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This post is brought to you by Iris, one of our fabulous Campus Ambassadors and former GladRags intern. She wrote the below piece for her university’s newspaper. Thanks for spreading the word about reusable menstrual products, Iris! You rock!

Tampons are gross. So are maxi pads. They affect everyone living on this planet, regardless of sex or gender. Over the course of a lifetime, the average woman (it should be noted that not all women have periods, and not all people who have periods are women) will spend $3,500 on disposable menstrual products. That’s about 8,000 tampons or pads, generating mountains of bloody, disgusting waste that will sit in our landfills forever. Disposable menstrual products are made of wood pulp, with chemical additives and fragrances, and they contain (trace amounts of) a known carcinogen, dioxin, due to the bleaching process that they undergo.
Fortunately, there are alternatives! Sustainable, hygienic, comfortable, convenient, alternatives: reusable menstrual products. So keep reading, for yourself, your friends, your family, and your planet.

There are two main types of reusable menstrual products: menstrual cups and reusable cloth pads. Menstrual cups are the bomb. Made of medical-grade silicone; they go inside the vagina, like a tampon. You buy one, for about $30, once or maybe twice in your lifetime. They only need to be emptied 2-3 times a day. Unlike a tampon, they collect, rather than absorb, liquid. This greatly reduces the risk of TSS (Toxic Shock Syndrome), which comes from over-absorbent tampons drying out tissue and resulting in small tears that allow bacteria into the bloodstream. Similar to tampons, you can run, swim, bike, etc. with ease and comfort. They just need to be rinsed or wiped with toilet paper after being emptied, and then washed with hot, soapy water every month. There are a lot of urban legends and few sad but true stores of menstrual cups getting stuck inside of people. This shouldn’t ever happen. Menstrual cups do require a little practice, but they will come out with a little maneuvering.

Menstrual cups don’t work out for some people, with excuses ranging from, “I just can’t even”, to personal preferences, to medical conditions such as endometriosis. Luckily, there are always reusable cloth pads. These can be purchased in a wide variety of designs and pretty patterns/colors, or DIY sewn by hand. Unlike disposable pads, which have a plastic lining that traps odor and can lead to chafing and infection, they are breathable and supremely comfortable. They, are, contrary to popular belief, not difficult to keep clean; just rinse and then toss in the laundry.

All reusable menstrual products require a little more cleaning than their disposable counterparts. But ask yourself, which is really more disgusting? Having to deal with a little blood, or piling up foul, rotting disposables for someone else to deal with in the future?

Want to go buy some of these wonderful products? Check out Portland, OR based GladRags (gladrags.com) for a very helpful website with FAQs and a great selection of pads and cups.

Hi! I’m Iris, and I’m interning at GladRags this summer. I just finished my freshman year at Willamette University in Salem, OR. I love running and spend most of time eating, sleeping, and figuring out what to do with my life.

I love GladRags. I love my Moon Cup. My period has become a much more pleasant, carefree experience since switching to reusables.

Here are some highlights:

  • I don’t need to count disposables before packing for trips, fret about running out, run to the store at inconvenient hours, etc.
  • I can take far fewer trips to the bathroom to change a pad or tampon
  • There is less smell and itchiness
  • My recurrent yeasty beasties have gone the way of the dodo
  • I have (necessarily) come to have a better relationship with my body and menstrual fluid
  • Taking out the trash after my period has become a ritual of less guilt and more pride
  • I’m now part of the elite crew of forward-thinking, body-loving women who know what’s up and have chosen to reuse

BONUS: the Moon Cup stays in place better than tampons when I’m running (hooray for suction).

GladRags sells some great products, but it’s more than that — it’s a great company, too. GladRags is a certified Benefit Corporation, a new kind of business that is required to focus not only on profit, but on social and environmental impact, accountability, and transparency. We might know that things like excessive pollution, child labor, slave labor, theft, unsafe working conditions, and lying to and misleading consumers and employees are wrong, but that doesn’t stop companies all over the world from doing these things.

That’s the biggest reason that I wanted to come intern at GladRags this summer. Everyday, we read news about how corrupt corporations are basically ruining our lives and our planet; it can be depressing. But GladRags is part of a new crop of companies that are changing the way they do business, and thereby changing the world. Benefit Corporations are certified by a nonprofit called B Lab. There is a 50+ page assessment that all B Corps go through to be certified and re-certified as a Benefit Corporation, which gives them a score in the areas of Governance, Workers, Community, and Environment, and an overall score.

I am currently working on a plan to make GladRags’ already great score a little greater. We are working on things like:

  • getting our new Advisory Board set up
  • making sure our suppliers follow our Code of Conduct to ensure safe, fair working conditions all the way down the supply chain
  • giving our employees the best possible feedback and guidance on their performance, career, and skills development
  • and finding better ways to get feedback from all of our stakeholders, including customers, employees, suppliers, and our local community.


Iris DowdAbout the author of this post:
Iris Dowd runs Cross Country and Track and studies Politics and Economics at Willamette University in Salem, OR; she also loves playing with her dogs, cats, and chickens.

In honor of Earth Day, we’re taking a look at how we can reduce our carbon footprints at home.  Read on for our top ten essential items to have in your bathroom to help you achieve zero waste!


1. Crystal deodorant

Ditch that standard plastic tube of deodorant (especially if it has aluminum or other yuckies in it) and try a crystal instead. Learn about the science behind crystal deodorant here.

2. Shampoo bar

Shampoo bars are a great alternative to bottles of shampoo: they’re typically packaged in recyclable cardboard or paper, and require less fuel to transport than their bulky counterparts.

3. Hankies instead of tissue

It’s only recently that our society has switched to single-use tissues for our runny noses. Soft cotton hankies are a treat for your nose–and have far less of an impact than those disposables, especially during allergy season!

4. DIY toothpaste

No tube required! Whip up a batch of homemade toothpaste  and store in an extra jar in the medicine cabinet.

5. Bar soap or bulk body wash

Like shampoo, bar soap has less of an impact on the environment by having less packaging and less weight to transport. If you can’t give up the body wash, head over to the bulk section of your favorite natural grocery store or co-op and re-use your bottles.

6. Cornstarch instead of dry shampoo

A little greasy? Sprinkle cornstarch on your roots and brush it through your hair to quickly absorb excess grease. Easy peasy.

7. A Moon Cup or GladRags

This one should be obvious! Disposable tampons and pads are not great for your body, and even worse for our planet. Try a menstrual cup or cloth pads, and get rid of the monthly garbage that accompanies your period.

8. Recycleable toothbrush

Our friends at Preserve (a fellow B Corp!) make toothbrushes out of recycled plastic and have a toothbrush take back program to keep the loop going.

9. Make your own facial cleansers

Not only do they often come in plastic, single-use containers but conventional products for your face also tend to contain some nasty ingredients. Fortunately, there are loads of DIY facial cleansers out there, including my favorite: a homemade honey cinnamon facial scrub!

10. Extra credit: reusable toilet paper

For the extremely green, you can always make the switch to “family cloth” or reusable toilet paper. Use rags or cut up old towels for wipes and wash thoroughly between uses. Don’t accidentally drop one in the toilet, though!

What’s your best tip for waste reduction in the medicine cabinet or shower? Leave us a comment and let us know!

About the author of this post:

tracy is the owner of GladRags and is passionate about period positivity and empowering women everywhere. In her free time, she likes to read, travel, practice yoga, and hang out with her cats.

We’re donating a percentage of our 2013 profits, and want our customers’ help in choosing which organization to support. Read on for more information about five non-profits we think deserve our support, then cast your vote!

Girl Up

The Girl Up campaign educates and empowers American girls to help their sisters around the world. Girl Up participants have the opportunity to learn about global issues, develop leadership skills, and become advocates for girls and women in impoverished parts of the world. Learn more about Girl Up >>

Hesperian Health Guides

Hesperian Health Guides produces and distributes easy to read health information to people around the world. For 40 years, Hesperian has distributed a books including Where There is No Doctor to assist communities in providing necessary health care to individuals where there are no formal medical practitioners. Learn more about Hesperian Health Guides >>

Sustainable Health Enterprises (SHE)

Sustainable Health Enterprises (SHE) uses market-based solutions to solve problems in the developing world. Current SHE initiatives include SHE28, which helps women in Rwanda create their own businesses manufacturing eco-friendly menstrual pads–providing economic empowerment as well as a menstrual solution for the women of the community. Learn more about SHE >>

Environmental Working Group (EWG)

The Environmental Working Group (EWG) conducts environmental health research to inspire consumers, companies, and government to take action for a cleaner, safer world. EWG is the force behind the Skin Deep database, which educates consumers about the ingredients in their personal care products. Learn more about EWG >>

Women for Women International

Women for Women International works with women in war-torn areas including South Sudan, Rwanda, and Kosovo. Participants are enrolled in a one-year program to help them achieve economic independence, learn about their rights as women and victims of war, and become leaders in their communities. Learn more about Women for Women International >>


The Oregon state motto is she flies with her own wings. Lovely, isn’t it? I learned it during the ceremony on January 2nd, in which GladRags became an inaugural Benefit Company in Oregon (that’s me with Secretary of State Kate Brown). Oregon follows in the footsteps of the 19 other states that have enacted laws recognizing Benefit Companies as a new type of legal incorporation status for businesses, but set its own record with 29 companies officially registering on the first day.

oregon benefit company gladrags

So what’s a Benefit Company? It can get a little confusing, as companies can choose to be a Benefit Company (registered with the state and following a specific set of regulations), a certified Benefit Corporation (reviewed and approved by the non-profit B Lab), or both. But what it boils down to is this: we’re looking to use business as a force for good.

GladRags, like a growing number of companies around the world, believes that there’s more to life than profits. We believe in supporting our community, treating workers well, and being good stewards of the environment — and we believe that these values makes us stronger as a company.

Today, we’re part of a new campaign with our friends at B Lab. It’s called B the Change, and we’re asking our supporters to to help us spread the word that there’s a new way of doing business. Watch the video below to learn more about this global movement and visit bthechange.com to learn what else you can do to spread the word.

Help build a global movement to redefine success in business! It’s time to #bthechange — Tweet this!

About the author of this post:

tracy is the owner of GladRags and is passionate about period positivity and empowering women everywhere. In her free time, she likes to read, travel, practice yoga, and hang out with her cats.

I normally talk about the negative side effects of mystery and unregulated/unresearched materials in terms of sex toys and accessories. I’m a firm believer that what you put in, near, or next to your body should be safe — whether we’re talking about vibrators, menstrual products, deodorant, or your favorite snack. Many products, especially in the adult product and menstrual product world, simply are not safe.

In the case of sex toys, the industry is completely unregulated and little research is done in regards to the negative effects of softening agents in PVC toys and other additives like pigmentation. We do know from many recounting personal experiences that they can be harmful to the respiratory system, that porous toys can cause chemical burns and re-infection of bacterial and yeast infections because they can never be sterilized… This is only the beginning of the story. Thankfully, there are some great companies like Tantus, Crystal Delights, BS is Nice, nJoy, and Nobesseces making body safe, non-porous alternatives for us all to enjoy.

Disposable menstrual products pose a similar issue; many contain known to be harmful, but deficit in research for this particular use, chemicals — which means that companies can get away with adding in bleach, fragrances, and other irritating and possibly very harmful ingredients like dioxin, a known carcinogen. You can read more about this in my interview with the ever-lovely President of GladRags, Tracy Puhl.

The conclusion all of this leads me to is that a lack of proper sex education, in terms of pleasure and biological functioning as well as gender and sexuality, has lead to a lack of knowledge about how one’s own body works. This ignorance then leads to shame and stigma, which leads to many not wanting to or feeling comfortable talking about sex toys or tampons including the possible negative effects some of their ingredients can cause. This cycle leads to nothing but pain, both physically and mentally. When people experience irritation from a toxic sex toy or a disposable pad, they frequently blame themselves- often hoping that if they ignore it, it’ll just go away on it’s own. This is one reason many STIs go untreated and get much worse than they could have been. People are too ashamed to go to the doctor about issues they’re having if it’s related to sex, sexuality, or their genitals, and don’t know how to talk to the doctor about it even if they do make their way there. This is completely preventable with complete sex education that covers all the bases, including pleasure and anatomy.

It’s things like this that make me grateful for companies like GladRags and my favorite sex toy companies. Reusable pads are gentle on the skin and devoid of harmful chemicals. Menstrual cups are silicone — they will not interact with your body and are completely sterilizable, lasting up to 10 years. The comfort I feel when wearing my menstrual cup is unlike any period experience I had using disposable pads, which resulted in itchiness and irritation for years. Reusable natural sponge tampons are gentle, reusable for 6 months or more with proper care, and can be used for mess-free bleeding time intercourse. Using products like these has left me comfortable, without irritation, and more at ease with my bodily functions, and I almost feel that it’s my responsibility to share this with anyone who will listen.

In short, we can all benefit from sex ed — and while you’re researching, you should pick up some body safe reusable menstrual products and body safe sex toys and note the difference they make for you. Feel free to ask me any questions via Tumblr or my Contact page!

About the author of this post:

Caitlin of sex-ational.com is an adult product reviewer, former adult store worker, and a passionate sex educator working out of Philadelphia. Their specialty lies in sex toys and the materials they’re made out of. They are a writer, illustrator, and designer who loves cats and cooking.

Half the population experiences it, so why is menstruation still such a taboo? At GladRags, we are committed to changing this attitude about our bodies, one reusable cloth pad and menstrual cup at a time.sticker

The feminist movement has been influential in changing ideas about women and bodies. It’s time that ideas and conversations about our periods change as well. Chris Bobel, author of New Blood: Third Wave Feminism and the Politics of Menstruation argues that “we socialize girls to expect to hate their periods, even before they have them.” In order to build a generation that doesn’t feel embarrassed by their own bodies, we need to change how we talk about our periods.

So how do we emphasize period positivity? How do we break from the social norms and not be embarrassed by our periods? And dare I ask, how do we become proud of our periods?

Our attitudes shape our actions. When we think our period is embarrassing, we try to get rid of all evidence of it, meaning we either flush it down the toilet or throw it away, not considering what impact that may have on the environment. According to the book Flow: The Cultural History of Menstruation, the average woman can expect to throw away 300 pounds of used tampons and pads. Those tampons that are flushed away? You may never see them again, but they clog sewage systems and hurt aquatic ecosystems. And those disposable pads? Even if they are incinerated at a garbage dump, it releases toxic chemicals into the air that contribute to pollution.

How do we dispose of these old ideas about menstruation? We all know our period isn’t a blue liquid poured ever so gently onto the disposable pad, but that doesn’t mean it’s something to be embarrassed about either. If we can get over our embarrassment, we can change the social norms and discourses about our periods, and that will hopefully have an impact on the environment as well.

GladRags is a company that cares about more than making a profit. When we became a certified Benefit corporation earlier this year, we proved to ourselves and our customers that we are in the business of making a positive impact in the world.

We are committed to being a part of this change. After all, GladRags was founded with an idea for an alternative to the social norm in mind. We encourage you, our wonderful customers, to join us. Talk about your period. Tell your friends and family that you made the choice to help the environment. Don’t be afraid to share your stories. Join us in making decisions that have a positive impact on our bodies, minds, and environment.

Not sure how to start a positive dialogue about menstruation? Check out our tools to help you spread the word about healthy periods!

bronteAbout the author of this post:
is the summer intern at GladRags and attends Willamette University, studying politics, history, and women’s and gender studies. She is passionate about education, dance, and hiking with her dog.

As the Oregon legislature considers establishing a legal framework for Benefit Corporations within our home state, we thought we’d share with you the top two reasons we chose to become a certified by the non-profit B Lab as a Benefit Corporation.

1. People

benefit corporation gladrags oregonLast week almost 400 workers were killed and hundreds more injured in a garment factory collapse in Bangladesh in one of the worst industrial accidents in history. Worse, the supervisors knew the building was unsafe, and ordered workers to report to work anyway. Our hearts ache for the lives lost, and for the blatant disregard for the well-being of the workers.

People often ask us, “wouldn’t your products be cheaper if you just made them in Asia?” The answer is yes, the dollar cost to the consumer would be less, but the overall cost to the world would be far greater. We’re not willing to sacrifice the health of human beings just to compete on price. Our customers — the hundreds of thousands of smart, compassionate women who choose GladRags — understand this, and we thank them for it.

We choose to go beyond “do no harm” to the workers and communities we interact with. We want to actively create good for the people involved in our business. This is why we work with our employees and suppliers to ensure healthy, happy work situations for all.

2. Planet

It’s easy to see that our products are good for the environment. Cloth pads and menstrual cups keep tons of plastic trash out of our landfills, off our beaches, and away from our bodies. We think that’s great, but it’s not enough. Businesses should create products and services that do right by the world, of course, but our actions should reflect that, too.

GladRags chooses to support the environment in myriad ways, big and small. Every decision we make — from how to package our products to what kind of packing tape to purchase — we ask ourselves, how can we make the right choice for the environment?

Our customers will notice that their products ship in minimal packaging that is recycled, recyclable, biodegradable, or all of the above. You might notice that our marketing materials are printed on FSC certified paper with wind-powered printing, too. Behind the scenes, we commute to work by bicycle or by public transportation, and we’re proud that we rarely need to take out the trash more than a few times per month!

b corporation gladrags cloth pads

We choose to be a Certified Benefit Corporation because it holds us accountable for our actions, and encourages us to confront every opportunity with the questions: does this reflect our values? How does this serve people and planet?

Currently, 20 states are considering B Corp legislation, and 12 have passed bills recognizing B Corps as a corporate structure whose ultimate goal is to positively influence people and the planet. Here’s hoping Oregon soon joins the ranks!

tracyAbout the author of this post:
is the owner of GladRags and is passionate about period positivity and empowering women everywhere. In her free time, she likes to volunteer, run around her neighborhood, and cuddle with her favorite cat.

Some people like to make resolutions for the New Year… we like to make Earth Day resolutions that help make our planet a healthier, cleaner, more sustainable place for all of its inhabitants!

What’s your Earth Day resolution? Whether it’s to start composting your kitchen scraps, or finally make the switch to reusable menstrual products (hint hint!), share it with us here and you could win a Deluxe Cloth Pad Kit!

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Leslie of Cycle Technologies joins us for a guest post with answers to some of the most commonly asked questions about CycleBeads. We love this all-natural family planning method, and hope you’ll consider giving CycleBeads a try!

What are CycleBeads? When were they invented?

CycleBeads (www.CycleBeads.com) is a visual tool that helps a woman plan or prevent pregnancy naturally. Specifically, CycleBeads is a color-coded string of beads that represents the days of a woman’s menstrual cycle. It helps a woman track her cycle and know if she is on a day when pregnancy is likely or not. CycleBeads and the family planning method on which it is based, the Standard Days Method , were invented by the Institute for Reproductive Health at Georgetown University (irh.org). The Institute tested the Standard Days Method using CycleBeads in large-scale clinical trials and found CycleBeads to be more than 95% effective at preventing pregnancy and very easy to use.

My company, Cycle Technologies, launched CycleBeads in late 2002 once the efficacy results were published.

How do you use CycleBeads?

A nice thing about CycleBeads is that it is very visual. In fact it might be easier to just show you a picture than to try and explain it in detail.

As you can see it’s a lot of information when you try to explain it someone. I think that’s one of the reasons why CycleBeads is such a cool tool – it provides a wealth of information in a very simple way so you don’t have to keep track of a lot of numbers or do any calculations.

I should note that to use CycleBeads a woman’s cycles must be between 26 and 32 days long. This is the one medical criteria for using this family planning option. Most women’s cycles are in this range, but it’s important to know this before using CycleBeads especially if you are using them to prevent pregnancy. Of course, if you are unsure if your cycles are in this range, CycleBeads can also be used to help you figure this out.

Why would someone choose to use CycleBeads?

Most women tell us that they choose to use CycleBeads because they don’t like the side effects of hormonal contraception. A lot of women just like the simplicity of it. It’s a very intuitive family planning tool. It’s also useful both to plan and prevent pregnancy so many women like to use it as birth control and then switch over to using it to help them get pregnant when the time comes. Most importantly is the fact that it’s a natural family planning method that is highly effective. CycleBeads is more than 95% effective at preventing pregnancy which puts it on par with or better than other user-directed family planning options such as condoms in terms of effectiveness.

What are the benefits of using CycleBeads?

Well the primary benefit is that it’s an easy way to use an effective natural family planning method. As a natural family planning method there are no side effects, it helps a woman get in touch with her body, and it’s inexpensive. And since it’s easy, it means a woman will actually use it correctly.

You recently launched iCycleBeads, a smartphone app. How does it differ from other fertility/period tracking apps on the market?

Right now iCycleBeads is available on iPhone and Android devices and we plan to make it available through other interactive technologies soon. iCycleBeads differs from other fertility/period tracking apps on the market in a number of ways.

While there are a number of fertility and period tracking apps on the market, there are only a handful of apps that help a woman plan AND prevent pregnancy by tracking her cycle. Most of the apps that claim to identify the fertile days based on just your period dates are unclear about their methodology and cannot be used to prevent pregnancy. iCycleBeads is the only app based on the Standard Days Method of family planning so it’s methodology is very clear and well researched; it has been designed to be used as birth control as well as to plan a pregnancy..

There are also apps that are based on FAM or the symptothermal method of family planning. These apps can be quite effective at planning and preventing pregnancy. However, they require a woman to track a lot of information about fertility signs such as cervical mucus and temperature. If a woman already knows how to use these methods and is comfortable doing so, these apps can be very useful. But for women not familiar with these methods, they can be challenging to use.

One feature of theiCycleBeads app that I also really like and differentiates it from a lot of apps is that it proactively sends you alerts when you are key days in your cycle. So even if a woman doesn’t open the app and check it every day, she’ll get a message letting her know when her fertile window starts, when it ends, and when a new cycle is likely to come. It also proactively alerts a woman if she has had a cycle out of range and reminds her to input her cycle data if she forgets.

Tell me about your efforts to make family planning tools accessible to women in developing countries.

We are really proud of the impact that CycleBeads has had in the developing world and we work hard to make this family planning tool available to all kinds of health programs in developing countries at an extremely low cost. CycleBeads is being used in many countries in Africa, Latin America and Asia and has been made available in over 50 countries total.

CycleBeads is a good fit for developing countries because it addresses a lot of issues. Issues that are particularly acute in developing countries which CycleBeads help address include:

1) concerns about side effects – many women in developing countries, like women in the US, are concerned about side effects and unwilling to use a family planning method that they perceive might cause health concerns,

2) costs – CycleBeads are low cost and can be used indefinitely – one study showed that CycleBeads is the most economical family planning option for programs to offer, and given that they are one time purchase, we know that they are extremely economical to the end user,

3 ) ease of use – because CycleBeads is visual and intuitive, it can be used by women who have very little education,

4) access – CycleBeads can be offered in a variety of settings such as retailers and through local programs; it doesn’t require a highly skilled health practitioner to offer it. Also, unlike most other family planning options, it doesn’t require re-supply, break down over time, or need special storage so it’s easy for a program to keep them in stock and make them available. And since a woman only needs to learn about it one time, she doesn’t need to constantly go back to her health provider for refills.

5) couple communication – in many developing countries, couples may not be able to talk openly with each other about family planning or a woman’s cycle. CycleBeads have been shown to be a great tool for helping couples communicate.

We also donate a portion of proceeds to programs that help expand women’s family planning options and to empowerment programs for women.