Bamboo Toothbrushes

A “Flirting With Zero Waste” Tip

I have raved about the sustainable qualities of bamboo in the past, and still stand by it.  Yet another typically plastic product that can quickly and easily be eliminated from production and replaced by bamboo is the toothbrush.

Not a whole lot of thought is really invested into these wonderfully convenient and completely essential scrubbing sticks by consumers.  A whole lot of time, and advertising, is invested in their design and marketing though.  Where they fail, is in their manufacturing.  Time and effort is put into making sure that each little bristle can reach the most hard to reach areas, and a lot of money is invested into telling us about where those bristles can reach.  Very little time or money is invested into the holder of those bristles.  

Sustainable bamboo sunglasses by WearPanda

Plastic is cheap, easy to work with and will last for quite literally FOREVER.  Whether we like it or not every toothbrush handle ever manufactured out of plastic in the history of plastic toothbrush handles, still exists in one form or another and will for longer than the person’s teeth that it was designed to brush will.  Sure a nicely shaped handle with soft cushiony grips in vibrant colors is nice to look at for its 4 to 6 month lifespan, or until the dentist gives you a new one, whichever comes first.  Now all we have to do is pretend we don’t see them piling up in landfills and floating in the ocean for the next few hundred years…that 4 to 6 months sure was nice though.  I especially enjoy that each new plastic toothbrush comes gift wrapped with yet another layer of, you guessed it, plastic.  After all, plastic is really good at protecting plastic.

Now for the alternative.  Bamboo toothbrushes are equally aesthetically pleasing in my opinion, 4 to 6 months of a nice wood grain on display near my sink.  Alas, you will have to forego that soft cushiony handle, if only we had soft cushiony areas conveniently placed on our hands in just those locations required to hold a toothbrush.  Wouldn’t that be convenient?  But how are you going to be able to tell which toothbrush is yours if you can’t all get different colors or shapes?  This seems like a silly question, but there really is some validity here.  Have you ever realized you were using the wrong toothbrush halfway though a good scrubbing?  I have, it’s disturbing.  Well fret no more, bamboo toothbrushes have a remarkable ability to be branded.  In fact, the manufacturers actually provide this service already, in a wide variety of options; symbols; letters; numbers; whatever you like.  You could even purchase them tinted in various colors.

Individually branded for easy reference, these even came with a bamboo travel case.

After that 4 to 6 months of usefulness is where this really gets interesting.  Bamboo is biodegradable, it will completely decompose and return itself to the soil anywhere from a few months to a few years maximum, in fact enriching the soil rather than contaminating it.  Not just biodegradable but compostable!  Pro tip for all you gardeners out there, you can break the head off your old bamboo toothbrush and throw the handle into your compost bin where it will aid in growing the same food that you used it to remove from your teeth after you last ate.

There are over 6 billion people in the world, and yes I know they don’t all own a toothbrush, but let’s say they do.  2 to 3 toothbrushes a year per person for let’s say 60 years.  That’s a nice round average number of toothbrush use, pre-dentures. So between 120 to 180 toothbrushes per person – split the difference 150 toothbrushes.  Multiply that by 6 billion = 900 billion toothbrushes will be used in the next 60 years if the population does not continue to grow.  If we only use plastic toothbrushes, those same 900 billion toothbrushes will still exist somewhere in the environment 3, 4, 5, hundred years from now.  If we only used bamboo toothbrushes – ZERO will remain, they will have returned to the soil and contributed to the growth of more plants, trees, food, more bamboo etc.

It’s a tough decision, I will let you think about it.

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A Convenient Inconvenience

A “Flirting With Zero Waste” Tip

Zero waste is an achievable lifestyle, though sometimes it feels as if it is unattainable.  Sometimes a little tip or trick will help to urge yourself further in that direction. Here is one such tip that may be worth trying out.

Make Wasteful Items Inconvenient 

A lot of our most wasteful habits are born from convenience.  By making things slightly inconvenient you will gently nudge yourself in the right direction.  

As a real life example, our house commonly used paper towels regularly.  It is very wasteful, but quick and easy, to tear off an entire paper towel to wipe up the smallest of spills and then just throw it away.  We have plenty of kitchen towels, but paper towels were just easier and they were right there on the counter. So we moved them. By putting the paper towel rack into the cabinet under the sink we took it out of our sightline and made it inconvenient to bend down, open the cabinet, reach awkwardly under the sink and tear a sheet off.

Make Non-wasteful Items Convenient

In respect to the previous tip, zero waste habits can in turn be born from convenience.

At the same time as us moving the paper towels to an inconvenient location, we also made sure that the kitchen towels were placed in a more convenient location, and we make sure to always have one hanging from the oven handle.  People like water will always default to the path of least resistance. Snatching the towel off of the oven handle is a whole lot quicker than digging around under the sink for a paper towel.

Sustainable bamboo sunglasses by WearPanda

Since we made this change, we have noticed a drastic difference.  Rather than changing out the paper towel roll once or twice a week, shamefully.  We now have to put a new roll on the dispenser once every month or two. Still not perfect, but what a difference.  

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Flirting with Zero Waste

Sustainable Hygge-lism; Level I

Zero waste is an achievement that I sometimes imagine as a far off dream that is nearly unattainable.  This is not, in fact, the case. A simple search of Zero waste on Google or YouTube, makes this clear as day.  What it also makes clear is that attaining a zero waste lifestyle is not something that can be done overnight. It is something to be worked towards slowly, baby steps.  One small change followed by another small change, then another, then another, taking the time to let each change settle in before adopting the next.

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We do not live a zero waste lifestyle…as of yet.  On the path to a zero waste lifestyle though, you walk the path of sustainability.

We do live a sustainable lifestyle…but we could do more.  One small step at a time. 

Minimalism, Hygge and Sustainability are all siblings, as you get to know one you automatically get to know the makings of the others.  Reducing waste and our carbon footprint is a key point of minimalism and automatically leads to a more sustainable, intentional lifestyle.  Whether you no longer want everything to come wrapped in plastic, or you no longer want to be throwing out straws, napkins, coffee filters and paper towels only to turn around and buy some more.  Minimal lifestyle changes are sustainable changes, and zero waste changes are the most sustainable changes that you could possibly achieve.

I encourage everyone to venture into the world of sustainability with even the smallest changes, here are some beginner level changes that are easy to incorporate into your lifestyle:

Trade plastic shopping bags for cloth reusable ones.

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We have gotten to the point in our society where plastic shopping bags are nearly a thing of the past.  Everyone is becoming aware of the massive negative impact of plastic on our world. Cloth grocery and produce bags are available almost everywhere, and there are even highly compact reusable bags that can be carried virtually everywhere so that you will never be caught off guard or unprepared.

Stop using plastic straws

This too has begun to draw worldwide attention.  Alternatives such as paper, metal and glass straws are readily available and small enough to carry along with you wherever you go. In lieu of carrying around a straw alternative, you could always just NOT use one.  I struggle to come up with a situation where a straw would be a necessity.

Get a reusable water bottle, preferably not a plastic one.

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Reusable water bottles are wildly popular, and that is fantastic.  Unfortunately, lots of times they are still plastic bottles. Research has started to uncover the health hazards associated with using plastic over and over.  As well as the negative impact of plastic as a whole as I mentioned before. So when shopping for a reusable water bottle, be sure to explore glass and metal options.

Transition to glass Tupperware.

Don’t throw away plastic items that you own, unless they are no longer useful.  Waste happens when an item is purchased, so throwing something out prior to it becoming no longer useful just doubles the waste.  Tupperware is a great example of this, if you have plastic tupperware that is just fine, then keep using it. Once it becomes no longer useful though, recycle it and if you replace it, then do it with glass.

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Recycle.

I shouldn’t even have to mention this, if you are not recycling at this point then I don’t even know what to say.  Recycle everything that you can. Compost everything that you can.

Buy a bamboo toothbrush, next time.

Anything that you can do to reduce your use of plastic products is a good thing.  Toothbrushes are replaced fairly often, so the next time you need a new one look into a bamboo one.  Bamboo is highly sustainable.

Adjust your commute.

If possible, look into riding a train or a bicycle to work rather than driving a car, or at least try and organize a carpool.  Forego the elevator and take the stairs. Small changes like these will help you reduce your carbon footprint.

Take pride in your clothing.

A minimal wardrobe is a great way to reduce waste by investing in higher quality clothing items made with sustainable materials, and not falling for the fast fashion trends that dominate social media and trendy magazines.  Pay attention to how often you wash your clothes, and try and use a clothesline to dry them rather than a dryer. There are plenty of laundry soaps that are much more environmentally friendly as well such as “Soap Nuts”. I also have this post about a hygge-list wardrobe.

Go Paperless.

We often take paper for granted.  90% of the paper that comes into your life is discarded without even a second thought.  Recycle all the paper you can, and then try and go paperless wherever you can. Also read “Cutting the Paper Clutter” for lots of useful tips and tricks.

Incorporating even just a couple of these simple changes can make a world of difference, let’s call this Level 1 of sustainability.  Be sure to subscribe so that you don’t miss out on more tips as we flirt with a zero waste lifestyle.

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