Let’s Talk About ‘The Cup’

Posted on November 4, 2009 by Courtney


Image credit: treehugger.com

I realize that today’s topic may squick out some people, but let’s be honest here: The majority of ladies out there are generating a lot of waste for three to five days out of every month. The menstrual cycle is one of Mother Nature’s less convenient gifts to us, and it’s a fact of our modern society that we women will buy products to contain it, and these products will often end up in a landfill. But there is one product out there that virtually eliminates all feminine hygiene-related solid waste altogether, and that product is the menstrual cup.

Before I proceed, I’d like to ask our male readers not to skip out on this discussion simply because the joys of menstruation do not personally happen to you. I’m not trying to be gross here; I’m just talking about an eco-friendly and realistic way to deal with a fact of nature. So let’s all put away our squeamishness and our preconceived notions and talk about this like grown-ups. Okay? Okay.

There are two types of menstrual cups. The first is a reusable bell-shaped cup made of flexible latex or silicone that measures about 2 inches (5 cm) long. There are different widths available; the smaller sizes are typically recommended for women younger than 25, while the larger sizes are for women over 25 and/or who have given birth. The second option is a flexible polyethylene cup that resembles a contraceptive diaphragm, and it is disposable. Because the first option is reusable and therefore greener, I’m going to focus on that one here.

Essentially, the menstrual cup collects the flow rather than absorbing it like pads or tampons. You fold it when inserting; once inside, it resumes its normal shape and forms a seal with the vaginal wall, kind of like a dam. When the cup is full, you simply remove it, dump the contents, then re-insert it. These cups can last as long as 10 years! It’s nothing new, either. The first one was patented in 1932, though the first widely marketed cup, The Keeper, was unveiled in the United States in 1987. (It’s now called The Moon Cup.)

Let’s talk about the pros of using the menstrual cup over pads or tampons. From an environmentalist point of view, it’s obviously a better choice because it eliminates solid waste. I couldn’t find any solid figures on how much feminine hygiene trash goes into our landfills, but common sense tells me it’s a lot. Another pro: There have been no documented cases of toxic shock syndrome with cup users. The FDA has approved them for widespread use, as the menstrual cup has not been proven to cause any health risks. It’s also more convenient if you’re traveling, as you only have to carry one cup rather than a slew of pads or tampons. The cup holds more liquid than even the largest tampons, which is more convenient for women with heavy flows. It’s also much cheaper — a quick search of “menstrual cups” on Amazon tells me you’ll pay roughly $20-$30 for one. Keep in mind they last 10 years, so that’s way less than what you’d pay for pads or tampons over that same time period.

Of course, there are cons as well. Some women find the cup difficult to insert, and they can be messy to remove. I’ve not personally tried the cup, so I can’t attest to its comfort or convenience, but it’s up to each individual woman to decide what works for her.

And that’s it! If a menstrual cup seems too scary for you, there are other ways to reduce the environmental impact of your period. Companies such as Natracare make natural feminine hygiene products out of organic cotton and without using chlorine or plastics. There are also washable cloth pads out there, as well as biodegradable pads and tampons. You could also opt to go on a birth control pill such as Seasonique that reduces your cycle to four periods per year.

I’m very interested to hear what you all think of the menstrual cup. Has anyone used it? If so, what did you think? What are the pros and cons? Would you recommend it? If you haven’t tried it, would you consider doing so? Why or why not?


  1. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, but that’s where I draw the line at being green. Your line, “you simply remove it” just cannot be true, especially if you’re in a public restroom.

    Personally, I use OB because they have the smallest amount of packaging, and are so well designed that I don’t have to remove them as often as the organic-absorbs-nothing brand I tried once.

    I’m glad they changed the name of “the keeper.” I wonder if that was before or after Harry Potter came out.

    November 4th, 2009 at 6:18 am
    Comment by Noelle
  2. I agree that the thought of using one in a public restroom is gross. I can see how it would work well in theory, though. You give it a try and just let me know.

    November 4th, 2009 at 7:48 am
    Comment by Julie
  3. Awesome!! I am giving away both Keepers and Moon Cups on my blog.


    I personally use the Keeper and LOVE it!

    November 4th, 2009 at 8:42 am
    Comment by Mrs. Money
  4. I have the Diva Cup and I LOVE it. There is a bit of a learning curve, but I soon had the hang of it. The Diva Cup works great and I have recommended to all my friends to try it.

    November 4th, 2009 at 1:21 pm
    Comment by Katie
  5. I bought a Diva Cup almost two years ago and I will NEVER use anything else. It really changed my life. It is possibly the single best thing I have ever decided to do.

    I was a bit hesitant at first like any one would be but after one cycle it became easy and it is now second nature. It has made me a lot more in tune with my body and I feel better overall throughout my cycle. Once you get use to inserting and removing there is little to no mess and the cup can be left in without need to empty for A LOT longer than any tampon so the need to empty it in a public restroom is not something that comes up very often.

    I empty mine in the morning and at night and even then it is not even half full, I do have a light flow and for some with extremely heavy flows the need maybe there but honestly once you get comfortable with a cup it would not be an issue. The flow doesn’t tend to be as much as with tampons because it is not sucking up all moisture it just collects the stuff that flows out naturally so trying to correlate the amount the cup holds with tampon absorbency and how many you go through isn’t comparable.

    If you can get past the squeamishness of having to deal with your cycle up front and not just out of sight out of mind it then I highly recommend you give it a try. My lady parts have never been happier. :)

    November 4th, 2009 at 1:32 pm
    Comment by mudnessa
  6. I’m absolutely with Mudnessa.

    I’ve had a Diva Cup for about 1.5 years and adore it! :)

    It makes traveling insanely easier – you don’t have to carry around tampons or wonder if you’re leaking.

    When my cycle is heavier, I sleep with a Lunapad liner, but most of the time, it’s just the Diva Cup.

    I love it so much!

    November 4th, 2009 at 4:03 pm
    Comment by ashley
  7. PS: I’m not so sure that a birth control that eliminates your period COMPLETELY is healthy – what sort of hormones are we releasing? And if a woman would like to someday have babies, will it screw up her body to eliminate her periods for a few years? It just seems unnatural!

    November 4th, 2009 at 4:05 pm
    Comment by ashley
  8. I bought one of these cups (cannot recall which one) once, got it home, and then read on the box that it was supposed to be used by women who have had a child. I didn’t realize I could use it anyway since I’m over 25, and I didn’t try because I figured there was probably a reason they made that designation. Perhaps I was wrong! I kept it, since I figure I”ll have a kidlet one of these days, so maybe I will try it next month!

    November 4th, 2009 at 5:08 pm
    Comment by LaraBoBara
  9. As someone who hasn’t had a child I fear it wouldn’t umm.. fit. This is TMI but I use the smallest tampons I can get and they still sometimes hurt a little bit. I do use organic cotton tampons and liners.

    I’m going to try the Luna Pads for night time and liners soon. It’s really not the ick factor for me, tampons are gross on their own lol.

    November 4th, 2009 at 9:22 pm
    Comment by Lisa @ Retro Housewife Goes Green
  10. I’ve been using a Diva Cup for a while now and LOVE it! I think it’s so easy, you hardly ever would have to empty it more than maybe twice a day and it feels like nothing once it’s in. So simple, non-toxic and very green & economical.

    Anyone afraid it may not fit or be gross, it will and it’s not! There are 2 sizes for the Diva Cup and I’m not sure about the Moon Cup. I prefer the Diva Cup because it’s made out of silicone which is inert and easy to clean – you could even boil it if you wanted to. I just clean mine out well with soapy hot water and dry it and put it back in it’s cloth carry bag when my cycle is over til the next time.

    Traveling with it is so easy, too. I’ve also never had it leak on me overnight, either so I don’t need any other products but my cup! I highly recommend all women use one!

    November 5th, 2009 at 1:34 pm
    Comment by Nature Deva
  11. I’ve used sea sponge tampons for a couple of years now (http://www.jadeandpearl.com/catalog/index.php)
    and i just really have to say that the “ick” hasn’t really increased for me that much– disposable tampons and pads don’t exactly hide their contents.
    using the sponge has really helped with my cramps.. and i think disposables gave me a negative skin reaction because of the bleach, too.

    November 5th, 2009 at 1:38 pm
    Comment by Emily
  12. I use a Lunette cup (Australia’s version I guess!) and I think that you just have to get over the yuk factor because they really aren’t that bad!

    They are so easy to wear, I just empty it twice a day, first thing in the morning and before I go to bed. On the heavier day of my flow I have to empty it 3-4 times instead of 2.

    Think of the money that you save using these, I am so happy to not have to buy tampons again!

    November 6th, 2009 at 12:29 am
    Comment by Holly Cottingham
  13. Oh one more thing, when using a public restroom it is still easy to empty…. It’s easiest for me (maybe different for others) to empty it while sitting at the toilet. Just remove and pour down the toilet. You can wipe with toilet paper instead of washing it under the sink.

    Please don’t all be skeptical, just go for it!

    November 6th, 2009 at 12:33 am
    Comment by Holly Cottingham
  14. Using the Diva Cup has completely changed my period experience–I used to dread and hate it; now I honestly don’t notice it except for a couple times a day.

    To Noelle: it really is just “you simply remove it.” Unlike tampons, the cup can stay in for up to 12 hours, so you don’t have to clean it mid-day. Holly’s point about cleaning it rings true for me, too.

    To Lisa: I’m in the same boat as you; even the smallest tampons hurt, but that’s likely because they’re dry. The Diva Cup is made of soft, smooth silicone, so unless you aren’t inserting it properly, it will never pull and hurt like dry tampons.

    It’s important to realize that the blood you see during your period is yours–it’s a part of you. Washing it away in its true form from the cup is far less gross to me than looking at the gelled up blood that ends up in pads and tampons.

    November 6th, 2009 at 7:38 pm
    Comment by Sandra
  15. To all who are worried/nervous about removing a menstrual cup in a public washroom; menstrual cups can we worn for up to 12 hours at a time, meaning it’s pretty un-likely that you will find yourself in this position. The cup holds a full fluid ounce and most women on average only bleed 2-4 ounces through their ENTIRE cycle, you might fill the cup on your heavier days but most women don’t.
    If you do have to empty more often, removing in a public washroom is really not an issue. Just take a moistened paper towel into the stall with you, remove the cup over the toilet and empty, wipe it out with the paper towel and re-insert. Finito! Some women just wipe with toilet paper and still others don’t need to wipe at all.
    As for sizing all menstrual cups come in at least 2 sizes one for women who have given birth and one for those who haven’t. Just make sure you are purchasing the right size for you. Women of all shapes and sizes use menstrual cups including teen girls and virgins so I wouldn’t be to worried about a cup “not fitting.” Vaginas are pretty stretchy things!

    As for using chemical birth control to reduce the # of periods you have as a way of reducing your environmental impact….I don’t think this is really the way to go. It just changes the impact you are having from waste to another kind of pollution. The hormones in birth control are secreted in your urine and end up in the water supply which has extremely harmful effects on the eco-system. See here for more info:

    November 6th, 2009 at 7:47 pm
    Comment by Morgan
  16. One correction, they haven’t changed the name to Moon Cup, they added a silicone (non-latex) version of the latex rubber Keeper and called it Moon Cup. They really aren’t bad though like some people think. I’m still getting the hang of my Diva Cup (I usually still feel it until it settles in, which can take a while, and get teeny leaks), but you really don’t have the public restroom issue like some people worry about when you only have to change it twice a day like I do. If that’s a worry though you can always just go for lunapads (very easy and comfy!) with a moon bag so you have somewhere for dirty liners/pads. That’s my solution ’til I get more used to the cup.

    November 6th, 2009 at 8:47 pm
    Comment by Karen
  17. The DivaCup does take a bit of practice, but I found it easy to get used to, and I was never able to wear tampons comfortably. Most of the time I use the LunaPads, and carry both the used and the clean pads in a lunapouch (made originally for diapers – doesn’t leak!), but I wear the cup for swimming. (I have travelled to Europe just with the pads, and I found it so much nicer than wearing disposibles)
    The Divacup is incredibly comfortable, I can’t stress that enough.

    November 6th, 2009 at 9:37 pm
    Comment by Liz
  18. I think it is interesting but my line for green products ends at things that involve bodily fluids.

    November 8th, 2009 at 1:04 am
    Comment by Jen
  19. My sister in law SWEARS by her diva cup. I’ve never tried it, but I am considering it.

    November 8th, 2009 at 2:54 pm
    Comment by Jess
  20. I’m using Lunapads right now (and love them!) but the cup sounds awesome. I have an IUD, though – anyone know if it’s safe to use a cup if you have one??

    November 9th, 2009 at 11:13 am
    Comment by Megan
  21. I LOVE my DivaCup! Best monetary decision I’ve ever made. I have just got some GladRags for backup, and I mostly use them at night, or if I’m staying in and don’t want to bother with my DivaCup on my cramp day. It doesn’t make my cramps worse, but some times I’m just in no mood for it.

    Megan: The GladRags website suggests you talk to your doctor about using IUDs and cups.

    December 4th, 2009 at 2:38 pm
    Comment by Andrea
  22. As for using chemical birth control to reduce the # of periods you have as a way of reducing your environmental impact….I don’t think this is really the way to go. It just changes the impact you are having from waste to another kind of pollution. The hormones in birth control are secreted in your urine and end up in the water supply which has extremely harmful effects on the eco-system. See here for more info:

    July 17th, 2010 at 12:09 am
    Comment by saints jerseys
  23. I’ve just started using a Miacup and am just simply loving this purple cup.
    It’s kinda funky like me and soft enough to be comfortable with a flexi tab.
    It has been great using a coloured cup after a transparent one and it’s satin bag is just cool and classy without being cheezy like some others bags out there.
    Best savings of my adult life to use a menstrual cup.
    Glad there are many different kinds and My Miacup rocks!! I never need to change it in a public restroom cause it hold up to 12 hrs worth of flow and heavy days a little less but I can still time when to empty it and be at home for it. Such freedom is priceless besides not needing to use anything else. My body works well and it’s not an issue any longer.
    Miacup has such a comprehensive website with so many FAQ’s and research that all questions are put to rest. Got my friend to use it too and she is going to become an agent for them.
    Brilliant!!! Check it out http://www.miacup.com

    August 11th, 2010 at 3:47 pm
    Comment by Clios
  24. [...] I’m going to feel a little weird writing about this, but apparently my post about menstrual cups makes me The Greenists’ resident expert on menstruation. I’m not sure I know any more [...]

    October 14th, 2010 at 4:03 am
    Pingback by Organyc: 100% Organic Cotton Feminine Products
  25. I absolutely love my divacup!
    I purchased it several years ago and would never think to use tampons again! I have quite a heavy period, and it holds way more than any tampon. There really is not a mess at all. Once I got used to using it, I have found it far less messy than tampons. I do have an iud… I am just careful not to pull on my iud strings when removing the cup. No big deal at all!
    REI even sells them as they are great for camping and backpacking!

    November 15th, 2010 at 8:15 pm
    Comment by amanda
  26. I’ve had a Diva cup for a couple of years, and it’s so much better than tampons. For one thing, when it’s full, it still doesn’t leak. I have really heavy periods, and have blown through a super large tampon in half an hour. The diva cup will hold it in like a cork until you can get to the toilet.

    Dealing with it in a public restroom or at work is no worse than dealing with tampons. Just wipe it out with toilet paper and it’s fine. It’s great for overnight.

    I feel really weird gushing about things to do with my period on a public web site, but I feel like I have to spread the word about these wonderful devices. They rock!

    November 22nd, 2010 at 6:06 pm
    Comment by Rebecca

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