PSA: Facebook ads work.
I know this because after riley popped up on my Instagram and TikTok three times a day for a week, I couldn’t help but bite the bullet and reach out.
I’m interested in sustainability, I am a sucker for pretty packaging and – most importantly – Mother Nature comes knocking (in the form of satan inhabiting my womb) at my door once a month… it’s safe to say their target audience was reached.
My initial thought was one I’m sure many of you can relate to: “is this just another company green-washing through over priced, not-so-sustainable goods in yet another corner of the retail industry”. You’ll be pleased to know, that certainly wasn’t the case.
As it happens, the conception of riley wasn’t centred around sustainability at all. The company was born from the untimely arrival of one founder’s ‘time of the month’. After an inconvenient, late-night trek to get the goods (we’ve all been there), the brands three co-founders decided that there must be a more simplified solution to this frustrating monthly scenario.
Cue: riley – a period subscription service that combats the familiar inconvenience of your periods arrival. It was when the trio began exploring this concept further, they realised the enormity of plastic wasted during each woman’s period every month. So, they decided to incorporate sustainability as a core value within their business model.
Tackling the frustrations of your monthly cycle alongside plastic waste, whilst combatting unfair working conditions, period poverty and gender inequality at the same time, riley stands to represent the ideal of what a 21st century start-up can and should be.
But let’s get down to the nitty gritty. I was sent a box with naked tampons, applicator tampons and pads, each enclosed in the most aesthetically pleasing, colourful pouches. Weirdly, it felt like Christmas. I’m usually a Tampax Compak Pearl girl myself, which is insanely hypocritical given I write for this magazine (sorry, UTOPIA) so I decided to compare them with riley’s bio-degradable equivalent.
One pouch of riley’s Bio-based Applicator Tampon Pouches costs £5.76 / €6.62 and contains 12 tampons of super absorbency. This means each tampon works out at around £0.48p / €0.55. A box of Tampax’s Compak Pearl typically costs about £2.95 / €3.39 and contains 18 tampons of super absorbency. This means each tampon works out at around £0.16 / €0.19. In terms of cost, that’s a pretty large gap – there’s no arguing that, but when you look into why that gap exists, just as it does in fast fashion, you may be willing to make the sacrifice.
riley’s option are made from 100% certified organic cotton, they’re biodegradable, toxin and chemical-free. The applicators are made from sugar cane, which is 100% recyclable and the tampons hold from to 12-15 grams of blood. Plus, they arrive to your door precisely when you need them in pretty, zip-lock pouches.
Forgoing the gorgeous packaging, Tampax and other leading competitors generally pump their products with mystery chemicals, toxins and god knows what else. Organic cotton? They’ve never heard of her. On top of this, these corporate giants do not have a reputation for supporting any charities or causes at any standard above a performative level, if even that. As well as all that, the inconvenience this brand was founded to provide a solution to still remains.
In short, the story is similar to that of fast fashion – if not identical to it. If you can – and I emphasise on ‘IF’ – sacrifice a few quid extra each month, starting a subscription with riley is inarguably worth the difference. If not for yourself, for the working conditions of those making your sanitary products and for the sake of the environment.
However, I will say that if you’re solely looking for a more environmentally friendly exchange in your monthly regime without the niceties riley provides, that doesn’t impact your bank account, there are other options like non-applicator tampons and moon cups that may be more suitable.
Anyway, I can promise you that I will be beginning a monthly riley subscription for the Naked Tampon Pouch at the very least. Why? Not due to my own moral compass, but because I found the mini zip-lock packaging incredibly handy to throw in my handbag, without the usual risk of a box explosion; causing white bullets to scatter across my bag and rattle around in it’s depths indefinitely.