We chatted to Celia Pool the Co-Founder of DAME, a certified B-Corp that created the world's first reusable tampon applicator. DAME also has a subscription service for organic cotton tampons delivered based on your monthly cycle.
The carbon-neutral company also just released its 'Impact Report' discussing period accessibility, sustainability and acceptability. Celia shares all the dirty things we never knew about tampons production and clears up all the taboo.
What inspired you to start DAME?
We had already set up a business in the menstrual product sector, delivering a range of high street products to women across the UK via a subscription service. But increasingly we just couldn’t ignore the waste generated by these everyday items:
Once we realised the extent of the problem we knew we had to help bring about change in the industry and fast. DAME was born from this.
Great reusable menstrual products have existed for decades, but only a small percentage of people use them. Our research showed that it was the significant habit change that was preventing lots of women from switching to reusables. So we saw an opportunity to create a sustainable solution that was really easy for people to adopt - particularly for the 60% of UK women who prefer applicator tampons.
After 2 years of careful design, we launched D, the world’s first reusable tampon applicator:
By switching to a D, a woman can save up to 12,000 disposable applicators from reaching landfill or polluting our oceans.
We believe that what put inside our bodies impacts how we look and feel on the outside. Thoughts?
It’s the classic ‘fuel in the car’ analogy. If you put the wrong fuel, it’s not going to be pretty. What always amazes me is how so many people are hyper vigilant about what they put in their mouths, wanting to know if it’s organic/vegan/healthy, etc., yet those same people will happily put a tampon inside them, that sits there for a cumulative total of 7.5 years. But, they have no clue of its ingredients. I was that person too!
However, tampons are not regulated in the EU. Companies do not need to disclose what their products are made of. Studies have found a multitude of different ingredients in conventional brands including:
We need to start asking questions about how these ingredients interact with our bodies.
How does traceability/transparency influence your supply chain decisions?
We’re a B Corp and so we believe in business as a force for good and that runs through every vein of our business. It’s tricky as a young company to do this as a lot of the time you are at the mercy of your suppliers. There will always be parts of our business that we need to refine, but we enjoy the challenge. We have just completed our first Impact Report giving an insight into how our business works.
Why does sustainability factor into one of your core values?
It is a fundamental truth that money or power means nothing without good health. The same applies to the planet we live on. It doesn’t matter how many clothes we buy or holidays we go on, without this planet – our home – we are nothing. The way we treat the planet, especially at this critical juncture is important.
Now menstruation might not be top of the list on climate panels, but every month a huge proportion of the planet get their period. For decades we have been needlessly throwing away menstrual products which are filled with plastic, a lot of the time because shame and embarrassment is wrapped up in the conversation around them. It doesn't need to be this way.
What are your top tips for being a conscious consumer?
Reduce. Put friction between you and that purchasing decision and ask yourself do you really need it. If you do: does it have to be in that exact way or can you find a more sustainable option?
Reuse. One of the benefits of the mass consumption we’ve seen in the last few decades is there’s a plethora of amazing second hand products available to buy which means you are having the win/win of saving something from landfill and not creating anything new in its place. I am an eBay addict and you can find some gems in great condition which are looking for a new home.
How are you trying to reconstruct the narrative around sexual health and personal care? Why does this need to change?
The fact that women have been told that they need to be discreet or fresh on their period for decades is appalling. This is a natural fact of life. In the 21st century, people should not feel that they need to hide their tampon up their sleeve when they go to the bathroom. And this is the better end of the spectrum.
In developing countries, you have young girls being forced to sleep outside in open huts the week they are menstruating, or not allowed in their kitchen or temple because they are deemed ‘unclean’. This is a narrative that sticks with women, and men, for life, and has a ripple effect into so many other areas.
Any advice on how to manage menstruation?
First of all, engage with it. Please throw out all those old stereotypes that you’ve been fed over the years. You are not unclean. You do not smell bad. This is a normal part of life for half the global population.
Once you are comfortable with this, then think about reusables. They cost less, feel much nicer, are really easy to use, and there are different options depending on what works for you. When I discovered them, I felt such a sense of liberation, I couldn’t believe I had not done it sooner.
What initiatives are you doing to empower women? How can everyone can do this on a daily basis?
We try to work with partners where we can give back. Our travel pouches are made in India using a women’s empowerment program to help them get back into work. We work with homeless people to help pack our samples of tampons. On the other side we try to open up conversation around us. Talking to women who are either thinking of or starting their own businesses.
Often the greatest challenge for them is simply taking that first step. Fear can be debilitating. Fear of failure, fear of putting yourself out there, of challenging your normal. Having people who can listen, support and champion you is crucial. Being that person to someone else is even better.
What’s one motto you live by?
DIMO - Do It, Move On. When it comes to making decisions, nothing is worse than paralysis. Better to make a decision and correct it down the road, than live your life treading water.
What are you currently listening / reading / chatting to that is inspiring you?
Your Undivided Attention podcast by the Centre for Humane Technology is fascinating. Ex-employees of Google, the hosts highlight how the tech platforms are commoditising our attention and the massive repercussions it’s having.
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