Bamboo Toothbrushes and Plastic Free Toothpaste (The Easiest Plastic Free Swaps You Can Make)

When looking through your home, doing the weekly shop, seeing litter everywhere you go, it makes trying to reduce your plastic seem overwhelming and pointless.

But we all have to start somewhere so why not a plastic free, bamboo toothbrush?

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Toothbrushes may not seem like a big change but given that we are supposed to replace our toothbrushes every 3-4 months (depending how fast the bristles get worn out) the plastic waste starts to add up.

Let’s say we take really good care of them and use 3 a year. The NHS says you can start brushing as soon as you have teeth, so let’s say the age of 1. The average life expectancy in the U.K. is currently about 80 years (90 if you’re born today).

If we do the math you will use between 237 and 316 toothbrushes in your lifetime.

The population of the U.K. in 2018 was 66.4 million.

That translates into a whopping 15,736,800,000 toothbrushes over the lifetimes of the 2018 U.K. population alone!

Maybe changing your toothbrush is a big deal after all.

Is bamboo a sustainable material?

Yes!

Bamboo is actually a grass and not wood, but is strong like a soft wood. It also grows crazy fast with some of the fastest species growing 3 feet in a day!

These attributes make bamboo a sustainable material that is incredibly useful for items like toothbrushes.

Do bamboo toothbrushes have plastic bristles? Isn’t that bad?

 

Yes and No.

Toothbrushes generally use nylon which is a synthetic (plastic) material that is gentler on your gums than the alternative which is boars hair.

Boars hair is courser and can damage gums and is not an animal friendly alternative as the hair is often a by product of the meat industry.

So generally, nylon is the best option at the moment.

 

Caring for your bamboo toothbrush.

It my seem scary to make the switch as a lot of you may be wondering, will my plastic free toothbrush get mouldy? Will there be more germs? Will my bamboo toothbrush last as long as my regular brush?

Fear not.

Caring for your toothbrush is simple.

Ideally, with any toothbrush you want to make sure you rinse any food or left over toothpaste off the bristles. But the one extra step you should take when you switch to bamboo is drying your toothbrush off after you use it.

Germs like moist areas so as long as your toothbrush (no matter what kind you use) is dry between uses, the germs won’t be a problem.

By drying your bamboo toothbrush you help prevent mould from developing on the handle.

I leave my family’s toothbrushes on the side of the sink with the bristles hanging down over the sink so the water runs away from the brush heads. The next time I go into the bathroom they are usually dry enough to put in my toothbrush holder a.k.a. ceramic cup.

Everything stays nice and clean. The bamboo toothbrushes I grabbed for my family are on Amazon and come in packs of 5. They also have children’s sized toothbrushes available.They only use paper based packaging and the seller shared that treating the handles with a little bit of olive oil when you first get them help maintain the handles as well. I did not do this with my first set but may try it with the second to see if there is a difference.

How do I dispose of my bamboo toothbrush?

 

When you are finished with your toothbrush, don’t just throw it away.
You made the switch to do something better for the environment, so get your toothbrush to the right place.

First, try repurposing the toothbrushes. Toothbrushes are great for cleaning grout, cheese graters and for cleaning jewellery.

Once you have used up their second life, you’ll need to remove the bristles. Yank them out with some pliers and those will go in the bin to landfill as they are too small for recycling.

You can try putting them inside a plastic bottle that you are recycling, but it’s best to check with your council as we don’t want to be responsible for contaminating batches of recycling.

The handles alone can be repurposed for example, as labels for herbs in your garden or markers for your veggie patch.

But if your bamboo toothbrush is done serving its purpose, then compost it.
If you just toss it in your garden, it can take 5-10 years to break down, less if you cut into small pieces first.

If you have a composter then the breakdown process is much less. Typically 4-6 months if you cut it into pieces first.

If you don’t have composting capabilities in your home then check with your council to see if the handles can be thrown in with your garden waste bins. I am waiting to hear back from mine and will update you as soon as I know.

So that’s your toothbrush sorted, what about toothpaste?

Toothpaste has moved away from the aluminium tubes of yesteryear in favour of plastic tubes that can’t be recycled.

This seems bonkers looking at it now, but I’m guessing the plastic was a lighter material or maybe cheaper as there is no other reason for the switch.

Colgate is pretty proud of itself for introducing the first recyclable plastic toothpaste tube, but the truth is, yes it’s better than tubes you can’t recycle and better if you have no other option, but anyone who follows the plastic crisis knows that we can’t recycle our way out of plastic.

So what are your options?

Want Some More Quick and Easy Swaps?

When you sign up for the weekly email that is full of tips, news, and other goodies just for you, you will also get the Simple Swaps Guide with some other quick plastic free switches for your home.

Flouride or no fluoride?

 

The NHS recommends using a fluoride toothpaste with a 1300-1500ppm concentration. The fluoride protects the enamel on your teeth and helps prevent tooth decay.

I grew up in California and our water was fluorinated. My dentist even had us taking fluoride tablets as a kid! But my brother, sister, and I all did what our dentist recommended and none of us have had a cavity.

So is non-fluoride toothpaste bad?

It’s not bad per se but it won’t give your teeth the extra protection from the demineralization that causes tooth decay.

But as a cleaning agent and disruptor of plaque formation any toothpaste, including no toothpaste will do, according to Dr. David Okano a periodontist with 30 years of experience.

According to Dr. Okano just the action of brushing your teeth and flossing is enough to “disrupts[s] the dental plaque that ultimately leads to tooth decay and gum disease.” Sure you won’t have the fresh breath, but your teeth will be clean.

But if you want to protect your teeth over the long term, only fluoride can do that.

It will be your decision, but please consult your dentist if you make the switch and have them monitor the health of your teeth.

Now for the important bit.

Plastic Free Toothpaste

 

Does plastic free toothpaste exist?

Yes!

Do beware that moving towards more natural toothpastes means you won’t have the SLSs in them which are the foaming agents, so the feel will be different from shop bought toothpastes.

How do you use toothpaste tablets and powders?

 

Toothpaste tablets are pretty simple.

You pop them into your mouth and chew them. As they moisten and turn into a paste, put your toothbrush in and start moving it onto your teeth.

I have seen some people grind up the tablets and can then have more control over the amount of product they use.

For shop bought toothpaste a pea size amount is all that is recommended for fluoride toothpaste, (less for children under 3) which means you don’t need a lot of any product to clean your teeth.

For powder toothpaste, I have found it’s easiest to wet your toothbrush and scoop a small amount from the jar onto the bristles and then start brushing.

By scooping the powder out dry, you keep the tooth powder from being contaminated.

Denttabs (Plastic Free Fluoride Toothpaste, Non-Fluoride Available as Well)

Denttabs come in a corn starch bag that can be composted when empty.

The tabs need to be chewed into a paste and then you brush as normal.

There’s enough tabs to last one person two months.

They are made in Germany so the carbon footprint may be a bit higher with, but the balance is the no plastic waste.

SaveSomeGreen ToothTabs (Plastic Free Fluoride Toothpaste)

Ok, so these are chew and brush tabs, but they contain fluoride which is pretty tough to find.

They come in a cute little tin and are shipped in paper-based packaging.

When you finish the first round you can simply buy a refill the next month and save a quid. It seems reasonably priced when you are buying for one person but you will need to buy a pack for each brushing person in your house assuming everyone brushes twice a day.

You can order a 6 month supply which would be enough for two months for 3 people.

These tooth tabs are a great find for those wanting fluoride.

Ecoliving Toothpaste Tablets (Plastic Free, Fluoride, Non-Fluoride available)

Ecoliving’s tablets also come in a cute little tin with refills available. They are U.K. based, contain no palm oil, but has the same amount of fluoride as regular toothpastes. If you buy their plant-based floss Ecoliving plants a tree through the Eden Reforestation projects.

Georganics Natural Toothpaste (Plastic Free Non-Fluoride Toothpaste)

Georganics makes the dental floss I love so their toothpaste would be a good place to start if you want a fluoride-free toothpaste. They also make kids specific flavours. The paste comes in a glass jar in a box and has a bamboo spatula for scooping out the paste without contaminating the contents. One jar lasts one person 4 weeks so again can get pricey if you compare it to commercial brands in plastic tubes. This company is also U.K. based and has a Zero to Landfill scheme where you can send back items that can’t be recycled by your local council and they will dispose of it for you.

TruthPaste (Plastic Free Non-Fluoride Toothpaste)

Still a paste, so no chewing tabs here. Just dip a dry toothbrush or scoop a pea-sized amount and brush as normal. They also have a couple of children flavoured versions as well.

The packaging is a cute jar which can easily be reused or recycled.

The product itself is made in the U.K and they do not test on animals.

The price is reasonable when compared to commercial toothpastes and depending how much you use can last 2-4 months.

Metal Tubes Toothpaste

There are toothpastes available in metal tubes which are recyclable but tough to find cost-effective and environmentally-friendly.

However I will mention a few so you can have a look.

Goodwell Co. has a non-fluoride toothpaste but ships from the U.S. (aka expensive).

Aesop also has a non-fluoride toothpaste in a metal tube but in all honesty it’s pricey, too.

Marvis has toothpastes in metal tubes as well but, if you are trying to avoid ingredients like SLSs then this won’t be the one for you.

Finding a suitable toothpaste may be tricky, but a bamboo toothbrush is simple.

Let me know if you have found success with your toothbrush and toothpaste and if you found other alternatives you like in the comments below.

Hopefully, you found enough to get you started and you can click to read about other Easy Plastic Free Swaps in your Bathroom.

7 Benefits of Embracing Minimalism as a Family

In today’s culture, we’re constantly fed the message that we need more in order to live a good life.

More electronics, bigger homes, newer cars, more clothes, more hobbies—the list goes on. We’re led to believe that having more is a sign of success and will lead to happier and more fulfilled lives.

We are made to feel guilty if our children aren’t in daily extra-curricular activities or if we aren’t creating pre-planned, Pinterest-style fun for them every day.

It’s exhausting.

But if you make the decision to go against that norm, some may even look at you strangely, or wonder if there’s something wrong with you.

But the truth is, those who have embraced minimalism and learned to live and work with less often find they’re happier, more content, more giving and living more meaningful lives.

Well how does that work?

Just because a minimalist is living with less, that doesn’t mean they are living with nothing.

Embracing minimalism is about admitting what you really need to live the life you want.

It’s about defining your values and goals for your life and the lives of your family.
But that’s just the beginning.

Here are seven benefits of embracing a minimalist lifestyle.

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1. Less Stress

 

This is by far the top benefit of minimalist living so it’s worth mentioning first. As you embark on this new way of life, you’ll find that having fewer things to worry about (both material possessions, clutter and time commitments) greatly reduces your stress level!

• Less Stress for you

Think about your day. How many times are you asked where an item is?
Whether from your spouse or your kids, mum is known as the keeper of the things.

Think about your mental To Do list: laundry, meals to be made, lunches, uniforms, packing a changing bag, making sure bills are paid, and so on.

Then there is all the schedules; what activity does each child have after school? Who’s dropping them off? Picking them up? Do you have time to even make T?

You need your boiler repaired so you look online and begin the tedious search of finding the “best” one.

Or you’re having a baby and you will spend every second of your spare time researching the best car seat, pram, formula, hospital, birthing method, etc.

Eliminating the excess means eliminating many of those stress inducers in a typical day.

• Less Stress for your kids

Your kids can get stressed out, too.

All the extra-curricular activities, practicing those activities in their spare time, homework, and volunteering requirements is enough to take up all their time as well.

Are your children younger, like mine?

Pushing them to be early readers, boasting that they can count to 20, scheduling them playgroups, music groups, and so on, has detrimental effects on them as well.

According to Carl Honoré the voice of the global Slow Movement and author of Under Pressure Putting the Child Back in Childhood, these kids that are pushed too hard too young lose any academic advantage they have over their peers by age 7 or 8 with the bonus that they have more anxiety and less creativity.

Minimalism can mean reducing their stress, too.

His book focuses on how children spend their time, and not minimalism specifically, but it is full of great information on letting kids be kids again.

2. More Money or Less Debt

 

By moving away from the extreme commercialism that seems normal in today’s world you won’t fall victim to always needing more, more, more and more.

Imagine having the cash to take a fabulous trip, host lovely meals for friends, gift your kids a down payment on their first home, or even being able to give more to your favourite charity without feeling like you are taking something away from yourself- all because you resisted the urge to buy every new toy and gadget the Joneses bought.

Instead of thinking more, new, upgrade, think about what you actually want to do.

What do you want for your family?

It’s probably not stuff.

When I was teaching I had my students write two letters at Christmas time. The first was to Santa asking for what they wanted.

The lists would be a mile long asking for Xboxes and iPhones, the latest toys, and so on.

Then they wrote the second letter. That one was to their parents and they still got to ask for what they wanted.

The lists changed. The kids are aware that their parents work hard to earn finite amounts of money to provide everything they want and need, so the lists were much shorter and included something else.

Time.

So many of those kids wanted to just spend a day with their parents. It was bittersweet to read.

Then they had a decision to make. They could only send one letter.

All of them chose to send the letter to their parents.

The kids established right there that they value time with their family over money and things.

As a parent I think we have this notion that we must make their lives better than ours was.

But does better mean more stuff?

Should you work extra hours and finance new TVs and gadgets and fancier cars? Are your kids benefitting? Do they need worldly holidays every year?

Chances are no, no, and no.

So, if the item isn’t essential to making your life better leave it. Say no to buying just because you can.

The endorphins wear off quickly and the debt just leads to more stress.

Making better choices about what enters your home is a good example for your children as well.

You can show them how to budget money and teach them how to establish their own values. Don’t buy tat just to quiet them in a store (pack snacks instead, always have snacks).

Every time you make a purchase is it contributing to your family’s established values? Will it make you happy forever? Do you love it? Will it be your favourite?

Ask yourself questions before you buy.

Give yourself a waiting period to see if you still need it after a week? A month? Maybe you can find something second-hand instead.

Set up a budget but add a goals list. What do you really want? And every purchase should be either a necessity or helping you reach those goals.

3. Less Maintenance

 

The top two complaints about housework – cleaning in particular – is one, it takes too long and two, there’s too much stuff to clean or clean around.

Think about vacuuming. You probably spend more time moving furniture, toys, dirty laundry, or anything else on the floor than you do actually hoovering.

Think about your worktops and tables.  Moving around papers, appliances, food, etc. as opposed to just a quick wipe.

The good news is, embracing minimalism means these things won’t happen anymore. It’ll take far less of your time to clean and organize your home because you won’t have so much stuff to work with and the stuff you do have will have a place to be stored.

You can give your minimalist endeavors an eco-friendly spin and save more space, time, and money using plastic-free, sustainable cleaning products as well.

• Make Your Own Cleaners

Using one or two products to clean means you can swiftly move from one are to the next without hauling a bunch of bottles around.

If you make your own the chemicals won’t be as harsh, cost less and your kids can help, too.

• Find Sustainable Alternatives and Use Less

If you make your own all-purpose cleaner, then you will likely have white vinegar around. White vinegar works as a fabric softener (and no it won’t leave your clothes smelling like pickled onions).

If you can replace the softener, that’s one less product you need to buy and one less giant bottle you have to store and dispose of.
Use cloths instead of disposable wipes and kitchen roll.

Making simple changes in reducing your waste, you will notice less rubbish in your bins, which is a really satisfying feeling.

• Get the Kids Involved

Less stuff for the kids, means less stuff that they need to be responsible for, making it easier for them to tidy and keep track of what they have.

Let them be responsible. Help them set up designated places for their items and then leave them to it.

Teach them early on that cleaning the house is everyone’s job.

Olivia is three and Penny is 19 months and they both help me around the house with chores.

It takes sooo much longer. But they LOVE doing it. Embrace that. Have them help while it’s fun and as they get older and can clean independently they won’t groan because it’s part of their routines already.

4. Less Clutter

 

Minimalism is about embracing a simple life and learning to live with only the things you need so naturally there will be a lot less clutter in your environment. Less clutter means a more calming living space.

Of course, this also means that one of the first steps you’ll need to do is go through all the current clutter and get rid of the unnecessary possessions.

• Less Clothes
• Less Toys (for the kids and you)
• Less Duplicates
• Less items that sit in a corner without purpose

Most people living a minimalist life have said this was the hardest part of the journey for them, but that it was worth it in the end.

Just keep in mind your vision of minimalism and why you’re doing it – this will help you stay on task as you purge things. It may help to create a vision board of what your dream home and lifestyle looks like to keep you focused.

And don’t forget, you can help others by making donations of your excessive items to local charities, schools and churches. Try to keep as much as possible from going to landfills.

5. Less Waste

 

Aside from owning less and being aesthetically pleasing, by embracing minimalism we can create a better environment for our families.

• Reduce

By reducing what you bring into your home, you are actually reducing your family’s carbon footprint.

If you take it a step further and consciously reduce your single-use plastics, you can reduce it even more and be doing your part to encourage a more sustainable planet.

• Repurpose

Old towels are new cleaning rags. Cans and cereal boxes are great for creating storage and organisers. Stained clothing that can’t be donated can be easily turned into scrunchies or produce bags.

Again, this will save you money, reduce your carbon footprint and keep new stuff from entering your home because you are repurposing what you already have.

• Repair

If your kids rip a page in a book, grab some sticky tape and fix it.

If the clock your Nan gave you broke when it fell over, get your Gorilla Glue and put it back together.

Take your favourite shoes to the cobbler to get new heels.

Darn the socks.

If we change our mindset to one where we buy things with the intention that they will last forever and then doing everything we can to make them last, we again are making the shift to not only a minimalist lifestyle, but a sustainable one.

6. More Time

 

Another essential part of embracing minimalism in your life is clearing the clutter of overbooked schedules and too much to do. You’ll begin to learn that saying NO is a complete sentence.

Turning down the things you don’t enjoy doing, or those you feel obligated to do (even though you’re not) means you’ll free up your time. This will give you the freedom to do with your time the things that mean the most to you – spending time with family, friends, traveling, or volunteering.

• Say No to the birthday parties of kids from school
• Say No to the extra language lessons and other extracurriculars
• Say No to work outings
• Say No to overtime (if it’s not required)

Be willing to say that there is a finish line. Admit when you have enough and are living comfortably. Find happiness in all you have because having more won’t raise that level of happiness.

7. Raise Your Kids to Be Successful Adults (With a Healthy Definition of Success)

 

Just as adults have easily fallen prey to the advertising’s consumerism message that we have to have more, more and more, so can our kids.

Luckily, the tide seems to be turning as next generation has finally had enough of the consumerism destroying our environment. Our kids will be more willing to embrace this change.

Your job as you embrace minimalism will be to set a good example for your kids; teaching them what is most important in life. Showing them how to set their own values and how to buy for forever.

As with any major life change, don’t tackle minimising everything at once. Create your vision and tackle each environment slowly but with purpose. As you make more changes and discover the freedom that minimalism provides, you’ll wonder why you didn’t start minimising sooner.

What are your motivations for trying out minimalism? Let me know in the comments below.