Tampons and sanitary pads

Problem: Periods are already such a drag that adding one more task to the list of proper feminine self-care feels unfair. Still, pads end up in landfills, as do tampons, which also wreak havoc on plumbing.

Better: Go applicator-free with your tampons. In 2017, the nonprofit Clean Ocean Action reported picking up more than 4,000 tampon applicators (pdf) from New Jersey shores during its two annual beach clean-up events.

Best: More absorbent-underwear brands have been hitting the market, among them Knix, Thinx, and Luna. A few drawbacks: They’re fairly pricy, starting at about $25 a pair, and they don’t last forever. Menstrual cups, like the DivaCup and Keeper, have been growing in popularity—so much so that Tampax offers them. They cost around $25 depending on the brand and the medical grade silicone, and can safely last for up to a decade.

Baby wipes

Problem: Baby wipes have all the problems. They’re usually made with cotton—one of the world’s thirstiest, most polluting crops—and woven with plastic polymers for strength. They clog sewers and waste-water treatment plants. They help fatbergs form. They reshape riverbeds. We shouldn’t flush them, but we do. And we’re hellbent on making a wipe for everything from putting on sunscreen to taking off makeup to cleaning kitchen counters, and as an even worse alternative to toilet paper.

Better: For parents, wipes may be the convenience that keeps their sanity intact. Don’t throw them in the toilet, and try something reusable like washcloths or burpcloths for grubby hands and faces. All other wipes, avoid. Adults who favor wipes for personal use—treat yourself to a bidet-style toilet seat.

Best: Reusable wipes can be soaked in a mild soap solution and stored in a standard wipes container. If you’ve already switched to cloth diapers, which is easier than it sounds, just throw the dirty ones in the diaper pail. Even better, make them yourself from old t-shirts and towels—anything soft and absorbent.

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