Biggs on Building a Period Care Brand:
'We're Going To Push the Boundaries in This Industry'

Joni is a sustainable, chemical-free, plastic-free, biodegradable period care company based in Victoria, BC. They are radically transparent, unapologetically inclusive, and different—on purpose. We sat down with Joni co-founder Linda Biggs to learn more about the inception of this exemplary brand.

Can you introduce Joni to us?

Joni was created to bring the wasteful and antiquated US$26 billion feminine hygiene industry into the 21st century using a design-led approach and sustainable products that provide the most innovative and accessible period care solutions in the world. In working to make sustainable period care accessible to everyone who needs it, we're in over 600 retailers across Canada, including Whole Foods and London Drugs, and over 100+ organizations are using our turn-key commercial smart feminine hygiene product dispensers. As an impact brand, we donate at least 2% of revenues to period equity non-profit partners. Since launching in March 2020, we are really proud to have donated over 600,000 products across North America. Joni is good for our bodies, good for our planet, and good for our communities. That's what we call 21st-century Period Care! 

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Can you share a success story Joni has achieved since its inception?

It's no secret we're up against some Goliaths in the industry, who have very deep pockets and have been around for a long time, so the milestone I'm most proud of is our impact on menstrual equity in Canada. We've donated over 600,000 products to our amazing non-profit partners like The Period Purse and Moon Time Connections, and we've done advocacy work in Ottawa to drive policy changes for more support for everyone who menstruates. One of those changes was to the Status of Women in Canada report, which came out with updated recommendations on moving menstrual equity forward. Before that, there was very little conversation at the federal government level around the issue of period poverty (those with the inability to afford or access menstrual products). Raising that awareness and then driving change forward is something we're really proud of. I believe that long-term solutions are born when Canadian small businesses like ours work hand in hand with non-profits and the Government to implement change. 

How did your personal values and beliefs influence the development of Joni's product offerings?

Growing up, funds were tight. I remember waiting in food bank lines with my mother. I was also a competitive swimmer, and it was sometimes hard to afford tampons. Fast forward, and I'm looking to launch a period care brand with my co-founder, Jayesh Vekariya, and I had a realization: I had menstruated over 300 times in my life at that point, but I resonated more with my water bottle brand than any period care brand on the market. I asked friends, and they felt the same way. The world has changed, but period care remains antiquated. We plan to change that, and when thinking back to my experience as a young girl having trouble finding what I needed, we know it's a basic necessity to have access to high-quality period care! That's at the heart of everything we do at Joni.

What challenges did you encounter while establishing Joni as a brand?

Menstruation is already a taboo subject which infiltrates a lot of our day-to-day lives. For example, what we see as ads on our social feeds is based on an algorithm that seems to break when we mention the word menstruation or sanitary napkin. So, we've always had a hard time with social reach, as our posts may get taken down. Often, the people making decisions about feminine hygiene products at a retail level don't menstruate - they don't have any lived experience with it, so they make decisions based on price or brand recognition. A lot of what we do is educate and provide support to help everyone feel comfortable talking about period care. (It's just as important as toilet paper, people!)

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Joni products are sustainable, compostable, and organic! How did your R&D ensure the effectiveness of compostable materials in feminine hygiene products?

At Joni, our dedication to environmental conservation and sustainable practices dictates our every move. We prioritize sustainability without compromising quality by using bamboo, a resource-efficient material, in our disposable products. Through closed-loop manufacturing, we minimize waste and environmental harm, all while ensuring our products undergo rigorous testing and certifications. We support organic farming in the materials we use, in particular certified organic bamboo and cotton, promoting environmental responsibility throughout our supply chain. Mainstream pads and tampons contain plastics derived from petroleum, a non-renewable resource and pollutant. In fact, up to 90% of a regular pad is plastic. By bringing our biodegradable products derived from renewable resources to market, we have diverted 451,240 lbs (205,109 kgs) of petroleum/fossil-fuel-based plastics from landfills since March 2020. We work very closely with our suppliers, who have third-party sustainability certifications, to back up all product claims. We've spent time at our suppliers' warehouses and seen first-hand how they operate and the quality control measures they have in place. So, together with our partner suppliers, we can provide a high-quality product with industry-leading certifications like GOTS for organic cotton and Oeko-Tex for processing standards.  

Why do you use bamboo vs organic cotton for your pads?

Joni uses ethically sourced FSC-certified bamboo in our pads because it's one of the most sustainable plants on earth. Bamboo grows in the wild without interference and is naturally antibacterial, so it doesn't require any pesticides. Bamboo consumes ten times less water to grow, has zero bi-product waste, and is three times softer than organic cotton. We convert bamboo into fibres using the "OEKO-TEX STANDARD 100" certified closed-loop process to have the least possible environmental impact and ensure that Joni liners and pads are entirely free of harmful chemicals.

Can liners and pads really be biodegradable?

Joni pads are, on average, 92% biodegradable in 12 months under standard compost conditions. We do not use conventional period care plastics, which contain 'forever chemicals' that take over 300 years to break down (you read that right), and our wrappers are 100% certified compostable. One conventional pad uses the equivalent of four plastic bags. That adds up! Joni pads use SAP and food-grade non-toxic adhesives, which take longer to biodegrade in standard conditions. We are actively working towards making our period products 100% biodegradable as part of our #ProgressNotPerfection value.  

Why don't Joni tampons have an applicator?

Joni tampons are applicator-free to reduce waste. This is known as a 'digital tampon' (the tampon of choice in Europe) that is inserted using your fingers. Joni tampons are made with certified organic cotton and feature a curved tip for easy insertion and a knotted string for easy removal. The string is 100% organic cotton, and the wrapper is a plant-based compostable film. 

What is 'Period Poverty'?

Period poverty is the inability to afford or access menstrual products. It disproportionately affects those with a low income or experiencing homelessness. It's a vicious cycle - when people can't afford period care, it leads to missed days at work or school, further perpetuating systemic inequalities. When 1 in 3 Canadians with periods under the age of 25 are not able to afford feminine hygiene products and a box of tampons costs up to $30 in some remote communities, the industry needs a new approach. It's also a social issue that leads to a health issue: when disposable feminine hygiene products are used for too long in a moist environment, it can cause irritation and bacterial build-up, leading to infection.

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Help us understand 'Menstrual Equity'

In addition to period poverty, there are many barriers that those who menstruate face—all because of a biological function. 

Period stigma: Menstruation is still stigmatized around the world, leading to shame, silence, and secrecy. Even simply hiding a tampon up your sleeve on your way to the washroom is an everyday example of this. For menstruators, this makes it difficult to ask for help. While we're seeing slow progress, menstrual stigmas make it challenging to address period poverty and menstrual inequity within workplaces and at the governmental legislative level. 

Inadequate education: Lack of education about menstruation goes hand in hand with period stigmas. It's a catch-22 situation where period stigma can be dispelled through education, but that education isn't happening because of stigma! It's one reason unbiased reproductive health education is so important within the school system.

Discrimination: Menstruation compounds the barriers faced by other forms of discrimination, too, including:

•  Gender: While sex is biological (and categorized within the male and female binary), gender is a social construct. Mainstream views relate menstruation as only a biological function of girls and women, but those who identify as boys, men, or non-binary can also menstruate if they have a uterus. Discrimination toward gender-diverse people can make it difficult for them to access period care without harassment, shame, or even fear. That's why gender-inclusive language is a matter of period equity. 

•  Race: Period poverty affects BIPOC (black, indigenous, and other people of colour) menstruators disproportionately due to economic inequality and discrimination in accessing support and services.

•  Disabilities and neurodivergence: Ableism fails to recognize that physical disabilities and neurological differences can affect the suitability and, therefore, accessibility of menstrual care products.  

Is there a Joni milestone or contribution you are most proud of? 

While we've donated over 600,000 products, it's the individual stories that impact me the most and the ones I'm most proud of. The numbers and data are great, but nothing beats hearing how Joni has changed people's lives. From one hotel room attendant to whom I gave a couple of samples to who came running to find me on my last day at the hotel in tears, saying it was the first time she'd used pads without having a reaction. To the emails from folks who get our products as part of their food hamper and express what it means to them to get quality products vs. bottom-of-the-barrel stuff. And to the people who come up to my booth at a tradeshow and thank us for creating a brand they are really proud to use that works for them. It's honestly what keeps me going. 

In 4 short years, you've certainly left your mark on the period-care industry. Looking ahead, what are your plans for expanding Joni's reach and impact?

We really want to make sustainable period care accessible to everyone! We're working with many organizations who also see the value in making their spaces more equitable and are choosing to bring in Joni period care commercial solutions. Organizations like the Victoria Airport AuthorityDistrict of SaanichChateau VictoriaThe Bay Centre and Jawl Properties are just a few here in Victoria who have moved in that direction. We've got some exciting new products launching, formed from customer feedback. One is a longer liner replacing the one we have now to give just a bit more support (5cm more). Another is an incontinence pad for Stress Urinary Incontinence (SUI) that affects both men and women. As a mother of two, I sometimes need a little extra support, but I don't want to buy diapers. So, we're making incontinence sexy and disposable. We have even more goodies up our sleeves - stay tuned! 

All copy found on The Green Kiss website is written for informational purposes only and is not a substitute for professional medical advice.