Several years ago, I read a book that changed my life,
my relationship with my body, and the way in which I view the world.
Whitewash, by Liz Scott and Adrienne Armstrong, is an eye-opening account
of how disposable menstrual products are polluting our bodies and our
planet. It helped me realize that a seemingly simple gesture really
does make a difference. Every year in North America, women throw away
billions of single-use menstrual tampons and pads that clog landfill
dumps and pollute our waterways; but this waste is unnecessary. Every
day women are bombarded with conflicting images and advertising. We
are told that no one must know we are menstruating and we are led to
believe that disposable menstrual product companies will protect our
secret. These messages are detrimental to our self–esteem and
feed into a billion dollar industry designed to keep us shamed into
using their products—just wrap ‘em up and throw them away.
But menstruation is a normal, healthy part of the female reproductive
system. It is nothing to be ashamed of.
After reading the book I decided to start Mama Elle, a small home-based
business selling cloth pads and reusable menstrual cups. I started with
the lofty ideal of North American women embracing a new menstrual ethic,
switching en-masse to reusable menstrual products. Alas, these products
are still very much on the fringe, but women’s consciousness is
changing. Every day women are choosing reusables in favor of our environment.
In the spring of 1999, I became pregnant with my first daughter. My
partner and I were living in Montreal on a loud busy street. Country
life called and we went running to the Laurentian mountains in search
of a better life for ourselves and our children. After the birth of
Hannah, I really wanted to spend quality time with my daughter and make
a living doing something I could feel good about. Thus Mama Elle became
I started slowly, acquiring an email account with which I could communicate
with the world. At this point I still believed the computer had no place
in a natural products business. After all, what’s natural about
billions of wires and endless consumption of energy? I assumed that
Mama Elle could survive as a mail-order business—after all, folks
have purchased mail-order products for ages, long before computers revolutionized
and alienated society. By 2002 my lofty convictions were put aside in
favor of customer satisfaction. My clients wanted Mama Elle online,
so in January 2002, Mama Elle became a dot-com. With a web address,
Mama Elle began to carry a larger variety of products, including soaps,
organic herbal salves, massage oils, creams, and organic cotton socks
and T-shirts. Products are made with love in my home kitchen as well
as a large variety of small businesses in Canada and the U.S.
Mama Elle is dedicated to making the world a better place for all of
our planet’s inhabitants. I strongly believe that our world is
over-saturated with chemicals and toxins and that we must reduce our
exposure in all aspects of our life. I also believe in the rights of
non-human animals, those who cannot speak for themselves. It is important
to remember that animals need not suffer due to our desire to pamper
our bodies with soaps and creams. All Mama Elle products are made with
high quality vegetable oils and herbs. Our products are tested on friends
and family, not innocent animals!!
In February 2003, my partner and I bought a bookstore/cafe in a sleepy
town called Val Morin. Our store is known as Earthshack/Planeterre,
and the small coffee shop is called Cafe Vilna. The first thing we did
upon taking over the store was recycle the meaty cookbooks (they are
being made into pulp for furniture). Cafe Vilna is strictly vegetarian,
quite a concept in an area known for hunting, fishing and poutines (gravy-laden
cheese curds atop greasy french fries). In the future, we hope to offer
information sessions on vegetarianism, as well as cooking classes and
workshops geared towards simple living. Mama Elle occupies the front
room of our store, the sweet smell of soap filling the air with Japanese
paper adorning the walls. We have been told that our area used to be
the Canadian Catskills, a scene we hope to revive. There is a Sivananda
ashram up the road offering yoga lessons and simple vegetarian fare.
Recent statistics show only four percent of Canadians are vegetarian,
but I believe there is a change of consciousness on the horizon.
Mama Elle’s soaps are absolutely lovely—all
vegetable based and full of essential oils ready to lend you their aromatherapeutic
properties. We tried and loved the Ocean Mint and the Almond Avocado; and
the Tea Tree bar is a great scent to wake up to. And, at $1.75 for a small
bar, $2.50 for a large, they’re affordable!
Among their more signature offerings are Hempola massage oils ($6.50-$8);
creams ($6.50-$11) such as Rosemary Hand, Body, and Foot cream, Joint Ease
Ache and Pain, Chamomile Plus, Lavender Skin Tonic; and various healing
salves ($5.30), including, of course (Mama Elle was created by a mother,
remember), the Diaper Magic formula.
To purchase Mama Elle products or to learn more, visit www.MamaElle.com,
call (866) 275-3553, or email email@example.com. —R.C.