Erdbeerwoche – Breaking the Bloody Taboo
Every woman uses about 17,000 tampons or pads during her lifetime. But how many women have thought about the impact that the use of these products has on their body and on the environment?
Annemarie Harant and Bettina Steinbrugger had worked as consultants in the sustainability sector for many years. Then they noticed something odd: in all the conversations about sustainability feminine hygiene is usually completely excluded. This is at least in part due to the fact that menstruation is still a taboo in many societies.
Annemarie and Betttina decided to dig deeper into the topic and found out quite shocking facts about female hygiene products. First, there is a big environmental issue: 90% of tampons and pads consist of a cellulose plastic mix. A single tampon takes up to 500 years to biodegrade. As a result, 45 billion conventional hygiene products pollute our plant every year. Second, this is also a personal health issue. The plastic in female hygiene products has repeatedly been associated with skin irritation and infections in the genital area. Substances like dioxin, formaldehyde, softeners or synthetic perfumes can be found in pads and tampons. All of them have no place in the most sensitive part of the female body.
After finding out that conventional menstrual hygiene products are neither sustainable nor healthy, Annemarie and Bettina decided to start an online platform to raise awareness around the topic. This was the beginning of their social business “erdbeerwoche” which they founded in 2011. “erdbeerwoche” is an informal German word for menstruation and can be translated as “strawberry week”. The founders chose this funny term because it represents exactly what they want to promote: a positive attitude towards menstruation.
Even though the beginning of their journey as social entrepreneurs was not easy, there was a certain point when they realized, that their idea would be successful. They presented their idea at a conference in front of 2,000 people (mostly men) and received thunderous applause. Shortly after they won a startup competition and then they knew: the time is right for a new generation of female hygiene!
Since then the duo is working towards the introduction of sustainable feminine hygiene products and breaking one of the last taboos of our society – the menstrual taboo. In 2016 they gave a thought-provoking talk at TEDxDonauinsel.
Today erdbeerwoche is both an awareness raising platform as well as an innovative online shop for sustainable feminine hygiene products. Their latest innovation is an e-learning platform for teenagers called “Ready for Red” which educates boys and girls between 13 and 16 years about the topic of menstruation and sustainable feminine hygiene.
The team of erdbeerwoche provides women with facts and figures about the topic of menstruation and feminine hygiene and at the same time offer healthy and ecological alternatives to conventional products. In their online shop women can find tampons and menstrual pads made from organic cotton, menstrual cups, as well as organic and fairtrade underwear.
Erdbeerwoche is on a big mission and has ambitious plans for the future. Their vision is to “break the bloody taboo and revolutionize the feminine hygiene market until all 2 billion menstruating women in the world do not feel ashamed about their period and have access to sustainable feminine hygiene products.”
Through their awareness raising work they want to make women realize their power as consumers. Women buy more than 45 billion hygiene products every year. By buying sustainable alternatives women can have a significant impact on their health as well as on our plant’s ecological balance.
erdbeerwoche was mentioned in more than 300 media reports, TV and radio and has reached over 3 mio women through its awareness raising work. So far they were already able to substitute more than 4.5 mio conventional tampons and pads through sustainable alternatives which means a huge reduction of waste.