In my favorite posts bloggers wrote about their tips on how to reduce one's impact on the environment, so I thought I would add one of my own, one for the ladies (sorry, fellas).
Instead of using tampons or sanitary napkins (which has got to be the most awful generic name for a product ever), try the Keeper.
The Keeper is designed to catch your menstrual flow rather than absorb it. Its bell shape allows ...[it]...to fit snuggly and comfortably up against your vaginal walls, below but not touching your cervix.
The Keeper is much better for the environment then pads or tampons, which come in cardboard boxes and plastic wraps and are thrown out after use. Besides the positive environmental effects, using the Keeper is cheaper than restocking on pads and tampons each time you have your period. (It cost about $35. Pads and tampons costs about $4, right now, so if you use a pack a month for 30 years you will have spent $1,440 on menstruation products. Even if your using half a pack a month, it's still a lot cheaper to buy a Keeper.) Finally, I like the Keeper because I know what's coming in contact with my body. When I use a pad or a tampon, I'm not sure what chemicals have been used to bleach the product white or to make it super-absorbant.
If I've sold you on it, you might be wondering how it works. First, here is what it looks like:
When I begin my period, I wash the Keeper off with soap and hot water and then I boil it for ten minutes (I've read that three minutes in boiling water is safe, but I like to be careful).
To insert it, I fold it in half once and then again (see below).
Then I get into the same position I would to insert a tampon (if seeing a diagram of a vagina is NSFW don't click on that link) and slide it with my thumb and index finger guiding it in. When I remove my fingers, the Keeper pops open and into place.
I have to empty the Keeper twice in a 24-hour-period, which I generally do in the morning and before I go to bed, dumping the contents into the toilet or down the drain while I shower. I wash the Keeper thoroughly before re-inserting. Sometimes I use a pad at night with the Keeper just in case.
The Keeper has a little knob on the end that sticks out of your vagina while it's in (some people cut off this knob). You can grip this knob while you remove the Keeper. To remove it, I simply insert my finger into my vagina and squeeze the Keeper, breaking it's seal, which allows me to pull it out (it's painless).
When my period is over I wash it and boil it again. I store it in a small cloth bag (which by the way, I wash with the laundry the week I have my period).
Here are some things to consider before buying a Keeper:
If you do not like to put your fingers in your vagina or are worried about getting a tiny (and it really is tiny, I've never spilled it or anything) amount of blood on your fingers, this probably isn't for you.
It is larger than a tampon, so it might be uncomfortable to use if you haven't had vaginal sexual intercourse yet. (Although I do have to say, that I do not feel it at all when I have the Keeper in and I am able to feel tampons.)
If you have to change the Keeper more frequently because your flow is heavier, you should be prepared to change it in a public restroom setting just in case. This might mean bringing some extra water and a little bottle of soap with you, so you can rinse and wash the Keeper in your stall.
I have read that Keepers might increase the chance of getting a UTI, but if you are prone to UTIs you can prevent this by just being extra careful (drinking lots of water, practicing good hygiene, drinking unsweetened cranberry juice, urinating after sexual contact, and never holding your urine in for a long period of time).
I really love my Keeper and I'm happy to answer any questions anyone has about it to the best of my ability.
Edit: If you don't want to try to use the Keeper consider making your own pads. All you need is an old t-shirt, pillowcase, or sheets and a couple safety pins. You can cut them to be any length you want and fold them over to make them any thickness you want. Just rinse them out, wash, and reuse! Even if you just do this at night you'll be cutting back on the amount of trash produced by traditional menstrual products.