They’re rarely discussed, but mainstream sanitary products contribute to our disposable, single-use culture. Enter the period pant – the sustainable alternative that aims to break this wasteful cycle for good
Photography by Ellen Fedors Text by Kasia Hastings
Traditionally a taboo subject to be kept to a brief need-to-know conversation with the school nurse, the menstruation narrative has been one of pain, discretion and even shame. The limited products on offer to help manage your flow are chemical-packed and single-use only. Thankfully, period pants are changing the way many of us approach our cycles, as well as presenting a welcome means of reducing the environmental impact of this most essential of accoutrements.
Finding an alternative to disposable feminine hygiene products sits among the many ways in which the global call-to-action to protect our planet has, slowly but surely, made us rethink the way we live and the choices we make. For generations, the business of the monthly menstrual cycle has fallen almost by default into the routine use of tampons, pads or pantyliners and decades of disposable waste. According to Wen (Women’s Environmental Network), 2 billion menstrual products are flushed down the toilet each year in Britain alone. For many, this has felt unavoidable – until now. Enter period pants, the leak-proof underwear alternative to traditional disposable products and (aside from that millennial favourite, the menstrual cup) the most sustainable option on the market.
While allowing your period to flow freely into a pair of specially designed underwear may seem like an alien concept, brands such as Modibodi, Thinx and Wuka have enabled it to be an empowering monthly ritual. “I love getting my period,” says devotee Lucy Marsh. “It’s an opportunity for me to connect with my body, and I was sick of shoving this foreign thing inside me to stop my flow. Now I enjoy taking my pants off at the end of the day and rinsing the blood away,” She has been using a carefully curated collection of reusable briefs for two years without experiencing a single leak. Surprised? Don’t be.
Occasional accidents aside, the period-proof technology is all there. The most reliable forms of underwear come fitted with three or four layers of high-tech fabric that lock away liquid and contain antibacterial properties to help prevent odour and bacterial growth. The expert advice is to invest in a pair for every day and night of your period, rinsing out your underwear after use before washing it at 40 degrees without fabric softener. From super-light thongs to Spanx-like heavy-flow designs, which can hold up to four regular tampons’ worth of liquid, the range of options out there reflects a genuine desire to ensure there is a style and absorbency level to suit every cycle and age.
As with any innovation, progress has come with some controversy (toxic chemicals have been found in some products), but the offering available continues to evolve with brands such as RubyLoves, Aisle and Sustain producing PFAS-free certified underwear. If you haven’t already, it’s time to turn your eco-consciousness to your sanitary supplies. If Instagram ads are anything to go by, a menstrual revolution is picking up speed – and unsurprisingly, it’s being driven by people who actually have periods.
Having the menstrual products you need shouldn’t be a luxury, yet period poverty remains a global issue as governments fail to recognise sanitary aids as essential. Do your bit by donating period pants and other products to a local charity distributing them to those in need, or contribute to international organisations like ActionAid who supply sanitary kits during humanitarian disasters.
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