An Earthly Connection

Eco Femme, India

Isita Sarkar on September 17, 2018 in Health & Sanitation

Menstruation is a painful experience for all women. But we have been making it a painful experience for the Earth as well.

The averagely used disposable sanitary pad breaks down into minute particles which take approximately 500 to 800 years to decompose. India, having a rough population of 355 million women, who require around 8 to 10 pads per month, generates tonnes of sanitary waste per year. The plastic components of these products render them largely non-biodegradable and thus, they are mostly incinerated, releasing harmful dioxins and chemicals along with toxic ash and fumes.

Cloth pads, produced by Eco Femme, are washable and reusable sanitary pads that are eco-friendly, healthy and cost-efficient. A single washable cloth pad lasts for 75 washes and can help reduce the waste of 600 disposable sanitary pads over a period of 5 years. Many users of this product have also reported that they felt more emotionally connected with their body during their cycle.

Eco Femme co-founder Kathy Walking discusses that the aspect of environmental pollution was the main motivation and driving force which led to the establishment of the social enterprise.

Eco Femme was established as a women-led social enterprise in 2010 in Auroville, South India. The main objective is to create positive social and environmental changes by revitalizing menstrual practices, whereby more and more women would feel empowered to speak of this issue and find their voice on behalf of the Earth.

The cloth pads are made of organic cotton flannel, which, with proper care, also reduces the risks of infections and rashes. The inside of the pad is made of layers of absorbent cotton flannel and the backside is made of PUL (polyurethane laminate) for leak proofing. The cotton provides comfort between the thighs, in place of plastic and thus causes less feeling of wetness and skin irritation.

Eco Femme has launched two major not-for-profit programmes:

Pad for Pad

Pad for Sisters

These programmes aim at educating adolescent girls and marginalized women respectively, about the basics of the menstruation as a cycle, the products available which promote health and well-being of the female body as well as that of the Earth.

The commercial side of Eco Femme deals with the international marketing and selling of cloth pads to more than 20 countries around the world and they have over 80 retail outlets in India as well. The growth of the commercial cell has been significant over the last few years both domestically and abroad.

In the Pad for Pad programme, the sales from international customers are leveraged to donate 1 cloth pad to a rural girl in India, for every cloth pad sold abroad. Four donations are combined together to offer 4 pads and a travel pouch (to safely carry the pads while travelling) and an education kit on menstruation, since most of the rural women are poorly informed and some are not informed at all, about the various changes that their body undergoes during the cycle and also about personal care and hygiene during this time.

Cloth pads produced by Eco Femme come in an array of pretty designs and colours. They are available in different sizes for all the days of the cycle. There are cloth pads with wings, cloth pad panty-liners, and foldable cloth pads. The cloth pads with wings have press buttons at the end of the wings to help keep the pad in place. The foldable cloth pads look like a regular handkerchief or napkin when unfolded. It becomes easier for the rural women to dry their pads at home, without feeling embarrassed.

Once the pads are no longer usable, by removing the press buttons and separating the layers, the product can be recycled in several ways. The cotton can be recycled with other waste fabric; the PUL layer can be recycled with plastic recycling and the press buttons can be reused for various other things, and once they stop functioning, they can be placed with metal recycling.

It is a very beautiful approach to revitalizing menstrual practices as these cloth pads are both eco-friendly and hygienic. They are also very cheap. It is really beautiful how this home-grown hand-made product has brought about many positive changes in the society and attitudes of the people.

To learn more about their inspirational work and about cloth pads and making the switch, visit Eco Femme today!

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