Wearwell's co-founder Emily Kenney chats with Cherie Hoeger, Co-Founder + CEO of Saalt, about running a B Corp brand, period poverty, and what traveling the world taught her about sustainability.
Emily: What about Saalt’s mission motivates you?
Cherie: I love what I do because I get to help the planet through our sustainability efforts and improve the lives of people across the world every day. As a B Corp, we consider the net impact of everything we do, from the companies we partner with to the materials we use. Although we already use as little plastic as possible in our supply chain, we took that a step further and became the first period care brand to certify as Plastic Negative, which means we remove twice as much waste from the environment as we generate. To maintain an ethical and women-empowering supply chain, we work with factories that pay living wages and fund scholarships for their seamstresses. Finally, as part of our 2% give-back mission, we donate period care to those with the most need and fund scholarships for girls in developing nations who can’t afford an education.
Emily: That’s amazing, we love Saalt’s commitment to people and the planet! How did your interest in sustainability begin?
Cherie: Growing up in the US, we don’t always see the real ramifications of our disposable supply chain in everyday living because we have city infrastructure for waste collection and removal. Step into many other nations, however, and the picture changes drastically. I remember walking the streets of Argentina as a young teen and being deeply bothered by the amount of waste that polluted every neighborhood and waterway. It seemed that everywhere I traveled, from Brazil to Jamaica, or El Salvador to Nepal, single-use plastics and waste products lined beautiful beaches, natural vegetation on hillsides, and piled behind rural homes that had no access to adequate waste disposal. Worse yet, much of the waste that nations like the US generate end up in countries that don’t have the infrastructure to manage the influx. The convenience of our disposable lifestyle then becomes other nations’ problems. Seeing these conditions first-hand in my early travels instilled a sensitivity to waste that has only intensified over time.
Emily: What’s one piece of advice you would give someone who is just beginning to shop more sustainably?
Cherie: First, THANK YOU for making the decision to live more sustainably! It’s the collective action of individuals that question the status quo and choose to live differently that will bring about the biggest strides in environmental change over time. Remember that you don’t have to commit to zero waste from the get-go. Start somewhere with small sustainable swaps and simply work to improve as you go.
Emily: Absolutely! How do you and your team at Saalt think about “sustainable fashion?”
Cherie: At Saalt, sustainable fashion means considering the net environmental effect of every step of our supply chain, from fabric sourcing and manufacturing to marketing and distribution. For example, our first order of our absorbent leakproof underwear removed nearly 300,000 post-consumer plastic water bottles out of the environment - the bottles were chipped and spun into silky soft recycled polyester fabric – despite it being more expensive than virgin polyester. You simply can’t put a price tag on what these decisions do to save our oceans and landfills! Then, rather than ship each pair in plastic poly bags as most ecommerce brands do, we problem-solved until we were able to create a fully recyclable paper envelope to be used for end-consumer shipments, as well as mailers made of 100% recycled paper.
Emily: Oh, I love that approach to a sustainable supply chain! On top of being sustainable, Saalt’s styles are so great. In three words, how do you describe Saalt’s aesthetic?
Cherie: Elevated, natural, stigma-breaking.
Emily: And what are your must-have styles from Saalt?
Cherie: Ooh, I love this question. My favorites are:
- Saalt Comfort Thong - The most comfortable thong you’ll ever wear that replaces pantyliners!
- Saalt Menstrual Disc in Size Regular - Not only does it hold six tampons worth of flow, but you can use it during period sex. What’s not to love?
- Saalt Comfort Boyshort - Comfiest pad replacement for overnight, bladder leaks, and postpartum care.
Emily: Great choices; I also love the Comfort Boyshort – it’s so soft! What’s next for Saalt – any exciting sustainability initiatives, new designs, styles, or growth that you’re looking forward to?
Cherie: All of the above! Stay tuned for more Saalt Wear styles debuting this year and some stellar accessories to make cleaning and traveling with your cup or disc even easier!
Emily: What’s the message you want to leave with the wearwell’s community?
Cherie: I truly believe that reusable products are the way of the future that will eventually entirely replace disposables as the gold standard in period and leak care. They are not only healthier and more sustainable for our bodies and planet, but they're a triple threat to the disposable industry.
First, because reusable period cups, discs, and underwear are a hands-down more comfortable experience than using disposables. You actually feel period cups and discs less than tampons and they hold 3-6 times more flow. And wearing beautiful underwear with built-in absorbency like ours beats the discomfort of wearing a bulky pad that you have to stick to your underwear and try to keep in place.
Second, reusable period care is the answer to the 20 billion menstrual products entering our waterways and landfills in the US alone. Tampon applicators are among the top single-use plastics found on our beaches, and one tampon takes longer to degrade than the lifespan of the person who wears it! This has to change. In contrast, one Saalt Cup diverts 3,000 tampons from landfills and one pair of Saalt period underwear diverts hundreds of pads.
Last, reusable period care also happens to be the answer to ending period poverty across the globe – 62% of the menstruating world lives in period poverty, meaning they lack access to safe and reliable period care. This causes women and girls to miss work and school every month, and school drop out rates skyrocket as soon as girls hit puberty age. Disposable products aren't affordable for these women, and communities lack waste-management infrastructure to hygienically dispose of them. Reusables are the answer to provide people with long-term period care options and solve waste disposal in developing nations. Saalt cups and underwear in the hands of those living in period poverty provides them with real solutions that keep girls in school and keep women able to care for themselves and their families.