Edmonton start-up business creates eco-friendly menstrual pads

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An Edmonton-based start-up company is offering women an eco-friendly option when purchasing menstrual pads.

Ruth, named after former U.S. associate justice of the Supreme Court Ruth Bader Ginsburg, officially launched on Tuesday with a Kickstarter campaign. Within a few days, the fledgling business surpassed its campaign goal of $7,000. The pads are made of plant-based materials, mostly kenaf fibre, bamboo, cellulose and starch-based bioplastic.

Co-founders Anka Chan and Nicole Sanchez developed the pad as a student project in 2018 while studying at the University of Alberta.

Chan said their pads have a carbon footprint 5.3 times less than cotton and don’t have any plastics in them, unlike some other menstrual products.

“The fact that we’re creating products that are 93 per cent bio-based just makes a huge difference in diverting plastic waste from landfills,” she said. “Every year, nearly 12 billion menstrual products are sent to North American landfills. It’s pretty crazy. In one menstruator’s lifetime, they can generate up to 300 pounds of plastic waste. If you just think about how that multiplies across all the people who menstruate in our city, across North America, the amount of waste getting sent to landfills is just staggering.”

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The pads are made in India and shipped back to Edmonton to be assembled in boxes, which are sold in packs of 15 for $15. In comparison, a major brand label sells a box of 50 pads for around $10.

Chan said their mission is different from other companies as they are putting a real emphasis on producing a product that isn’t harmful to the environment.

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“We’re not here just to make a profit,” she said.

The two entrepreneurs are also using their company to raise awareness of barriers women face in accessing feminine hygiene products. Sanchez said one-in-three Canadians struggle to afford them.

Chan said they’re in the final stages of negotiating with the U of A Students’ Union to provide their products for free to students.

“We quickly adopted and made that a mission to be a part of the solution against period poverty,” she said. “That’s really important to us.”

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Sanchez said they will be selling their products directly to consumers through their website and continuing to follow through on their mission goals by providing pads to shelters. The company has already partnered with All Cycles YEG, Moon-Time Sisters in British Columbia and Chez Doris in Quebec.

Sanchez said they learned a lot of lessons as first-time business owners, especially amid the COVID-19 pandemic. One was the importance of connecting with the community.

“The (Edmonton) community is so supportive,” she said. “There are so many people that are our cheerleaders, even from the very beginning. Relying on our community has been incredibly helpful. Knowing that there’s a community behind us, that is supporting us, has been really appreciated.”

Going forward, Sanchez said the company wants to expand by offering other sustainable products including diapers, tampons and pantyliners.

jlabine@postmedia.com

@jefflabine

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