Hear what co-founder Tarun has to say about Saathi and climate change in this special feature!
Saathi is a purpose driven manufacturing company that makes eco-friendly hygiene products. Founded by graduates from MIT (US) and Nirma, we are innovators in the use of alternative materials and zero-waste production. Our mission is to create hygiene products that are good for the body, environment, and community.
How did the story begin?
Saathi began in 2015, when its co-founders Kristin Kagetsu, Tarun Bothra, and Grace Kane - graduates of MIT (US), Nirma University and MIT (US) - came together on a mission to create fully eco-friendly, compostable sanitary napkins using locally sourced banana fiber from the state of Gujarat, where Saathi is based. We were inspired by the idea of improving women's access to sanitary pads in India. Kristin was passionate about making a product that is sustainable using natural materials and impacts women. She had previously commercialized and launched sustainable natural-dye crayons made by local artisans in Uttarakhand, India. Tarun brought his business experience in renewable energy, materials and passion for improving the lives of the masses to set up this new social venture. Tarun also had personal experiences with a family member who was affected by having to face the taboos around menstrual hygiene in India. Grace was also passionate about sustainable product design and innovation as well as impacting women. We found a way to source natural eco-friendly materials for sanitary pads to make a product that not only positively impacted women but was also good for the environment. We were motivated by the potential to make a positive difference for women in India while using an engineering approach focused on ecology and sustainability. Together we combined our experiences to conceive and develop a biodegradable and compostable sanitary pad with a cradle to cradle (completely sustainable) business model which also embodies circular economy. Our team has business, technical, and local expertise to develop new products and set up manufacturing. We aim to apply this to other absorbent products.
Why biodegradable pads?
Saathi pads are Biodegradable & Compostable, using plant-based materials for the leak-proof outer layers of the napkin. Many consumers have issues with irritation or rashes from the plastics/chemicals in standard pads. The average conventional sanitary pad contains 3.4g of plastic. This means that over her lifetime, the average woman will generate 60kg of plastic from sanitary pads alone. In 2016, there were 150,000 tons of sanitary pad waste in India. When disposed of, Saathi pads degrade within six months - 1200 times faster than plastic pads! Since Saathi pads don’t contain chemicals, they provide a rash and irritation free experience.
How does banana fibre compare to other natural fibres?
Saathi pads are made with banana fibre because of its highly absorbent properties, and the environmental and social benefits of its supply chain. Banana fibre comes from the stem of the banana tree, which after harvesting is normally discarded. Saathi instead buys the stems from collectives of local farmers. After we extract the fibre, the residue left over can be fermented and used by farmers as an organic fertilizer. Most plastic sanitary pads use chlorine-bleached wood pulp as an absorbent, while most other eco-friendly pads use cotton. Banana fibre uses six times less water per ton produced than cotton, and 10 times less fertilizers. Most importantly, since bananas are an existing food crop, no extra land is being taken up by the production of this fibre. There are already 9 million hectares dedicated to banana farming worldwide. By trailblazing the use of banana fibre as a consumer product raw material, Saathi hopes to champion its expanded use.
Saathi's 2021 Donation Campaign
To help us reach our goal of supporting 5000 menstruators with biodegradable sanitary pads in India for an entire year, please consider contributing to our campaign! Our Give India campaign is for all contributors in India with 80G tax deductible benefits, while the GoFundMe campaign is for contributors from all countries outside of India and has 501c3 tax deductible benefits.
To learn more about our campaign, check out this blog post.