If you’re concerned with preserving the environment, you’ve probably started to take steps to address the amount of waste your household generates. You might opt for reusable grocery bags, or eliminate bottled water from your shopping list. Maybe you recycle glass and plastic packaging as often as possible.
Even the most eco-friendly consumers sometimes fail to realize how much waste their oral care routine can generate. We mostly think of sustainable alternatives to the things we eat and drink.
Our hygiene products fall lower down on our list of priorities. This could be because we find something that works for us, like a shampoo or a toothpaste, and we’re hesitant to switch to a new brand.
There are plenty of excellent eco-friendly toothpastes that are worthy of becoming your tried and true brand. Understanding the differences between sustainable ingredients and conventional ingredients might encourage you to finally make the switch.
1. Toothpaste Winds Up in the Water and in Landfills
Everything we use runs the risk of contaminating the earth’s precious supply of water, and everything we throw away winds up in a landfill. You need to consider what you might be introducing to the water or the landfill every time you use a product.
Conventional toothpaste is full of artificial colors, artificial flavors, and chemical irritants. These things serve no purpose. When you use these additives and chemicals, you run the risk of releasing them into the wild. These chemicals can be introduced to the environment when you spit your toothpaste down the drain or when rainwater hits a landfill and runs away infused with them.
Many of these ingredients contribute to algae buildup, and excessive algae can suffocate everything living in a natural water source. Turtles and fish who were once happy in a pond may not survive if the remnants of your toothpaste leak into their home.
2. Plastics Take Forever to Degrade
Some toothpaste packaging is recyclable, but most is not. Plastic can sit in a landfill for over a thousand years. The most troubling part of the lifespan of plastic is that the first synthetic plastic wasn’t even invented until 1907.
Plastic is barely over a century old, and it lasts for about a millennium. Every piece of plastic that has ever existed that hasn’t been recycled or otherwise destroyed is still sitting in a landfill. It will remain there for several generations.
3. The Negative Impact of Manufacturing Artificial Ingredients
Consider the ingredients of your toothpaste. Blue dye’s purpose is to make your toothpaste blue. The benefit of having blue toothpaste is that your toothpaste is blue. That’s it. It doesn’t do anything other than change the color of the product. There’s no real reason for that ingredient to exist, let alone for it to be in your toothpaste.
Any artificial ingredient that needs to be manufactured utilizes resources that may not be renewable. This process emits carbon and contributes to environmental pollution. Eliminating as many of these artificial ingredients as possible will provide immediate relief to the environment.
Ingredients to Avoid
Many commercially available toothpastes utilize ingredients that harm the environment and your body. If you’re looking to make an eco-conscious switch, keep an eye out for these problematic ingredients on the tube.
Artificial colors have a controversial history. Some studies correlate certain artificial dyes with the prevalence of certain cancers. Many artificial dyes are derived from petroleum, the same substance used to create gasoline, diesel, and kerosene.
Our use and creation of artificial colors is similar to our use of gasoline, except there is no actual purpose for artificial colors.
Your toothpaste doesn’t need to be a specific color to work well. Neither does anything you eat or drink.
Artificial colors are a cosmetic additive that won’t impact the way a product works. Many manufacturers still insist on modifying the color of their products to make them appear more attractive. Eco-conscious manufacturers have taken to using natural colors, like derivatives from beets, berries, and pumpkins, to eliminate these problematic ingredients from their formulations.
Mint grows everywhere, and it grows well. If you sprinkled a bunch of mint seeds in your backyard and went on vacation for a few months, you might find that the mint completely overtook your garden without any intervention.
With natural mint so hearty and abundant, why do toothpaste manufacturers feel the need to use artificial flavors in their toothpaste?
While most adults fare perfectly well with natural mint flavored toothpastes, parents who have a hard time convincing their children to brush adequately may not find that mint is the answer.
That’s why children’s toothpaste is often flavored like berries or bubblegum. Natural alternatives to these flavors also exist. Just be sure you’re picking a naturally flavored fluoride-free toothpaste for your toddler in training.
Sodium Lauryl Sulfate
Sodium lauryl sulfate, notoriously also known as SLS, is the ingredient that makes your toothpaste foam up. Toothpaste doesn’t have a real reason to foam up. Although studies show that sodium lauryl sulfate can be safe in very small quantities for a short amount of time, the chemical is still recognized as a mild to moderate irritant.
Brushing your teeth with the ingredient for a total of four times a day does not constitute brief exposure. Especially not when you’re putting it on the sensitive tissues of the inside of your mouth.
Although sodium lauryl sulfate is technically biodegradable, its manufacturing process may generate or contaminate products with ethylene oxide and 1,4-dioxane. The California Environmental Protection Agency believes these ingredients to be developmentally toxic and potential carcinogens. It may not be worth risking exposure to them.
The overwhelming majority of commercially available toothpastes do not contain any ingredients used to kill bacteria. The FDA is very hesitant to allow triclosan toothpastes to be sold in stores, and they require rigorous testing of each formula before it can be retailed to the public. Their findings suggest that the use of triclosan is dubious at best.
Triclosan is converted into dioxin, a highly toxic contaminant. When it’s exposed to chlorine, dioxin can form chloroform. High amounts of triclosan are present in earthworms and marine animals who have been contaminated by the water supply. There’s no reason to release something so dangerous into the environment, especially when naturally antibacterial oral care solutions like nano silver are so safe.
Beneficial Alternative Ingredients
A great toothpaste doesn’t require any of these potentially dangerous ingredients to work.
Natural alternatives and plant-based powerhouses can provide you with strong, clean teeth and healthy gums.
Calcium can be derived from above-sea coral. Coral that has lived out its lifespan and washed ashore leaves behind a hard exoskeleton made of calcium. This calcium can be harvested without damaging the environment.
It’s completely natural and doesn’t require farming or killing any animals for their byproduct. It’s merely a savaged byproduct of nature.
This calcium can be used to polish and fortify your teeth, supplying your mouth with what it needs to protect and restore your tooth’s enamel without any negative impact on the environment.
Nano silver is a natural antibacterial ingredient.
Rather than using damaging alcohol or environmentally toxic triclosan to remove bacteria from your mouth, use nano silver. Nano silver particles are engineered to steal away electrons from the cell walls of bacteria, imploding them and ending their lifespans before they can breed in your mouth and spread infection.
Xylitol is a plant-derived sweetener that does more than make your toothpaste taste good. Xylitol works with the minerals in your mouth and your toothpaste to form a healthy protective film over your teeth, preventing bacteria from setting up shop and creating harmful plaque.
Natural peppermint oil will leave you with fresh breath and healthy gums. If you have sensitive gums, you might find that toothpastes with natural peppermint provide a soothing cooling effect.
Plants like goldenseal, panax ginseng, and ginkgo biloba act as natural anti-inflammatories and antioxidants in toothpaste.
Things that are better for the environment are generally better for your body. Switching to natural and sustainable alternatives to the products you use in your everyday life will eliminate unwanted chemicals and toxins from your soft tissue and from the water supply we all share.
Recycle whenever possible, and seek to eliminate needless artificial ingredients from your life. You don’t need fake colorants and artificial flavoring to make a product work better.