The re-usable product that’s breaking taboos
Darcy Wintonyk and Lynda Steele, CTV British Columbia
Published Thursday, June 21, 2012 9:52AM PDT
Last Updated Monday, September 24, 2012 4:45PM PDT
A made-in-B.C. reusable feminine hygiene product is diverting millions of items from the landfill every year and is creating better futures for women halfway around the world.
Lunapads sells a line of reusable menstrual pads that are an eco-friendly, money-saving alternative to disposable tampons and pads.
The colourful, reusable pads are made right here in Vancouver and the product line is now sold in 40 counties.
"One million disposable pads and tampons are being diverted from landfills every month because of women using our product,” said Madeleine Shaw, co-founder of Lunapads.
The company estimates a single Lunapad replaces 120 pads or tampons.
The choice to use wash and reuse menstrual cloths is a simple one for the eco-friendly consumer, Shaw says, akin to using stainless steel water bottles, cloth shopping bags or rechargeable batteries.
Add in a recent health scare over mouldy tampons in Texas and more women are starting to look at Lunapads.
"They’re coming to us and they're saying ‘What are some options? Because I had no idea that the products I’m using could be potentially not healthy for me,’” said Suzanne Siemens, co-founder of Lunapads.
Siemens says some traditional feminine hygiene products are treated with chemicals to enhance absorbency or add scent, but the health effects are still not fully known.
With sales of Lunapads approaching the one million mark, London Drugs just signed on to sell the product in 75 of its western Canadian stores.
But perhaps the real success story of Lunapads lies in the philanthropic work being done in Africa by its founders.
In 2008, Ugandan villagers asked if they could copy the B.C. product. The result is a cottage industry called Afripads that employs 50 people.
The co-founders visited the operation in January and describe it as a thrilling and overwhelming experience.
“We cried,” Shaw said. "Walking into this room and seeing this whole room full of women sewing products that look identical to Lunapads -- it was just so moving that the idea had travelled so far."
Five countries in Eastern and Southern Africa are now involved in the Afripads program, providing over 100,000 young girls with feminine hygiene products they never had access to before.
"Over in Uganda, it's helping girls stay in school. It's helping them get an education and that is affecting their entire future and in turn the futures of their communities,” Shaw said.
Canadian consumers can help the girls in Africa too. Lunapads just launched a new program called One4Her, a “buy one, give one” program where a consumer purchase triggers the donation of a comparable item in the developing world. In this case, for each Lunapad purchase, an Afripad is donated to a girl in East Africa.
Tonight on CTV News at Six, consumer reporter Lynda Steele looks at Lunapads, the reusable menstrual pads that are diverting millions of hygiene products from landfills.