Radar: Tsuno Bamboo Sanitary Pads

So, it’s that time of month again and you’re speeding out to the store to stock up on feminine products like a zombie hoarder on The Walking Dead. The scariest thing about feminine products, however, isn’t the rate at which we collect them or hoard them away like a national weapons reserve. It's what's in our feminine products, and what they do to the environment, that should alarm you. 

Because feminine products are technically deemed “medical devices,” most companies which manufacture our precious pads aren’t required to disclose every “ingredient” used in the production of these items. These products are used in mass quantities across the globe, and yet few of us consider the negative effects which synthetic fibres and petrochemical additives can have on our bodies. Most feminine sanitary products you buy straight from the shelf are prettily packaged, but that’s mostly clever marketing aimed at making you feel better about wearing what is essentially a toxic diaper for 3-5 days. 

Photo credit: Ruth Clifford for Tsuno. 

Tsuno is an Australian brand producing beautiful, disposable sanitary pads. The pads are made using natural bamboo (not viscose) and corn fibre, wrapped in biodegradable sleeves and packaged in recyclable cardboard boxes. Bamboo is breathable and highly absorbent, in addition to being comfortable and soft in texture. In stark contrast, other brands simply manufacture plastic, synthetic pads, which are terrible for the environment and certainly not biodegradable. 

With the average menstrual cycle of one woman lasting anywhere between 3-7 days, one woman could go through several sanitary pad and tampon products which, for the most part, are flushed down the toilet or improperly recycled. Some do use alternative products, whilst the majority opts to use endless amounts of the opposite. In fact, the average woman could throw away anywhere between 200-300 pounds of sanitary products in her own lifetime. 

That’s a whole mess of pads. But is a bamboo pad really the way to go?

While bamboo may be more kind to our bodies, its production and sourcing is not ethical nor sustainable across the board. Asia has for some time remained the largest producer of bamboo — a perennial plant stemming from the grass family — and though bamboo grows very easily (and quickly), many choose to grow it as a monoculture, increasing profitability. Mono-cropping is notoriously bad for the environment because it limits species biodiversity, which encourages invasive bugs, prompting the use of pesticides. Chinese farmers will also sometimes use chemical fertilizers to increase yield, in an effort to meet Western demand. 

So, bamboo may not be the global answer for sustainable feminine products, but few companies work to revolutionize the menstrual game like Tsuno does. For instance, 50% of all profits are donated to the International Women’s Development Agency (IWDA) in an effort to help empower women — ranging from education initiatives for small business, to health initiatives (which of course include menstrual health). Tsuno also refrains from utilizing chlorine and dioxin bleach in its manufacturing process, which means less chemical off-take for rivers, lakes, and our bodies. 

At this time, these sanitary pads are not 100% biodegradable, as the bottom layer is constructed using a polyethylene film. Polyethylene is one of the most commonly used plastics, and is often used in sanitary products to prevent leakage. The company is, however, continuing research to find an alternative in order to produce truly biodegradable pads. 

Tsuno’s founder, Roz Campbell, initiated participation in One Girl’s Do It In A Dress program, through which $1 from every purchase of Tsuno pads (up to 1200 boxes) will be donated. This initiative seeks to educate young girls and women in Africa and uses the proceeds from the challenge to do so. One Girl’s Launch Pad project, with which Tsuno is also involved, helps provide affordable and biodegradable sanitary pads to women in Sierra Leon, so they can afford the necessary feminine products that most of us take for granted here in the Western World.

Photo credit: Ruth Clifford for Tsuno. 

It doesn’t hurt, either, that the pads are considerably cost-effective and help women internationally. Tsuno’s Share The Dignity donation box, for example, allows you to purchase a box of sanitary products for homeless and/or at-risk women to allow them a sense of dignity during their “time of month.” 

While I can’t totally hop aboard the bamboo-pad train when riding my crimson wave, I do think it’s important to recognize a company like Tsuno for creating innovative products, which seek to change the way female sanitary products impact both our bodies and the planet. The transparency with which the brand admits that they’re working towards a 100% biodegradable product tells me that Tsuno’s concern does not just lay with producing a disposable pad wrapped in pretty packaging. And, because I can’t personally fathom using the Diva Cup — it’s just not “my thing” — I’d rather turn to Tsuno than toss endless amounts of Always or Tampax pads into my city’s landfill. 

Right now, it's a great start, and groundbreaking for the industry. And who knows, perhaps sometime in the near future, they will revolutionize the pad-game once again and create their own 100% biodegradable pad. In the mean-time, the search is on for other feminine alternatives to the traditional pad we all know and love (but sometimes hate?)

Tsuno is available in the United States and Canada via The Green Jungle.


Front page photo c/o Tsuno