Nadya Okamoto began her period advocacy work nearly seven years ago, and she's been on a mission to end period poverty ever since. In 2014 she co-founded the nonprofit organization PERIOD, which distributed over 22 million units of period care products and mobilized over 1,000 volunteer chapters across the country under her leadership.
"I got into the period space after having conversations with homeless women when I was 16-years-old," Okamoto says. "I heard their stories about using toilet paper, socks, grocery bags, and cardboard to take care of their periods. Then, I learned about the tampon tax through my research, which existed in 40 states at the time and, honestly, I just started feeling really angry about it." After helming PERIOD for six years, Okamoto stepped down as the organization's executive director and began thinking of other ways to champion menstrual equity.
The Inspiration for August
Her book Period Power: A Manifesto for the Menstrual Movement laid the groundwork for her next move. "My favorite chapter of my book to write was about the history of the commodification of period products," she says. When analyzing the history of the period product market, Okamoto discovered that today's period stigma is a direct result of companies making menstruation taboo over the last century to sell products.
While some of today's period-care brands have evolved, adopting more shame-free messaging, Okamoto knew there was still more work to do. "Through my research, I learned there could be a more affordable period care brand that was customizable and more sustainable. It became the thing I felt excited to do," she says.
Okamoto teamed up with Nick Jain to create August, a lifestyle brand revolutionizing period care for anyone who menstruates. Every pillar of the brand is influenced by the Gen Z population it serves. "We started gathering groups of young people from around the country on Zoom calls to ask them about their period care," Okamoto says. "This community that we built had so much to say about their experiences and how they thought period care could be different."
Making Period Care More Comfortable, Sustainable, and Ethical
Community feedback played a pivotal role in developing the brand's tampons, pads, and liners. During development, August's community members expressed a desire for more comfortable tampons. So, the team conceptualized a tampon with a longer applicator, which is more absorbent, and open axially to fit the natural shape of your vagina. The brand's pads and liners are also thoughtfully designed with organic cotton fibers and free of plastic (other disposable pads can contain the equivalent of up to five plastic bags), making them softer and comfier to wear.
Sustainability is also core to August's brand DNA. Until recently, period care products have not been made from eco-friendly materials. As a result, the accumulation of tampons and pads in landfills has had a detrimental impact on the planet. "Most period products take five to eight centuries to decompose," Okamoto notes. "Our products are fully biodegradable within six to 12 months."
Ethical sourcing is also of high importance to the company. The August team discovered 65% of the world's cotton is grown by forced labor and harmful farming methods through research. In response, the brand has employed strict guidelines for the production process. "We invest the time and money to do third-party investigations to make sure we feel confident about the ethics and compensation of every single person along the supply chain," Okamoto says.
Each step of the production process is documented in detail on the brand's website to maintain complete transparency with consumers. "Gen Z is adamant about calling out corporations for green-washing and woke-washing," Okamoto says. "So, we wanted to make sure we provide the details upfront. We've also committed to doing a quarterly report on sustainability and impact so people can track our progress."
Making an Impact
With a background in advocacy work and nonprofits, infusing impact into August's mission was another element of the brand Okamoto was passionate about developing. "To be able to have impact embedded into [August] is very exciting," she says.
The brand has mapped out a comprehensive plan to give back, including donating to their nonprofit partner No More Secrets, Mind Body Spirit Inc, and providing underserved schools with period products. August also covers the Tampon Tax for customers ordering from any of the 30 states that it still exists in. "Taking a stand against the Tampon Tax is a very necessary thing because having access to period products is not a luxury," Okamoto says.
Additionally, the brand plans to support its community by way of its educational platform Ask August. The content hub offers users access to free, medically verified content that addresses common questions about menstruation. "We want to make sure that people are equipped with the knowledge and confidence to talk about their periods," Okamoto says. That knowledge is power, and in August's case, it has the potential to change the way we care for ourselves in the long haul.