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June/July 2003
The Story of Mama Elle
By Michelle Booth


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 wired.

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.

About Their Stuff…

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, call (866) 275-3553, or email —R.C.



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