Goal 13: Climate Action
'I launched my own eco-friendly period care range'
TOGETHERBAND ambassador Affi Parvizi-Wayne launched her brand Freda in a bid to help #EndPeriodPlastic
By EMMA ELMS
26 OCTOBER 2020
Keen to promote a greener lifestyle, Affi Parvizi-Wayne, 55, from London, set up the natural period care range Freda in 2018. Her aim was to provide an eco-friendly, sustainable alternative to traditional products. She is married with two children, Sophia, 23 and Darius, 21.
The idea for Freda first came from the refugee crisis. My parents were asylum seekers, so I’m from a refugee background. I went to a Lebanese school in Kuwait, then moved to the UK when I was 12. I was shocked to hear from friends who work for relief organisations that period products aren’t included in the hygiene kits that they provide. I thought, ‘What do refugee women do?’ Access to period care is a basic human right. I was aware that refugee camps have a horrendous waste management issue too. There’s nowhere to safely dispose of sanitary products.
Once I started researching period products, I was struck by how few are eco-friendly and the total lack of transparency over the ingredients. Companies never list the ingredients of period products on the box and promote their products as providing ‘cotton-like’ comfort which implies actual cotton, but no! Instead, they contain artificial gels and dyes. I love a challenge, so I decided I wanted to create a product that was as natural and sustainable as possible – made with REAL cotton. My husband is a gynaecologist, so his expertise came in handy too.
I started out as a financial journalist, then worked for 20 years as a consultant in the gas, oil and car industries. It opened my eyes to how shockingly un-green we are globally, starting with car ownership. I did some research into car emissions and the statistics were horrific!
It sparked my passion for environmental issues and I realised we all need to change the way we live. I knew my children were the ones who’d need to continue that change one day, so it was important to me that they took responsibility early on. I wanted our whole family to lead a greener lifestyle and make conscious choices as consumers, so I made sure we shopped locally, supported our weekly farmer’s market and avoided all fast fashion. I enrolled my children in a sewing club and taught them a ‘make do and mend’ mentality
Eco period products are a fairly niche area at the moment, but I didn’t want Freda to be a brand only for ‘eco warriors’ – we need to drag the conversation around eco-friendly period products into the mainstream. People tend to buy the same period products their mothers bought, so it can be very difficult to get consumers to change their buying habits.
Our tampons are made from 100% organic cotton and our applicators are plant-based – they’re made from sugar cane (from renewable sources). My aim is to move people completely away from applicators so we always include a few applicator-free tampons in every order to encourage our customers to try them instead – and 40% do make a permanent switch. It’s only in the UK and the US, that people have this idea that ‘periods are dirty’ so we need applicators to use tampons, when in fact they’re unnecessary.
Our pads are made from wood pulp – they use 70% renewable materials (compared with the industry standard of 40%). Everything is made in an eco-certified, carbon-neutral factory to reduce the environmental impact. After your first order, we operate as a subscription delivery service – we’ve recently reduced deliveries from monthly to quarterly to lower our environmental impact even further. We wrap our products in recyclable paper and use minimal packaging – only the tampons come in plastic as that’s a legal requirement for them to be in water-resistant material.
What is 'biodegradable'?
I’ve seen a huge amount of misinformation about what constitutes ‘biodegradable’, so I’m always careful to point out that products are only biodegradable under certain conditions – for instance, you need sunlight to make the process happen. A few customers have emailed me to ask, ‘Can I throw my used tampons on the compost heap with our veg?!’ but you can’t do that because 1) they’ve been in contact with human blood, plus 2) the sunlight can’t get to them if they’re in a big heap so they won’t decompose. The wrappers on our pads are fully compostable though, so you can chuck those on!
We’ve partnered with a lovely company called Fab Little Bag who sell sealable, biodegradable sanitary disposal bags, so I advise customers to pop their used products in those, then throw them in your normal rubbish bin (they’re not recyclable). Above all, never flush your products down the toilet – ocean pollution is a huge issue. The Women’s Environmental Network estimates that there are around nine plastic applicators and 23 sanitary pads for every kilometre of beach in the UK.
Fight period poverty
Tackling the issue of period poverty is at the core of our brand too, so I’ve incorporated a giveback pledge to support those in need. We donate a portion of our profits to initiatives such as Bloody Good Period, The Red Box Project and A Bloody Good Cause who are addressing the issue of period poverty.
Both in my business and at home, I’m relentless in trying to be as sustainable as possible. Even now as adults, my son and daughter both love buying second-hand clothes and re-selling them. They recently made some pyjamas out of old shirts and sheets. My husband is a surgeon, so happens to be a brilliant sewer too!
3 changes I'd like to see
1. NO MORE GREENWASHING
I believe in complete transparency as a business - we have to be honest about the environmental challenges our brand faces in order to find better solutions.
2. CUT FAST FASHION
This is the biggest pollutant to me. I was proud to be part of the Fashion Revolution #whomademyclothes campaign in 2018 which aimed to uncover the truth about where and how clothes are made and get consumers asking questions about their favourite brands. Freda was the only non-fashion brand to join the campaign.
3. PLANT-BASED DIETS
I’d like to see a wider transition to plant-based diets for the sake of the environment.
For more information visit Freda.