Organic Tampons: Worth It?

Organic Tampons: Worth It?

Organic Tampons: Worth It? World Threads Traveler


While combing the aisles of Target I came across a rather large selection of organic tampons. This wasn’t the first time I had seen them. In fact, advertisements for organic tampons had been plaguing my social media pages for almost a year. So why had I been so quick to ignore them. Organic is good, right? And, if I sought out clothing made from organic materials and makeup from organic ingredients why not feminine care items as well?

Not All Tampons Are Created Equally

We have come a long way in the evolutionary history of tampons (thankfully Elephant Dung is no longer used – no seriously it was used). The modern tampon that we know today, with an applicator, was created and patented by Earl Haas in 1931 but was bought out and produced by a woman, Gertrude Tendrich. Gertrude was the force behind Tampax and started off by sewing them at home. While tampons rose in popularity it really wasn’t until the sexual revolution of the 1960’s that they really started to take off, more brands started to appear, and things got well… weird.

Aside from the cardboard, plastic or no applicator at all new “features” were introduced such as scented. Additionally, as they gained popularity for mass production purposes and the general direction of manufacturing on a whole, chemicals were introduced both in the growing and manufacturing of tampons.

Why Do We Need Organic Tampons?

Traditional tampon manufacturing and additives leave a lot to be questioned. To clean cotton and rayon chlorine is used. While production methods have adapted to new information on harmful chemicals including chlorine (as Kavin Senapathy notes in her article “Everyone Calm Down About Chemicals in Tampons”, these new methods have yet to be fully tested and explored.

Tampon manufacturers formerly used chlorine gas to bleach the rayon used in tampons, but the method was abandoned in the nineties to reduce formation of dioxin compounds, which are persistent organic pollutants that accumulate in the environment. All brands now use either elemental chlorine-free (ECF) bleaching without chlorine gas, or totally chlorine-free (TCF) bleaching agents. Even though ECF methods prevent formation of dioxins, the compounds are present throughout much of the environment, so there can still be trace amounts in tampons (our exposures to dioxins in food and environment are much higher).”

The concern is the trace amounts which have been known to build up in the body overtime and is linked to cancer and endometriosis. The addition of aluminum, alcohols, fragrances and hydrocarbons are all known to be harmful don’t help matter.

What Are Organic Tampons?

From online subscriptions, to boutique health stores, to big box stores, organic tampons seem to be everywhere. Organic tampons are simply that – made from organic materials. But, not all are created equally. Organic cotton, grown without the use of pesticides or insecticides, offers consumers some ease of mind but in reality is a highly unregulated business. This is why it is important to look for independent certification like GOTS which has a strict standard of exactly what organic entails.

Organic tampons are also free of chemical dyes and fragrances meaning you don’t have to worry about your PH balance being thrown off or allergic reaction because of some unnecessary additives.

Organic tampons may also be better for the farmers. Because many organic tampon manufacturers opt for independent certifications such at Global Organic Textile Standard, they must adhere to a strict code protecting worker’s rights. This includes no child labor, providing safe working conditions, and fair wages are paid. Many times this also includes progressive environmental practices to help reduce the use of water and ensure soil levels and health can be properly maintained.

How to Choose Organic Tampons?

One of the reasons organic tampons haven’t caught on quite yet is because of two factors: one, we like convenience. Just like I typically go to Target to buy my feminine products, we want our “good for us” products to be equally convenient. Luckily this is starting to change with more organic brands realizing consumer habits and adapting as needed. Secondly, we are brand loyal. Most of us tend to stick with the brand we first started using. If for no other reason than we know (or think) it works the best. Sometimes change can be hard. But, if we are putting so much attention into what we eat, what we wear, and what we put on our skin why should what we put in ourselves be any different?

If you’re more of a convenience shopper read the back of the box or better yet do your research ahead of time. Get to know the brands available, where to buy, their story, and their certification process. And, don’t forget online reviews. Thankfully and sometimes much to our dismay we live in an era where everything is dissected online. Just about every product out there has reviews readily available – go check them out! You may be pleasantly surprised.

Final Thoughts: Are Organic Tampons Worth It?

My vote is yes! While we still may need more information on some brands, companies producing organic tampons tend to be much more forthcoming with their information. They seek independent certification, have an eye on consumer health, and generally want to change the way feminine products not only affect the consumer but the environment and labor force behind them as well. Tampons have come a long way – from Elephant dung, to being sewn at home, to now organic products. This may just be the next evolutionary step in women’s hygiene products but, its a good step to make and only stands in increase in popularity and demand.

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Going Green: What is Greenwashing?

Going Green: What is Greenwashing?



No doubt you have heard that companies big and small are making changes to go green. From solar energy, to less water usage, to using recyclable packing materials. But in a world where cash is king are companies really going green? Or, are they implementing marketing tactics to make you think their initiatives are bigger than they really are? Are they greenwashing?

Greenwashing, the practice of disseminating disinformation so as to present an environmentally responsibly public image is nothing new. Sure it has a new catchy name but companies have been using marketing tactics to make it appear that they are truly implementing their customer’s desires.

As the impact of the fashion industry has on the environment and social rights continues to grow companies would be bad businessmen/women not to listen to their customers concerns about these issues. The more, millennials in particular, raise such questions as how is this hurting the environment? Who is making my clothing? Are they getting paid fairly? How much waste is produced? What is my clothing made from? The more companies are paying attention and starting to make environmentally friendly and human rights changes. This all sounds good, right? But what if I told you many of the companies you think are being proactive are actually just using greenwashing?

Here’s the perfect example. Every year H&M promotes their recycling week. You bring in your no longer wanted clothing and for each bag the company will give you a 30% off coupon for a future purchase at one of their locations. The clothing that is donated is broken into three categories: 1. Wearable, in which case it is then marketed as second hand goods around the globe; 2. Reusable, in the case that the garment is not wearable it is broken down and repurposed into other products such as cleaning clothes: 3. Recycled: Fibers are broken down and used in new fabrics or manufactured to be used as damping and insulation in the automotive industry. Sounds pretty good and all inclusive.

But the fashion industry isn’t a closed loop. Things aren’t as neat and tidy as H&M hopes it would be with their 0% waste initiatives. For starters fast fashion companies such as H&M survive only on our rapid consumption. Their clothing is not made to last. That 30% off coupon is just a marketing ploy to get you back in the store and buying more. Hey, maybe that’s not a bad thing if you can just bring it back for next year’s recycling event… right? There are two key elements being ignored by the company. The first is that over 25 billion tons of textiles is generated every year. To put that into perspective that is approximately 82 pounds of textiles per person, per year!  Of that only 15% is recycled and the other 85% ends up in landfills. Not everyone can make it to H&M every year to donate. The clothing that is sent overseas to be sold on second hand markets has been known to tank local economy and stifle local entrepreneurship. How can you create something when you are being flooded with someone else’s stuff?

The second greenwashing offense is what you can’t see. H&M is still guilty of using suppliers that pay low wages and do not provide building safety including fire escape plans. This is why a shirt can cost only $5. You have to cut corners somewhere. The only other thing missing from H&M recycle program is the data. Maybe they think consumers won’t ask questions beyond their 30% off coupon. But here we are asking. What percentage is really sent overseas vs used in the automotive industry. Is every article turned in really recycled and if so to where? Why isn’t this information made public?

Don’t get me wrong donating your clothing isn’t a bad thing. But shouldn’t we know more about where it really goes? And should we really be donating our clothing to a store with the lure of buying more disposable items? That is what greenwashing does. It blinds us to the real issues of behind the garment. The good news is consumers are paying more attention and the appeasement strategy put out by retailers just isn’t cutting it anymore.

H&M is not the only company guilty of greenwashing. Other fashion retailers have also jumped on this bandwagon in an effort to look the part. Here are some keywords to look for as an indicator that things may not be as they seem…

Make a donation: A few companies will donate money to a local charity or to one overseas. This sounds great but many of these companies couldn’t tell you who or where their clothing is being made. This is a strong indicator that less than stellar manufacturer rights are happening behind the scenes. Think overcrowded factories, child labor, and little pay. The tactic of asking for a donation is used to distract you from looking at the real issues of the store by feeling like you did something great in the moment.

Solar energy: I love when companies turn their headquarters green. But their headquarters are a very, very small part of the operation. What about their transport trucks, the mall stores, their suppliers and manufacturers? Now you might be thinking… the company has to start somewhere right? Yes, they do! But they need to stop using toxic chemicals in their clothing which pollutes waterways and your body. I applaud their efforts to make their headquarters green but it only lowers their electricity cost and does nothing to address contaminates to the environment. One does not negate the other.

Organic: Organic is good, it’s not just good; it’s great! But as of now there isn’t really a system to produce high volumes at low costs of organic clothing and still be ethically responsible. High volumes of anything is a strong indicator of sweatshop usage overseas.

Fashion retailers are like any other business: the bottom line is what matters. The fact that greenwashing takes place in my opinion is a good indicator that companies listen to their consumers. They have to, to make that money. But as consumers become more aware greenwashing will eventually have to turn into real practice in order for these companies to stay relevant. So keep asking who made my clothing? What is is made from? Where is it made?

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