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An Indian survey conducted in 2011 calculated that the subcontinent generated over 9,000 tonnes of menstrual waste - a truly staggering figure that Rie felt she had to do something about, even on a small scale in Sri Lanka! Already an user of only organic and synthetic-free products as a result of being mildly allergic to some ingredients used in conventional cosmetic and housekeeping products, Rie had started using reusable cloth pads while living in Japan. After seeing the severe environmental pollution caused by the combustion of polythene, plastic and even old tyres, Rie founded Momiji Natural to provide a safe and environmentally friendly replacement to sanitary napkins and has achieved this with a number of products now available under her brand from disposable napkins and reusable cloth pads to menstrual cups and sanitary underwear.
“With my sister’s help, we decided to manifest my dream. Our brand was not successful for the first few years as women in Sri Lanka were still not fully aware of the numerous benefits of using cloth pads such as how comfortable and healthy they are and most importantly how affordable and less damaging on the environment when compared to regular sanitary products. However, our brand soon started to become more recognised in many parts of the world including Sri Lanka and we are truly grateful to see Momiji natural make a difference in so many lives and the environment,” said Rie.
In an attempt to understand her target audience better at the start, Rie carried out a survey of 500 Sri Lankan women on their use of sanitary products so that she could ensure their requirements were being met when developing products.The results shocked her as she found that the majority of women she interviewed either flushed or burnt their sanitary napkins - both of which cause severe environmental damage. Armed with the information she collected from the survey, Rie set out to create a large amount of reusable cloth pad samples that she asked her family and friends to use so that she could get more feedback on how she could improve her products.
After fine-tuning the Momiji natural reusable cloth pad samples based on feedback she received, Rie made sure the samples successfully passed the technical test at the ITI and launched her products for sale. While she received many positive reviews, she also received negatives ones which Rie said she’s truly grateful for as it contributed to further improvements of the Momiji natural products!
“We purchase 80% of the materials from Sri Lankan local markets and 20% from overseas. For instance, our pink plaid cotton flannel on the layer that touches the skin is our original design which is manufactured by a company in China. I pick the materials and designs myself and I often feel that my previous career as a graphic designer helps me a lot when doing so,” explained Rie.
All Momiji natural products are manufactured by our team in our very own small factory and everything from the manufacturing to the packaging is done in house by the Momiji natural team. While Rie is truly committed to providing a completely environmentally conscious product, she has been forced to use polypropylene (PP5) for packaging to ensure the product is not damaged by humidity and dust. An area that she constantly researches, she hopes that she will be able to find a viable alternative that’s more eco-friendly and make the swap as soon as possible.
One of the biggest challenges of following a natural lifestyle is sustaining it for a long period of time. When you’re motivated to start, it may seem easy, but as time progresses you may feel the urge to switch back if you don’t really understand and enjoy the changes you’re making in your lifestyle - so start simple with a few small changes at a time. “One small change many women make is by using reusable cloth pads. Some of these ladies have never used reusable cloth pads before and may find washing the pads too much of work at the start, so we encourage our customers to use it only on days that they are free when they first started using it so that they could feel comfortable and happier about using it,” said Rie.
While Rie and the rest of her team at Momiji natural are focused on expanding their product line over the next few years, maintaining high quality products is a top priority for her and as such, all new product developments to lessen the stress of periods for her customers will only come slowly after a thorough process of research.
“Reusable pads are not only comfortable and affordable, they also make our minds healthier. It frees us from the annoyance of throwing out the garbage which also leads to one’s self-confidence that we are making steady progress for creating a better environment.”