by Ryan Kretch
I messaged my friend after my tour of Eco Femme in the quirky, Utopianesque Auroville, India and told her that I had just learned about reusable sanitary pads, and her response was, “Yeah, it’s sad that they have to use those there [India].” Prior to this tour, I would have likely said the same thing, or probably wouldn’t have put very much thought into female sanitary pads in the first place. But, I was immediately struck by the passion of co-founder, Jessamijn Miedema. How could someone have so much of a social passion in reusable pads? Who would even use them?
The truth is, women in India have a different inbred mindset than women in the West who prefer convenience and an “out of sight, out of mind” mentality when it comes to tampons and pads. In India, where menstruation is more of a taboo topic and sometimes isn’t even taught to young women before their first period, disposable pads and tampons are the opposite of convenient. In rural areas, using these requires disposal through digging holes or incinerating, which can lead to a lot of embarrassment. Jessamijn saw a gap in this market and in turn created Eco Femme with a hybrid of the 1-1 model implemented by Tom’s shoes. The packaging is stylish and discreet and the actual pad itself comes in many different styles and varieties, some of which further ease the embarrassment of menstruation for women in India.
Throughout the tour, the benefits of reusable pads became utterly clear, as they prove far superior in the environment and to health than their disposable counterparts. The dioxins in disposable pads can cause cancer, reproductive problems, and glandular issues as well as allergies. Additionally, one pad takes 800 years to break down in the environment even though it is only used for a few hours.
The question is, how can we change the habits of female consumers in the west who are caught up on the convenience and would likely be disgusted by the notion of reusing a pad? The price savings could be a start. While one would expect to pay around €270 for 5 years worth of disposable pads, reusable pad users would only spend €45. Furthermore, getting passionate people like Jessamijn advocating for the use of these products would certainly help convert a handful of users. While Eco Femme has begun distributing around the world, including the UK, the message is taking a long time to propagate. But after a little bit of education, it is evident that reusable pads could have massive benefits on the environment and women’s health as well as clear up the ridiculously primitive stigmas the world has around menstruation.
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