Toothpaste and toothbrushes are some of the most common items in our daily lives. These are also some of the most harmful, which we use and dispose of continuously. When replaced every few months by the majority of the world, this contributes to a huge amount of waste, that doesn’t just go away but rots in landfills or ends up in our waterways. An alternative to this, the bamboo toothbrush is becoming a more common phenomenon. As the head of my electric toothbrush was in definite need of a replacement, it seemed obvious to transition to this product. I ordered my bamboo toothbrush from Spirit of Nature, by the brand Environmental toothbrush, based in Australia. On second glance this is actually a mother/baby website of which I am neither, but the products cater to a plastic-free lifestyle… so I went ahead and ordered anyway.
Generally, plastic toothpaste tubes are not accepted into your local recycling, creating an additional environmental consequence of your innocent twice-a-day oral hygiene routine. The alternative to this seemed much less obvious and took some research to find the plastic-free options that are available. I knew about ‘toothytabs’ which I have previously purchased from Lush, which are small tablets that you chew to create a toothpaste solution. These were formally available in a cardboard box, but are now sold in plastic bottles. In trying to avoid any plastic, I took to the internet and found a lovely company called Georganics. Georganics are a company who pride themselves on creating cruelty-free, ethically sourced products. It is also a UK-based company and all of their products are made in England, this is an added bonus to avoid a vast carbon-footprint.
I placed my order for Georganics products on Planet Organic, where I purchased the tooth powder, toothpaste and mouthwash tablets. Hopefully, more mainstream shops will start to jump on the sustainability bang wagon and respond to customers wishes by stocking more environmentally sound household products. Until then, there remain a few online websites such as Ethical Superstore and others, which cater to the non-plastic-waste lifestyle.
One aspect I was worried about was the type of packaging these products would be sent in and if any would be wrapped in plastic. On arrival, I was happy that my first order arrived in a cardboard box with paper inside to prevent breakage, instead of polystyrene or plastic air-bags. However, this was not the same for the Planet Organic order, which despite being a company taking pride in environmental ethics, arrived with plastic airbags. I wasn’t that pleased with this, but there wasn’t much I could do. Perhaps I might write to the company and question their choices. This might be the optimist in me talking, but surely if enough people complain and campaign for change, even companies not ethically driven might be compelled to change their procedures. Fight the plastic power or something like that?!
“The handle is made of MOSO bamboo, an environmentally sustainable timber. The bristles are made from a BPA FREE polymer resistant to microbial growth during normal use, to ensure safety and durability.”
Price: £2.95. This is around the same price of a manual plastic toothbrush, but this one comes guilt-free, even better! Of course, there are initial concerns with deforestation, but if you visit their website, this provides a great explanation to the sustainability of bamboo.
Quality: I have no complaints about the quality of this product, it does the job, exactly like every other toothbrush on the market does. It does have a different grip than plastic toothbrushes, but I actually prefer the wooden material and find it slips out of my hand less. Yes, you would be surprised with how many times a plastic toothbrush has accidentally slipped out of my hand, but it does happen.
Convenience: I have gotten so used to my electric toothbrush that it is strange at first to use a manual toothbrush. I definitely prefer the clean feeling I get after using my electric brush as it is much easier to make sure I have cleaned my teeth properly, compared to when I am in charge of the movement. After writing that sentence I realised how super lazy that sounds – it just seems ridiculous to complain about the alternative to a brush that does all the work for you. A bit more elbow grease is a small price to pay to reduce wastage in my opinion. Certainly, an electric toothbrush has less plastic wastage than a regular toothbrush, as you just need to swap out heads. However, if you’re really serious about cutting out plastic – bamboo is really your only option. In future, it would be great for someone to invent an electric toothbrush made out of bamboo, with compostable heads. Until then, the environmentally conscious among us will have to stick to manual cleaners.
Accessibility: Bamboo toothbrushes are available in a range of strengths like most brands. I went for the medium because I find harder bristles clean my teeth better, although I believe the company recommends the soft style. Honestly, this toothbrush does what all others do, it just so happens this one is compostable (when you remove its bristles). They are also becoming more common in most online stores and retailers so you won’t have to search around too long to find one. This is definitely a worthy transition in my eyes and I would recommend it to the masses.
Georganics Coconut Toothpaste in English Peppermint
“Our natural toothpaste is blended with wild English peppermint essential oil, steam distilled and certified organic. Research has found Peppermint Essential Oil to be extremely effective at killing anaerobic bacteria. A bacteria that thrives in a low oxygen environment such as the mouth and can cause gum disease. The fluoride free and SLS free formulation is an ideal replacement to commercial whitening toothpastes.”
Price: I spent £6.95 on this jar. This is expensive compared to a tube of toothpaste which I would usually buy on offer for £1. The tub contains 60ml of paste and I am unsure how long this will last, but I will continue using this to provide an update on the longevity of this product. Maybe then I can give a more solidified review of the final cost-benefit.
Quality: This product is similar to the consistency of a regular toothpaste. However, this formulation is non-foaming and when you add water it becomes very ‘liquidy’, which I find hard to brush with. I don’t know if this has something to do with my methods, but I am not a huge fan of this. This paste comes in an English peppermint flavour, however, this is nowhere near as minty as original kinds of toothpaste. I think being so used to the regular formulas it is hard to immediately prefer such an alternative option. I really want to like this product, but it is not as nice as regular minty toothpaste. Georganics prides itself on using natural ingredients instead of synthetics, so I think this taste is part and parcel of being a more environmental ethical being. If I am serious about my impact, this is something I might eventually have to get used to!
Convenience: This product comes with a little spatula to apply the paste to your brush. This was quite a novelty the first few times I used it, but it doesn’t beat the convenience of squeezing a tube. What I have found is a lot of these eco-products are less convenient than the mainstream. Yet, the problem with our society is that we have become comfortable with convenience and this has distracted us from the negative environmental consequence these habits have brought. A little ‘inconvenience’ is a small price to pay for a healthier environment.
Accessibility: As far as I know this product is only available to buy online through the Georganics website or other retailers who stock their product. This does mean that you have to pay for postage when purchasing this product, which is definitely something to consider.
Georganics Toothpowder in Spearmint
“This fine, natural and non-toxic whitening powder works by absorbing and polishing away plaque and stains that naturally form on our teeth. It’s a completely safe and fast-effective formula made without the use of chemicals like peroxides, fluoride compounds or synthetic flavourings. We blend two of the most effective and natural whitening agents – fine pharmaceutical grade sodium bicarbonate and magnesium carbonate – which are both also food grade, making them completely safe if accidentally ingested. Use daily as a replacement of toothpaste to maintain your naturally white teeth.”
Price: This pot of tooth powder was £6.90. This is the same size as the paste, but you only need to coat a wet toothbrush in this powder, so you use minimal amounts. Although I can imagine that this product lasts a while, it is still much more expensive than its tube counterpart. The price is definitely an unfavourable consequence of this plastic-free option.
Quality: It is really strange brushing your teeth with powder instead of a paste. The products used in Georganics are all natural, so there are no added sweeteners like most toothpaste brands. The natural spearmint taste is slightly overpowered by, what tastes like bicarbonate of soda. This became less obvious as you continued brushing and doesn’t linger afterwards, but is still not the most pleasant sensation – so minus points for taste. This product is also described as a teeth whitener, so I am intrigued to see if this actually works!
Convenience: I actually prefer this formula to the coconut toothpaste, which I found more watery. However, the powder can be quite hard to coat all over the toothbrush, as the jar is small and you can only dip the toothbrush from a limited angle. It takes a bit longer to spread the product on your brush than a squeeze of a tube so those in a morning rush might vote against this product.
Accessibility: As above.
Georganics Mouthwash Tablets in Spearmint
“Georganics mouthwash tablets are made from entirely natural, food grade and non-toxic ingredients. The fluoride, glycerin and SLS free formula helps to restore a healthy pH balance to your mouth, maintain good oral health and freshen your breath.”
Price: This product was £8.90 and again this is expensive compared to its bottled counterpart which can cost between £2-3. However, this comes in a jar of 180 tablets, meaning for 180 days you are guaranteed fresh breath. This is pretty decent as I find your average bottle probably lasts a month at best!
Quality: I had a bit of difficulty finding the right water: tablet ratio. At first, this concoction did not have a strong taste and I didn’t really feel the benefit of the fresh breath feeling. Eventually, I think I got the hang of the mouthwash mixture, just pouring enough water into a glass, or filling a large shot glass. With the right water ratio, this actually tastes fine, even a bit similar to the mouthwash used at the dentist, so it does give the sense of a dentist clean feel just after using it. However, if you’re into strong, almost gum burning mouthwashes I’m afraid this concoction would not satisfy your needs.
Convenience: The water to tablet ratio can be hard to get perfect the first time around, so might take a few practices before you get it right. The tablet also takes 1-2 minutes to dissolve, so this isn’t a great product if you’re rushing out the door and want a quick refresher. However, I can see these being very good for use on the go, while travelling or at a festival to avoid taking a bulky bottle of regular mouthwash with you.
Accessibility: These are a very popular product and it took me a while to hunt these down since on other websites they were sold out. It might be the case of buying these in bulk when available, to avoid disappointment.
Unfortunately, in my opinion, I do not believe these products rival the mass marketed toothpaste we’re all used to. Whilst I understand the importance of this swap, I am unsure whether I am a fan of their formulas and I personally would prefer a normal toothpaste available in more easily recycled packaging. I could, however, see myself getting used to the mouthwash tablets and think this is a handy addition to a weekend travel bag. In conclusion, although I am unsure whether the toothpaste alternatives are for me just yet, I will continue to use these products until they are finished and see if my opinion still stands the same!
TIPs FOR A PLASTIC-FREE SAVVY SHOPPER
Here are my recommendations for a first-time plastic conservationist on the prowl for some new products:
1. Think before you buy
Carefully look at your consumption and spending habits and consider which are most harmful. This will help you to decide what you do and don’t need to buy. Did I really need to buy bamboo toilet paper? Probably not. Do I regret this decision? Very likely. My eagerness to excel in the name of this challenge has actually blinded me to the real message behind this challenge which is to waste less, not buy more!
2. Purchase in bulk quantities
Being an impulsive shopper I purchased many of the items I am reviewing in the first instance, instead of waiting to buy them all together in as few orders as possible. Shopping smarter and not harder will help reduce the costs of postage and packaging and also reduce your carbon footprint by limiting the number of times the postman has to drive to your door. Again, this thought dawned on me after my first couple of purchases. In hindsight, I would try to limit these purchases into fewer to cut down on the packaging and cost of multiple orders.
3. Make the most of what you already have
It is true that a lot of the eco-products out there are tempting, considering that they promise to help you do your part to save the environment. Yet, equally harmful to the environment is excessive consumption. Buying more of these products doesn’t necessarily put you on the path to a more environmentally sound lifestyle. That being said it is clear that taking on board some transitions to less wasteful products is to some extent beneficial. What I can decipher from this challenge is that less is more. Yes, purchasing less wasteful products is important. However, it is more important to reconsider our harmful habits and to begin to correct our behaviours to become healthier and happier people. This, in the end, will improve the state of our planet.