Design Project 1 | Domain / Area of Opportunity

Design Project 1 | Domain / Area of Opportunity

Link to Student
Journal Entry For
Project 1 - Domain / Area of Opportunity

The domain that I’d like to focus on is….

I wish to focus on healthcare applications, more specific to female reproductive health. In general, female health and hygiene is surrounded by a lot of stigma and taboo, which is part of why there are very few active initiatives to work on designing products for this target audience. I want to work on designing a sustainable alternative to sanitary pads derived from bio-degradable material without compromising on hygiene or health.

This area is important/interesting to me because….

I was born in and lived my entire life up till now in India. As culturally diverse it is, there is inhabitation of many stereotypes and taboos originating from different sects and communities. These, more often than not impact how people perceive certain notions and learn behaviors. Of the many, I resonate the most with “periods” being a taboo. A biological process as natural as the menstrual cycle is often seen as something that must be spoken about in hushed tones. Unfortunately, this is prevalent in several developed nations as well.

Personally, I have seen this taboo play its part in my family, in the rest of the society and even more so in the underprivileged sects of India. Most of this is originated from the lack of awareness and education about the natural process. In my interactions with menstruators in rural, semi-rural and impoverished areas in Western India, I have learnt that more than 95% of them are oblivious to the various menstrual hygiene products that are available for use in the market such as sanitary pads, tampons or cups.

That being said, my aim is to design organic sanitary pads, which are accessible to not only the underprivileged Indian communities, but also to other parts of the world. Here’s what I have in mind:

  1. For the product to be sustainable it would either have to have a standardized process for recycling. The average sanitary napkin comprises 48% fluff pulp, 36% PE, PP and PET, 7% adhesives, 6% superabsorbent and 3% release paper. (ref: Nonwoven personal hygiene materials and products- J.R. Ajmeri, C.J. Ajmeri, in Applications of Nonwovens in Technical Textiles, 2010)
  2. Even saddening is the fact that in most cases where sanitary napkins are being used, they are usually incinerated, releasing fossil CO2. (ref: Eriksson, O.; Finnveden, G. Plastic waste as a fuel-CO 2-neutral or not?. Energy Environ. Sci. 20092, 907– 914,  DOI: 10.1039/b908135f [Crossref], [CAS], Google Scholar)
  3. In order to tackle these grave issues there must be an amalgamation of two ideas:
    1. Design an organic, zero-waste sanitary napkin keeping in mind structural integrity and usability.
    2. Define standard procedure for disposal of these sanitary napkins.

Please describe a domain or an area of opportunity that you’d like to use as the focus for the design of a PRODUCT, SERVICE, or BUILT FEATURE that supports or promotes sustainable behaviors and practices for INDIVIDUALS in day-to-day use.
For this first design project, focus your thinking on:
a PRODUCT --  something physical that can be manufactured, distributed, purchased, and potentially held in your hand or carried with you.
a SERVICE or APPLICATION --  something that you can order, subscribe to, or use (in-person or online) -- that will support and promote the sustainability and resilience goals of your potential users.
a SPACE, PLACE, or BUILDING FEATURE — that supports or promotes sustainability in the day-to-day activities of individual users.
Please share your initial thoughts in a few paragraphs below…