We love stumbling across a new eco enterprise with a big heart and on our recent travels through the inter web, we came across a super funky and exciting new brand called Tsuno. Tsuno is an Australian social enterprise run by a rocking chick called Ros who donates 50% of all profits to health, education and business projects focussed on empowering women around the globe. And what does Tsuno sell? Wait for it…women's sanitary products…yep, we just used the words super funky and exciting to describe women's sanitary products.
You may not know that most sanitary products are made of plastic and dunked in chemicals and they ultimately end up in landfill - a big no-no for women's health and our environment. So how does one go about making the sanitary product industry more eco friendly as well as improving life for women around the world?
Enter Ros and Tsuno. Tsuno products are made from natural bamboo and corn fibre (not viscose). The packaging is pretty swanky - recycled cardboard boxes decorated with artwork from aspiring Australian artists. The current series is designed by Brisbane based designer Erin Lightfoot who constructs patterns that explore geometry, optical illusion and repetition.
We were pretty impressed so we asked Tsuno's founder Ros over for a little blog chat to share her Tsuno story and to hear more about the lady trying to change the world one pad at a time…(and a little note, this interview is fairly frank so if you're a bit squeamish reading any reference to that time of the month then you might want to skip this blog and just admire the pretty Tsuno boxes here!)
Tsuno is an Australian brand for women and sometimes men! Tsuno’s bamboo fibre sanitary pads are a socially conscious, environmentally sustainable and beautifully designed solution to two problems – monthly sanitary protection and charitable giving. We donate 50% of Tsuno’s profits directly to programs that focus on empowering women.
When I was a little girl I wanted to be a dentist (not because I had any concept of what that meant - a six month stint as a dental assistant quashed that delusion - no offence to the dentists out there!) Then I wanted to be a dancer (because I like wearing sequins and lycra) and then an architect and a long list of other random things. I would freakishly draw pages and pages of house plans. When I was an older girl (early twenties) I wanted to be a furniture designer and I am a furniture designer but I have branched out. So I suppose I could say I want to be a problem solver - can that be a job title? In effect that is why I’m now selling sanitary pads for a living although I definitely would not be selling sanitary pads if it wasn’t a social enterprise.
Ha! Sometimes I like to forget about that. Thank you for reminding me! So back before I had started Tsuno and was working on my business plan, I was an ambassador for a local Melbourne charity called 'One Girl'. One Girl provide scholarships to girls in Sierra Leone and were actually the reason I got onto this whole period thing (obsession?). One of their programs is called 'Launchpad'. Launchpad delivers affordable, biodegradable sanitary pads to women and girls in Sierra Leone using a network of female entrepreneurs and school systems. They started the program because they learnt that many of their scholarship girls were missing out on school for up to a week every month because they didn’t have access to adequate, affordable sanitary protection. I learnt that women and girls often had to resort to using rags, newspaper, kitchen sponges, leaves and even bark which not only are terribly inefficient (I don’t blame them for not wanting to go to school) but cause infection and health issues. When a girl misses school so often, she misses out on learning, falls behind and often drops out as a result. You can see why it’s an important side project to complement their scholarship program.
One Girl has a major fundraising initiative every year called 'Do It In A Dress'. The way it works is, you choose any challenge, do it in a school dress and raise a minimum $300 which covers the cost to keep a girl in Sierra Leone in school for a year.
Now you have the back story. I wanted to do the challenge (my first attempt at one of these charitable challenge type fundraisers) and I really wanted it to be a CHALLENGE. If I was going to ask my family and friends to sponsor me, it needed to be something really tough that brought attention to the cause and reinforced to me why I was starting Tsuno. So, I decided I would wear the school dress during my next period but it would be without the luxury of pads, tampons or a menstrual cup. Instead I'd have to cope with the same as the girls in Sierra Leone.
Yep. And I did it too. I was mighty uncomfortable, less productive and life was tougher for those five days, but you know what? I have a car, I have a hot water system and I have a very comfortable life. I knew that as soon as it that week was over my next period would be fine. That’s not a reality for millions of women in our world. And that’s why I started Tsuno.
When able to, I want to do research and development into a more sustainable alternative product to manage periods. Given that pads, tampons and menstrual cups have been around for over 70 years, where are the alternatives? Sure there has been some slight product development for each of these but considering our advancements in technology and manufacturing processes and women's lifestyles, I think there should be more options. We all have the same need but have different preferences so I hope to get creative and start experimenting with some new ideas. But that takes time and money and risk, so in the immediate future I plan to keep plugging away to grow Tsuno to be a financially sustainable business and introduce organic cotton tampons to the range to offer another choice for my customers.
Thanks Ros - best wishes with your awesome enterprise!
Being suckers for a good cause and things in pretty boxes we're now totally sold on Tsuno products and we decided we had to have them in the Ecolosophy Shop. They tick a heap of boxes with our eco criteria and are a really good solution to something we all need and use. Bamboo is one of the most eco-friendly and sustainable fibres available, super absorbent, breathable, soft and comfortable, antibacterial, and so natural! There is also no chlorine or dioxin bleach used in the manufacturing process (yuk!)
We recall Ros lamenting in an early Instagram post about what images a sanitary product retailer could possibly post on social media… well, you’d be surprised! Follow Tsuno on Facebook or Instagram - Ros keeps her feeds pretty lively and we're sure you'll never think of your monthly visits in the same way...
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