Schneider spent the summer researching and brainstorming, and is now in the process of launching a nonprofit organization, Zana, in collaboration with Marquette University faculty members and a group of undergraduate students.
The team includes Father Nicholas Santos, a Jesuit at the university, lending his expertise in marketing, finance and business; adviser Kelsey Otero of Marquette’s Office of Research and Innovation, also specializing in marketing. Undergraduates Lexie Athis, David Dalton, Elodie Demmon, Justine Shanner and Zac Wiershem make up the rest of the TPP team.
The Pad Project team is also planning to partner with the chemistry department to implement design features using natural agents that would make the product antimicrobial, antibacterial, stain-resistant and odor-protectant. For now, Schneider says the team is busy researching size and material for the product.
Schneider opted for reusable products due to their practicality for both her business plan and the environment.
“Many other nonprofits [who use disposable products] don’t receive enough donations for women in need to make it through their period each month,” said Schneider. “This system causes the women to constantly be worrying where their next tampon or pad will come from. However, a reusable product, like the period underwear TPP is designing, lasts for up to five years.”
According to Mariah Frank, a Marquette University senior, homeless shelters are always low on underwear, because it cannot be donated used. As a result, many homeless people go without, which makes it even more difficult for women to use disposable pads, even if they have access to some.
Besides cost-effectiveness, reusable products are better for the environment. According to an article from The Guardian, “the average woman uses roughly 11,000 tampons [or pads] in her lifetime.” Not only does this create tons of waste that does not decompose for centuries, but the manufacturing process of these products, using plastic, paper and cardboard, “is both resource and chemical intensive.”
“The environment holds a really special place in my heart,” said Schneider. “I’d say that’s one of the most important issues to me. Reusable products are also more cost effective. There’s really no drawbacks.”
Eventually, TPP aims to employ homeless women to produce their product.
“We [the TPP team] feel that a lot of times homeless people are provided resources, but not provided opportunities,” said Schneider. “A professor I had in South Africa told me, ‘You know you’ve done a good job when you leave and they say we did it ourselves,’ and that really stuck with me and inspired my choices.”
“The overarching goal is for menstrual health to be addressed,” she added. “I’d rather be able to provide something that can start and be carried on by women by themselves, than to just provide supplies and leave.”