Mooncup x WUKA are #UnitedAgainstWaste

In another first, we’re proud to be teaming up with WUKA to fight period waste. Launching just in time for International Women’s Day, we bring you the limited edition Mooncup® x WUKA® reusable period pads. Available in three absorbencies (medium, heavy and liner), the soft, reusable pads are lovingly made using offcuts from WUKA period pants. Because we believe that long-lasting, positive change will come from collaborating rather than competing.

We met with WUKA’s founder Ruby Raut, a powerhouse of a woman, to talk about her inspiration behind the brand and what our shared mission #UnitedAgainstWaste means to her.

Meet Ruby Raut – the founder, dreamer and mastermind behind WUKA period pants 

Q: You started WUKA in 2017, as the first British period pants company. Can you please share the story behind your brand?

I grew up in Nepal, where shame about periods was widespread. Nachune is the Nepalese word for ‘period’ which basically translates as ‘untouchable’. When I first started my period, I experienced something called “Chapaudi” a practice which is thankfully now illegal in Nepal. It involved sending me to my aunt’s house away from home. I wasn’t allowed to go out in the sun, look at men, or touch plants – as it was believed that I would kill them – just because I had my period. Like many other girls, I was given my mum’s old sari rags to use for the bleeding, which whilst reusable and eco-friendly, were not hygienic. They weren’t leak-proof or comfortable either and didn’t work for me when I wanted to go out to play sports. Looking back, I think these formative years were definitely the source of inspiration for WUKA.

When I moved to the UK seeking a better education, I studied Environmental Science at the Open University.  It was where I discovered the magnitude of waste that conventional single-use period products generated. After graduating, I started teaching secondary school students about sustainable menstrual products and discovered that access to reusable options was limited and most girls just used what their mum gave them: shiny, plastic-ridden single use products. This was the eureka moment that led to WUKA being born.

I took the concept of the reusable sari rags and how I used to pin them onto my underwear and applied modern-day fabrics and garment technology to it to make easy-to-use, comfortable and most importantly desirable reusable period pants. I bought a sewing machine and learned how to make underwear on YouTube while my husband researched and tested materials. That was back in 2017 and now, fast-forward to 2023 – we are an award-winning period underwear brand that is proud to offer a size-inclusive, vast range of underwear and sportswear to support people of all ages as they navigate their menstrual cycle. Most recently we won the highly coveted Queens Award for Enterprise for Sustainable Business and the Great British Entrepreneur Awards for Sustainable Entrepreneurship.

Mooncup® x WUKA® reusable pads

Q: The Mooncup x WUKA collaboration is a perfect example of how women can work together in business. What inspired you to team up with Mooncup? 

I came across the Mooncup for the first time after my graduation when I was teaching young girls about reusable period products. It was also at that time when a charity based in Nepal asked me to do some translation work for a Mooncup leaflet that was being distributed in the country. I remember being super inspired even back then by the work that Su, founder of Mooncup, had done. When I think of the Mooncup, the following words come to mind: game-changing, truly sustainable, ethical and transparent. The fact that the company is also set up as an employee-owned business, is also really inspiring as it means there is a collective commitment and shared responsibility throughout the business.

For the last 4-5 years since launching WUKA, every time we have done a customer survey,  a strong cohort of our customers have mentioned using cups as well as period underwear. It’s a great example that choices matter and are a good thing as we encourage more people to switch to more sustainable, healthier lifestyles. When I met Mooncup Director, Kath, at an Environmenstrual Event a while back, I was so impressed with her leadership skills and tenacity so the idea of collaborating with a fellow disrupter in the period care space was a no-brainer!

United Against Waste

Q: Tell us what the #unitedagainstwaste mission means to you?

The #unitedagainstwaste mission aims to raise awareness and encourage actions to reduce waste and promote sustainability in our day-to-day lives. Brands joining forces means not only we will be able to reach more people but hopefully inspire other brands to follow and take responsibility for their waste. We have got to work harder to minimize the amount of waste that ends up in landfills. The goal is to create a more sustainable future by reducing waste, sharing our resources, and preserving the environment.

As WUKA has grown over the years, our order volumes have increased and in the process, we found more offcuts were being produced during the process of making our pants. Committed to creating a zero-waste circular business model, we decided to produce reusable pads and liners with these offcuts. Made from super soft, sustainable organic cotton, they feature the same super absorbent technology found in the gusset of our award-winning pants but feature popper buttons so people can change them just as they would their sanitary pads. These are the perfect accompaniment for people who use cups but also want a little more security or an alternative choice for light flow days.

Q: You have a degree in Environmental Science. What are your top 3 swaps to cut down your waste?

Firstly, buy less. I ask myself “Do I want or need this?” If it’s the former then it’s safe to say it’s not absolutely essential.

Cutting takeaways! I moved to a village in Welwyn (Hertfordshire) a little while ago where we can’t access many takeaways. It was then that I realised not just how much money I was saving by making home-cooked food but the number of plastic tubs we saved going to landfill.

Shop vintage or rent! As someone who loves fashion, I’ve recently discovered some great vintage shops and platforms such as ByRotation & Hurr which offer you the chance to buy second-hand or rent incredible clothes without having to fork out on new clothes. Unsurprisingly- they’re all female-founded so it’s just another reason to support- sustainable and empowering!

Mooncup® x WUKA® united against waste

Q: Which women have inspired you the most in business or in life and why?     

There are quite a few women in my life who have inspired me. The first one being my mom who also started a business that aims to change people’s lives for the better. I guess entrepreneurship and giving back must be in my DNA!

Back in Nepal, I was fascinated by the leadership skills of women who saved thousands of girls and women being trafficked – in particular Anuradha Koirala. I grew up on the border of Nepal and India where this was a big problem. Resilience, tenacity and determination are what I learned by following her work.

Since I launched WUKA, I have been fortunate to meet incredible women who are shaping the future as we speak. Women like Reshma Saujani, Whitney Herd, Caroline Lucas, Greta Thunberg, and Jacinta Arden are huge inspirations to me.

Challenging racial bias and fighting the period taboo

Q: As a female CEO, have you been confronted with any gender-related challenges in your career?

Gosh, I grew up in a very patriarchal society. I still remember when people asked me who do I want to be or what do I want to be when I was growing up, and my answer used to always be “I want to beat the boys….on all fronts… sports, studies, careers”.

In my early years, I even dressed like a boy! My nickname growing up was “bhai” which in Hindi means brother.  Perhaps because at that time I thought the only way to beat them was to join them! Needless to say, I’ve since embraced my femininity now and having been exposed to the inspiring women I mentioned above, I’ve realised that actually being a woman is my superpower. I can do anything, no matter what my gender is.

Interestingly, when I first came to the UK, it felt like my race and ethnicity were more of a challenge. It was quite shocking, to begin with; often I was the only person of colour in a room and felt like I wasn’t taken seriously or looked down upon.

In the beginning when I started WUKA and even today, when I tell people about WUKA, the first thing they say is “it’s such a great idea, have you thought about helping people in India and Africa?” My roots are strong and I’ll always ensure WUKA gives back to as many people as possible all over the world. Still, we are also a UK-based brand that is committed to tackling period poverty and tonnes of plastic pollution that is generated right here in the UK, on our doorstep. In recent years now that the climate emergency is front of mind and the West has started to acknowledge the role it plays in tackling the issue, I do get less of this but it never fails to strike a chord when I do get asked that question!

Q: The period product industry is still dominated by multinational companies selling disposable tampons and pads. What do you think is the biggest obstacle for people making the switch to more eco-friendly reusables?         

Disposable giants pump huge amounts of money into advertising selling the idea that periods are dirty and should be discreet. People have been conditioned to believe this is true when it’s absolutely not. Our challenge as a business is to re-educate people on what periods are and the fact that blood or any other menstrual fluid is entirely natural and nothing to be ashamed of.

Attitudes are changing but given 1 in 2 people we talk to about period pants for the first time react awkwardly or ask us “but won’t I smell?”- that’s when you know you’ve still got work to do!

In addition to challenging perceptions, switching to reusable products requires living slower. In a world where people have been sold convenience for so long, we find the idea of having to “wear-wash-reuse” versus quickly changing a tampon and throwing it in the bin a chore. Our response to that is: when you can wear a pair of WUKA’s for up to 12 hours, you won’t be popping (or running) to the loo to avoid a leak at all so just imagine the time you’ll save. Switching to reusables means you’ll never have to buy pads or tampons again and you could save up to 80%*- so this is an added bonus!

WUKA period pants

Q: Unlike other period products, period pants are still taxed with the full 20% VAT. WUKA started a petition to change that. What are the next steps?

Gosh, this has been a long battle lasting four years with the UK government and we still haven’t won. When we launched WUKA, the government didn’t even recognise period pants as falling within the menstrual product category. Despite single use pads, tampons and cups (lucky Mooncup!) overturning the period tax regulations a few years ago, pants still fall under the category of “fashion apparel” so our fight continues. Due to the pandemic and ever-changing state of affairs within parliament, it’s been hard to get this to the top of the agenda but it’s time for period pant tax to finally be axed- so we’ll be re-launching our petition again very soon to help change the laws. Please do support us when we do!

Q: What are your favourite WUKA products, and why?

WUKA Midi brief for my light flow days, WUKA Stretch High waist for heavy flow days, WUKA Lace hipster for overnight and WUKA Organic bikini for my medium flow days. And of course, Mooncup® X WUKA® pads when travelling- they are small, pack well and can be washed/ dried in a short amount of time. If i need to change on the go, I just take my leopard print wet bag with me to store them and wash them when I get home.

Limited edition Mooncup® x WUKA® reusable pads are now available to buy here. They are made for Mooncup using offcuts from WUKA period pants. The medium, heavy & liner absorbency pads are made from organic cotton and are leak-proof, breathable, and soft on the skin. Add the Mooncup to your order and get 10% off your full purchase. 

You might also be interested in:
8 reasons to make a switch to the Mooncup menstrual cup
Guide to reusable period products: menstrual cups, discs, period pants and reusable pads compared
How is the Mooncup® menstrual cup environmentally friendly? 10 reasons
Top tips for a first-time Mooncup® User
How to manage heavy periods