Our Menstrual Carbon Footprint

November 22, 2022

By Period Dignity Team

What is a carbon footprint and how is that impacted by the period products we use? Our carbon footprint is the total amount of greenhouse gases (including carbon dioxide and methane) that are generated by our actions. It is impacted by things like the food we eat, the fashion we buy, whether we travel by car or by public transport and yes, even the period products we use.

What is the impact of this?

Using a carbon calculator to work out the impact of my own menstruation, at twenty-three and having started my period at ten years old I have generated 86.1kg of menstrual waste. This is the equivalent of one of me and in a lifetime I would produce 584.1lbs of waste (264.9kg) the same weight as one grizzly bear.
Now if in all these years I had solely used conventional tampons and pads, as I did for many years before I made the sustainable switch, all these pads and tampons would end up in landfill taking hundreds of years to degrade and release potent methane.

And as we know through the latest Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) report, to avoid climate disaster and limit warming to 1.5°C, we need to reduce global carbon dioxide emissions by 43% by 2030 and at the same time, reduce methane by about a third.

However, it’s not only the impact of period products ending up in landfill that contributes to their carbon footprint but the materials used to make them as well. The Royal Institute of Technology Stockholm found that the largest impact of period products comes from producing plastic tampon applicators and the plastic strip on the back of sanitary products. These are made from LDPE (low density polyethylene) a thermoplastic which requires massive amounts of fossil fuels. Indeed, a year’s worth of period products was estimated by a Harvard researcher to have a carbon footprint of 5.3kg CO2. An average UK car mile produces 0.27596 kg CO2e, therefore 5.3kg CO2 is equivalent to driving 19.2miles, a UK example journey could be Bristol to Chepstow.

What can you do?

Through switching to reusable period products and biodegradable products the impact of the 11,000 tampons and/or pads the average person uses in a lifetime can be massively reduced. For example, the organic cotton in our tampons produces nearly half the CO2e emissions compared to conventional cotton you might find in other brands. And what’s more, at Grace & Green we offset all emissions from our supply chain, making our products certified carbon neutral.

If you’re ready to take the plunge and switch to one of our reusable menstrual cups, you could save even more, with research showing that cups have 16 times less carbon impact compared with traditional disposables.

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