Edmonton entrepreneurs hope their eco-friendly products can help end period shaming

A lot of people are not talking about menstruation and that has to change, according to one health expert. 

Most conventional menstruation pads are made from 90 per cent plastic

Pretty Eco Intimates's owner Natalia Eikeland (left) and co-founder of the company Ruth, Nicole Sanchez. These Edmonton companies offer environmentally friendly and reusable menstruation products. (Submitted by Natalia Eikeland and Nicole Sanchez)

Menstruation is still seen as taboo, but between changing habits and having conversations about menstruation, one health expert thinks it's doable. 

Amanda Laird, a Toronto holistic nutritionist, is also the host of Heavy Flow, a weekly podcast dedicated to casual conversations about periods and other taboo health topics. 

"It's often called the curse," she said. 

"If we start being more open and honest about our experiences with menstruation, about the pain we experience, we can break that curse and just have better periods."

With reusable pads or menstrual cups, people are forced to become more intimately acquainted with their menstrual cycles. Environmentally friendly menstruation products can help kick start those conversations, Laird said. 

"When you're using a cloth pad, you have to hang them to dry. There could be a stain," she said. 

By comparison, other conventional products like tampons are designed to keep menstrual blood secret, she said. Plus, they also contribute to mountains of waste. 

Most menstrual pads are made up to 90 per cent from plastic and can take hundreds of years to decompose, according to U.K organization Friends of the Earth

A greener approach

To try and reduce waste, there are at least two companies in Edmonton providing environmentally friendly menstrual products. 

The company Ruth — named after former U.S.Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg — launched earlier this year. The startup offers plant-based pads that break down almost completely in the landfill within a year. 

Ruth pads are mostly made from plant based products. The company was recently created through a Kickstarter campaign. (Submitted by Nicole Sanchez)

The company is also trying to address period poverty by donating to women's shelters across Canada to help them provide menstrual products to their clients.

"There's a lot of education that needs to happen," said Nicole Sanchez, co-founder of Ruth.

While some people are sceptical on how well environmentally-friendly menstrual pads work, she said they function just as well as conventional products. 

 Another Edmonton entrepreneur, Natalia Eikeland, started Pretty Eco Intimates nine years ago, creating products inspired by cloth baby diapers. 

The pads are made from cotton with an internal bamboo fleece core and come in many different patterns and colours, of which the most popular is super heroes.

"I just love the thought of walking around confident with Superman in my pants," said Eikeland on CBC Edmonton's Radio Active

The pads can be reused multiple times by cleaning them in a washing machine, "like any other piece of laundry," she said. 

Pretty Eco Intimates offers pads made from cotton with an internal bamboo fleece core and come in many different patterns and colours. (Submitted by Natalia Eikeland)

Not reinventing the wheel 

Reusable or environmentally friendly menstrual products are nothing new. 

In ancient Greece, people made their own tampons by wrapping wool around a wood splint and some even used sea sponges. 

"Reusable rags or cloth pads that were sewn at home, that was the norm here, too. That's what we were using until they were industrialized," said Laird. 

It wasn't until 1931 that the first commercial tampon was sold. However, since the 1970s, greener alternatives are becoming more popular. 

While many people still view menstruation as taboo, Laird said menstrual blood should carry the same weight of embarrassment as an elbow scrape. 

 "If you cut your finger and got a little bit of blood on your pants or on the chair that you were sitting on, would you be embarrassed? It's the same blood." 


Liam Harrap

Associate producer

Liam Harrap is a journalist at CBC Edmonton. Send story tips to him at liam.harrap@cbc.ca.

With files from Stacey Brotzel


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