifting to Zero-Waste Living

I am trying to be a better human. I eat a mostly vegan diet because I don’t like the idea of an animal suffering for my lunch, and after seeing this turtle suffer, I never want to use a plastic straw again. Inspired by videos about zero-waste living and zero-waste beauty options, I’ve looked at the products I use on a daily basis, and tried to shift to more zero-waste products. I wanted to share some of the little changes I’ve made in my everyday life.

Please note, some of these items have affiliate links. This means if you follow the link and make a purchase, you pay the same as everyone else, but I get a small commission. Any link marked with an asterisk (*) is an affiliate link.

In the Bathroom

Plastic-Free Toilet Paper: It is difficult to find toilet paper where the rolls come wrapped in paper, not plastic, and they don’t come in a 48-roll box. I don’t want a year supply of toilet paper in my home. So far, I’ve only found individual paper-wrapped rolls for sale at Sprouts.

Zero-Waste Personal Products

Bamboo Toothbrush: We’re supposed to get a new toothbrush every three months. I was so happy to find bamboo toothbrushes*, in paper packaging. They come four to a box, and each toothbrush is numbered, so if you have multiple people in your house using them, you can avoid accidentally using someone else’s toothbrush. They have the same durability as any other toothbrush I’ve used.

Zero-Waste Deodorant:  No more plastic containers of deodorant for me. My zero-waste deodorant* comes in a glass jar. You use the little spatula in the jar to scoop a little onto your fingers and then put it on your armpits like lotion. It’s a deodorant, not an anti-perspirant, so it doesn’t stop you from sweating, but you don’t smell when you do.

Menstrual Cup: I will hopefully never have to buy tampons again. The menstrual cup* is a game-changer. Instead of using and throwing away three to six tampons a day during my cycle, I wear this reusable silicon cup inside my body and empty it two to three times a day. It took a few days to figure out the best way to remove it each time, but now it’s easy and convenient to use. Within a few months, this this has paid for itself because I haven’t had to buy tampons.

Safety Razor: I’ve always used razor cartridges that contained plastic, and I wanted to try an all-metal safety razor*. The angle is completely different than other razors I’ve used, and it’s just an exposed blade that’s cutting your hair. It’s easier to nick yourself. I still use my other razor for my armpits and bikini line, at least for now.

Shampoo Bar: This shampoo bar* works great. I rub it on the top my head a few times to build up a lather and spread it to all of my hair. I suspect it could last longer than a typical bottle of shampoo.

Around the House

Laundry Soap in a Box: Do you know how hard it is to find laundry soap that doesn’t come in a plastic bottle or a pod? It was challenging to find laundry powder* that comes in a recyclable box, but I found it. It works just fine.

Reusable Food Containers: I still have resealable plastic bags in my home, and I do use them on occasion, but I try to use reusable glass containers*, and sometimes plastic containers I’ve had for years, instead of single-use bags. When I use plastic bags, I try to reuse them whenever possible.

At the Office and Professional Outings

Bring my Recyclables Home: My office doesn’t recycle, so I bring home papers that don’t need to be shredded so they can be recycled. I have a designated pocket in my backpack for paper to be recycled.

BYO Silverware: The office kitchen has single-use plastic silverware. Instead of using those, I keep a regular spoon and a fork at my desk for eating my lunch and snacks.

BYO Water Bottle: I bring my own water bottle from home so I don’t have to drink water in plastic bottles.

Metal Travel Mug: I have two ceramic mugs at my desk that I use to hold hot beverages and snacks, but I also have a metal travel mug* that I use when going out for coffee or attending events so I don’t have to use a single-use cup and plastic lid.

Reusable Spork: One thing that is always in my backpack is my fold-able reusable spork* so I don’t have to use plastic silverware when I go to conferences.

Grocery Shopping

Rosie’s Chicken in Pyrex, fresh from the market

BYO Container for Meat: When I buy Rosie’s chicken, instead of buying meat in plastic and Styrofoam, I prefer to go to the meat counter and have them weigh the product and put it in a reusable glass container* I brought from home.

BYO Jars for Bulk Foods: I like shopping in the bulk foods section at Sprouts. I bring my pre-weighed glass jars to get what I need. I label each jar with the weight of the empty jar so the cashier can take off that weight and only charge me for the product at check-out.

Reusable Produce Bags: These reusable washable mesh bags are fantastic for produce. If a store gives a discount for bringing your own tote bags, they often give me a discount for each produce bag and jar I use.

What’s Next

Going forward, I want to keep exploring options to be a better steward to the planet. I want to try composting, but have substantial doubts about my ability to maintain my own composting bin, so I’m more likely to try a composting service.

I will also keep an eye out for zero-waste or plastic-free products. Once I run out of liquid hand soap, I’ll switch over to bar soap. I am interested in finding a zero-waste moisturizer. Putting coconut oil on my face sounds like a breakout waiting to happen. As I go through my day, I try to stay aware of when I use plastic products and look for zero-waste alternatives and/or ask brands to change to more sustainable packaging.