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Interview

Sustain Natural: Safe Sex Made Even Safer

From pads and tampons to condoms and lube, Meika Hollender cares about what you’re putting up there, the same way you care about what you put on there. 

Sustainability runs in her veins. With the founder of household favorite Seventh Generation as her father, Meika Hollender has understood the importance of using clean, safe and natural ingredients in everyday products from a young age (think: dish soap, laundry detergent, multi-surface cleaning sprays, etc.). Meika is continuing the family legacy as Grove Collaborative‘s Head of Communications, and now, with Sustain Natural.

Her dad tackled the harmful chemicals we inadvertently come across every day, but how about the things we put into our bodies? Like pads and tampons—or lube and condoms! While it can be a challenging topic, reproductive and sexual health is far too important not to speak about openly and comfortably. Meika co-founded Sustain to banish the taboo and shame of things we all experience regularly. Well-being is a multidimensional picture; celebrate and explore each and every pocket of your own with an open mind.

What does it mean to you to be an empowered woman today? 

To me, being ‘empowered’ is about showing up for myself and other women. Part of this is also learning how to say ‘no’—to people, opportunities, etc.—which has helped me to feel empowered. I spent so many years, while building Sustain, pushing myself to a point of burnout and exhaustion, so learning how to protect myself, my time, my health, and the like has been something that I’ve been focused on this past year.

What has been the most memorable moment for you as an entrepreneur in the last few years? 

There have been so many incredibly memorable moments over the last few years. The one that stands out is when I received a call that NY State was passing the Menstrual Product’s Right to Know Act — a bill we’d been pushing to pass for years. The FDA did not require menstrual product companies to disclose their ingredients to consumers. Since starting Sustain, we had been advocating for a consumers’ right to know what’s in their tampon (and pads, etc.).When the bill passed in October 2019, menstrual product companies had to begin listing all their ingredients on the box. This would change disclosure in this category forever! It was a pretty powerful moment.

Which companies do you look up to the most?

I tend to look up to what I consider to be “activist” brands. These are brands that not only create products with positive social and environmental change, but also use their power and platforms to advocate for industry-wide change. I admire brands that take vocal stands on issues. A few of these companies are Patagonia, Seventh Generation and Beautycounter.

Has social media helped or hindered you? 

Sustain would not be able to have the impact without social media. We are changing the conversation around female sexuality more and more each day.

What is the biggest challenge you have faced and how did you work through it? 

The biggest challenge I have faced over the last 6+ years has been navigating an industry that is so incredibly taboo. When I started Sustain, there was no “sexual wellness.” There weren’t celebrities talking about period underwear, or widespread marches supporting a woman’s right to choose. Our products and the issues we tackled were things that made people—even potential customers—uncomfortable. It took years of patience, hard work, and cultural change to build Sustain into what it has and will become. 

What goals do you have for your business?

One of our key goals is to increase the percentage of women using condoms by 10% by 2029. 

What products would we be surprised to learn actually have a negative impact on our health?

The craziest part is that most of us have no idea what is actually in our tampons, condoms, lubricants, etc. Just as we have started to question the ingredients in skincare items and other personal care products, it’s critical that we do the same for intimate products! These items are going inside the most intimate and most absorbent parts of our body.

Can you share some practical tips for our readers to live a more sustainable life?

  • Try reusable period care products – things like the period cup or period underwear. They save a ton of waste from ending up in landfills!
  • I love using the EWG database to evaluate the safety of ingredients found in personal care products.
Alicia Zhang

Originally from Los Angeles, Alicia lived in Shanghai for 11 years before moving back to the states to attend the University of Miami, where she graduated with a bachelor’s degree in public relations and minors in art and philosophy. Currently residing in New York City, Alicia applies her knowledge of strategic communication and design in her career. She enjoys painting, rugby, exploring, and more often than not, you’ll find her petting someone’s dog.

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