Toothpaste and Zero Waste: A Brush Story



As a long time fan of brushing my teeth, I was hesitant to adopt this popular zero waste lifestyle change. I love making things and I love trying new things, but most natural toothpaste recipes I researched called for simple yet not super appetizing ingredients. Baking soda? Bentonite clay? The skepticism was high even though most recipes called for a sweetening or flavour agent like essential oil or stevia.

But then I looked closer at the ingredients in typical tooth paste and did a 'lil internet research. This is what I found:

  • Triclosan: So this chemical is actually classified as a bioaccumulative, non-biodegradable pesticide! It is bad for the environment and our waster systems as it is very toxic to aquatic organisms. But it also isn't great for you, as it is linked to hormone interference and contributes to antibiotic resistant bacteria.
  • Propylene Glycol: This chemical is often contaminated with known carcinogenic ethylene oxide and 1,4 dioxane during the manufacturing and is known to be abrasive to the skin.
  • Sodium Lauryl Sulfate: These are the chemicals responsible for the foaming action of the toothpaste, but they also interfere with the functioning of your taste buds by breaking up the phospholipids on your tongue (this is why things taste funny once you brush your teeth!) Like Propylene Glycol , one of the main problems with SLS is that the manufacturing process can contaminate the ingredient with serious carcinogens. Also, the manufacturing process also releases carcinogenic volatile organic compounds into the environment. SLS is also registered as an insecticide and may have toxic effects to marine life, including fish, insects, and crustaceans.
  • Microbeads: Thankfully, microbeads are not as popular anymore, but they are tiny plastic particles that are added to products "to scrub the skin or clean your teeth". They are super damaging to marine life, since marine animals often mistake them for food. The plastic particles do not biodegradable so once they enter the marine environment, they are impossible to remove.

So if these unnatural ingredients didn't make you nervous for your own wellbeing, as well as for the environment's, I also read that 900 millions tubes of conventional toothpaste are consumed each year in just the USA. These tubes are entirely non-recyclable and sadly just end up in landfills.



So given all this, I am pretty over normal toothpaste. Therefore, I was determined to make my own toothpaste, following and adapting a recipe from my fave zero waste blog. I assembled all my ingredients, put on some Beyoncé and got to it.

I used a peppermint essential oil from Herb and Spice plus coconut oil and baking soda. I washed out an old face mask jar to recycle as the container. I heated 1/4 c of coconut oil until warm, then stirred in 1 1/2 tbsp of baking soda and 4-7 drops of essential oil. I kept stirring as the oil cooled and hardened up so that the baking soda remained consistent throughout. Baking soda and coconut oil are really awesome natural ingredients for oral health, so I was optimistic!

Once cool, I got my bamboo toothbrush  and ran it under water. Then I dipped it into the jar, so eager and excited, got a little on my toothbrush and...  and I really didn't like it. It was pretty salty, but it smelled really sickly sweet from the peppermint oil.
And I was so sad! Coconut oil is usually my jam. I oil pull pretty consistently and highly recommend it. But this was not what I was used to.


So I tried again before bed. Again, not a huge fan. But I think it was better? It wasn't foamy at all (because no SLS), but my teeth felt just as clean as they did after a normal brushing. I could do this, I told myself, I just had to get used to it.

So I kept at it for three days, sometimes getting a good clean when I felt up to coping with the saltiness and other times not as much when I couldn't  get through it.

So I think my recipe needs some tweaking. Many zero waste recipes also include xylitol and stevia, but I didn't really have enough on hand for this first attempt. My friend and fellow zero waster @zerowasteforestcity said that she uses a tooth powder consisting of baking soda, bentonite clay and cinnamon (which I will be trying this weekend), but also recommended "toothy tabs" from Lush.
And as we all know, any excuse to go to Lush is a good excuse.



So, I ended up getting "Dirty" toothy tabs which come in a small plastic, yet recyclable bottle. To use them you simply chew them up a little bit, wet your toothbrush and brush away. I love them and would highly recommend them as a better and less wasteful natural solution!!! My teeth feel so clean and dare I say whiter and this is a good interim solution until I perfect my own recipe!

But if you're not yet ready to stray from normative toothpaste, (while I still encourage you to try it) here are some other things you can do to have a more eco-friendly bathroom routine!

  1. Put a recycling bin in your bathroom! This way it is more likely that cardboard TP rolls or recyclable bottles end up in the right place!
  2. Use bar soap/shampoos! Who doesn't love a good artisan soap and you can take this as me giving you permission to try out some of the great shampoo bar options at Lush!
  3. Try using a Diva Cup!
  4. Avoid single-use products like disposable razors, individually-wrapped facemasks etc.
  5. Say buy to microbeads in face washes and hand soaps forever!
  6. Support companies that support the earth! Buy makeup and other products from companies that are cruelty-free! Here is a list of cruelty-free brands available at Sephora.
  7. Buy a bamboo toothbrush! They rock! 

Making changes towards a zero waste lifestyle and being eco-friendly is not like flipping a switch. It is a lean in, a process and a journey. And it is all about making one, good intentional choice at a time for yourself, and for our earth.

~ jennie - @trashlesslovemore

1 comments:

Unknown said...

Love it, it's definitely a journey!! But the little changes become habit sooner than you know it :)