We recently interviewed Tracy Puhl, the new head of GladRags. GladRags offers reusable menstrual products, the benefits of which include less environmental waste, lower long term costs, and fewer issues with chemical sensitivies or allergies compared to disposable menstrual products. GladRags pads are made of organic cotton, locally sourced fabric and packaged with recyclable materials. Dedicated to sustainability, the company is conscientious of their footprint in every part of the business – from office work to manufacturing.
Known for their commitment to not only healthy periods, but to the community of Portland, Oregon, Tracy shared some insight into what makes her, and GladRags, tick!
Editor’s Note: GladRags is also a retailer of CycleBeads - an effective natural family planning option that is good for the environment, your health, and your pocketbook too!
1. You recently became the head of GladRags. What excites you most about this position?
I became involved with GladRags several years ago when I worked with a vocational support program for people with developmental disabilities. GladRags hires a team of people with developmental disabilities to package our products, and at that time I was their support staff. I had never heard of GladRags before and, like many women, was pretty skeptical at first. But then I tried reusables and never went back!
I’m SO excited about this new step in my journey with GladRags! Reusable menstrual products are something I’m really passionate about, and I can’t wait to help even more women learn about this empowering, earth-friendly option.
2. Tell us about the donation programs of reusable menstrual supplies to young women in developing nations? How did GladRags get involved? Does GladRags do similar donations within the United States?
For years we’ve received requests for donations from a variety of groups around the world. We’re a small company, and sadly just can’t afford to donate as many pads as we’d like to! I started the donation program, which allows individuals to purchase GladRags at a very low price to be donated to women in need, last year after we were contacted by the Elizabeth Bowers Zambia Education Fund (www.bethsgirls.org). I was so moved by the story of Beth’s Girls, and decided we needed to figure out a way to help, and over 3,000 pads were donated! Since then we’ve worked with several other organizations serving impoverished women, and so far it’s been a very successful program.
3. GladRags integrates a number of solutions – providing a sustainable solution to menstrual products, empowering women to think positively of their period, & collectively supporting the improvement of women’s lives through the donation program. How did you become passionate about this integration?
It’s really important to me that GladRags is a positive influence on the world in as many ways as possible. I think it’s too easy to say that we have this product that’s really great for the environment, so we don’t need to work on making the world better in any other areas. And it’s unfortunate, but a lot of companies do just that: they’ll promote an organic product without really considering whether or not fair labor practices were used, or if there was animal testing, or how the product impacts their consumers. Every aspect of our business reflects our commitment to making the world a better place, from providing jobs for people with disabilities to keeping our manufacturing local to doing our best to support women’s health in other parts of the world.
I honestly never thought I’d work outside of the non-profit sector because I assumed that business meant you had to sacrifice your ideals for the sake of profit, but I’m learning that people really respect this holistic approach to business and that you can create a functional business model based on “doing right” by the world!
4. You offer a comprehensive selection for women who use reusable pads, from eco-friendly laundry detergent, to custom kits for teens. What product or products do you recommend for women switching to re-usables for the first time?
For women who are switching to reusables for the first time, the Pad Sampler Kit is a great option to try out each of our different pads (day, night, and pantyliner). Our Deluxe Kit is the most cost-effective way to start using GladRags. It’s a larger up-front investment, but provides all the pads needed for one full cycle. For women who prefer internal options, a menstrual cup kit is the way to go. Women can choose their menstrual cup, and the kit comes with two GladRags pantyliners which offer back-up protection for new cup users. All of the kits are available in either conventional color cotton or undyed organic cotton.
5. There are some great stories on your site of women switching over, from the original “ick” factor of “dealing” with a period to being a fierce advocate for GladRags. How have you seen the perception of menstruation change?
I think GladRags plays a huge role in helping women overcome negative feelings about their own bodies and their menstrual cycle! I definitely didn’t always feel the “period positivity” I do now, and it’s largely in part to reusable menstrual products bringing me closer to my body. I think once you really have to deal with your period, by washing your pads or menstrual cup instead of wrapping a disposable in tons of toilet paper and throwing it out as quickly as possible, it stops being this scary, unknown, shameful thing and starts being this empowering experience of mindfulness and taking care of your own body.
I hope that GladRags is not only helping women in this way on a personal level, but that we’re also helping to exact change on more of a societal level simply by talking about periods. By just having a conversation about menstruation or our bodies, we can start to dismantle this taboo that only serves to bring shame to a lot of women.
6. What, if any, are your thoughts on recent legislative attempts to de-fund health services & reproductive health education for teens & adult women?
I don’t think I can speak for the group here, as the GladRags community is a very diverse bunch with a wide range of political views! Personally, I think access reproductive health for women is absolutely necessary but is often overlooked as a real need. I think this topic becomes contentious because it gets tangled up with abortion and sexuality, but I think most of us can agree that every women deserves access to affordable care and to be educated about how her body works.
7. What do women of previous generations, who used heavy duty sanitary napkins, think of GladRags? Have you had any conversations?
Yes! I often talk to women who say they used the clunky belt-and-strap method or that the older women in their family used actual rags for their cycles. They’re usually really excited about this updated version of the “old-fashioned” way. GladRags have the thinness and convenience of disposables, without the waste and discomfort. GladRags tend to be popular with women in their 20s and 30s, and I think this is due to the fact that cloth diapering has become more mainstream. When women begin cloth diapering their babies, many realize that if cloth is better for their children, it’s probably a better choice for themselves!
Posted in: Womens Health