Toothpaste – Not So Squeaky Clean

How can something so minty fresh be so sinister? Whenever I picture the great villains of this world they never smell nice. Freddie Kruger, Gollum, Colin Barnett… I just don’t get a peppermint-y vibe from them. Maybe this is how toothpaste snuck into our bathrooms, seemingly unnoticed? It seems so non-threatening. However toothpaste has earned the title of Head Villain in our bathrooms. Why?

Image by Em Ehlers – Old Envelope

Packaging

I have never found toothpaste that has been wrapped without the use of plastic. Whether it is polyethylene coated aluminium or an upright container, whatever way you look at it is an item designed to be thrown away made from a material that is designed to last forever.

About 1 billion toothpaste tubes and dispensers are sent to landfills every year, many of which are recyclable. Though both typically end up in landfills, the average tube of toothpaste produces about 70 percent less waste than a pump dispenser, so is the preferable packaging option.

– Green Your.com

Animal Testing

I am not for shock tactics. I think conning someone into reading an article about DIY toothpaste and then punching them in the face with pictures of rabbits and puppies having chemicals poured into their eyes is not the way to go. But, if you in anyway doubt that this is the reality of the situation – google it. It is happening in cosmetic labs across the world every day and approximately 100 million animals suffer or die from testing and experiments every year. As hard as it is to look at, I think the alternative of looking away is harder.

Image by Emily Ehlers

Health

It is pretty hard to find a scientific study that categorically proves that toothpaste is unhealthy for you. Then again, I trust my common sense far more than a piece of paper handed to me by a scientist being commissioned by a cosmeceautical company. Here are some ingredients you may find written on your standard tube, and some side-effects that I am sure you won’t…

  • Triclosan – registered pesticide
  • Aspartame – Street talk for sweetener. AKA a neurotoxin linked to lupus, Parkinson’s Disease and Multiple Sclerosis.
  • Sodium lauryl sulfate (SLS): Suspected carcinogen.
  • Methylparaben, Ethylparaben (Parabens) – linked to fertility problems (and hell for the environment)
  • Potassium Nitrate – a water soluble mineral that is toxic to the environment
  • Polyethylene glycol (or PEG) – Suspected carcinogen (especially linked to breast cancer)

And what about the highly contentious Fluoride? Here are some quotes I found…

“A 14oz tube of toothpaste, theoretically at least, contains enough fluoride to kill a small child”

– Proctor and Gamble, “Fluoride the Aging Factor”, Page 14

“In point of fact, fluoride causes more human cancer death, and causes it faster than any other chemical”

– Chief Chemist at the National Cancer Institute, Dr. Dean Burk, Congressional record 21 July 1976

(also a reason you may want to look into a water filter for the home).

Environment

All the aformentioned chemicals are the reasons that it is unhealthy to swallow toothpaste. It is the reason we spit them out and wash them away. But where is away?

wAterWAY

Parabens reak absolute havoc on animal hormones, triclosan (a toxic antibacterial) kills off good bacteria in ecosystems and sodium pyrophosphate contributes to the growth of algae in water which leads to lower oxygen levels that kills marine life and creates deadzones.

Even though you only use a little toothpaste imagine every person in every household sending all those chemicals into our delicate ecosystems with our birds, froggies and fish. Not good.

Image by Emily Ehlers

So what are the options?

There are eco brands around that cancel out some of the issues associated with your standard tube of whitening goo – but rarely all. You will never avoid the packaging but you can at least cancel out animal testing and chemicals.

If you are shopping in an Aussie supermarket the best you will probably find will be Naytura (Woolworth’s brand). It still has loads of nasties in it but is guaranteed cruelty-free at least. Otherwise health stores can provide organic alternatives. While these are better you could always go one further…

Make Your Own!

I learnt how to make my own toothpaste on Saturday at the Less Is More Festival. I am not going back. It is all natural, leaves my teeth feeling and looking amazing, isn’t tested on animals and has virtually no packaging associated with it. And an added benefit… you food doesn’t taste gross after you use it!

Come with me and learn how to make your own toothpaste here!

The Less Is More Write-Up

Earth Carers run yet another gorgeous community event.

Anyone that follows this blog, my Facebook or my Twitter would know that I was pretty damn excited about the Less Is More Festival that happened on Saturday. It has now been and gone and I can tell you all – I was not disappointed. It was a glorious day full of great people, ideas, food and workshops.

Festival organiser, Claire Litton, chats with arrivals

The festival organiser (hot-pink haired sensation, Claire Litton) should feel very proud to have fulfilled her objective; to show people how to consume less but enjoy more. I sat through a few workshops (and  poked my head into some too) and learnt something from each one. The classes were all buzzing with conversation with the presenter providing a framework but the crowd sharing their stories and tips. There was such a feeling of community.

Shani explains that you need to check your essential oil is food grade!

My fave class was definitely Shani Graham’s (from Ecoburbia and The Painted Fish) tutorial on DIY toothpaste and deodorant. Shani did a quick survey on why we were all there and it was lovely to hear so many people taking a stand against some of the unnecessary and downright unhealthy elements of modern day consumption. Too much packaging, animal testing, concerns for human health or a commitment to living organically.

"Is is meant to be this gooey?"

After the introductions Shani (like a mad scientist in her lab) started showing off the DIY ingredients. Bicarb soda, essential oils, corn flour, sea salt… no Sodium Lauryl Sulfate here! With recipe sheets in hand we all started shovelling salt and bicarb into our jars and dripping in coconut oils and glycerine. It was almost like year 8 science class and we were all testing out different concoctions and questioning whether we had the right consistency. Walking away from the class I realised something really nice – I now never have to give Colgate a cent of my money every again! (**I have been using my DIY cosmetics since the festival and I am absolutely loving it! For a recipe to make you own toothpaste click here).

My finished product! Peppermint Toothpaste.

After that I went for a bit of a wander and saw people making their own ginger beer, mango ketchup (Wow – delicious!) and even sanitary pads. I ended up in a workshop that is close to my heart… how to live plastic free. Fremantle couple Nathan and Jess (find them at Plastic Freo) have decided to go one whole year without plastic and they spoke about the challenges that they had already encountered and gave tips on how to go about reducing your plastic intake. As a dairy addict, Jess now has to order her milk ahead of time from Perth Organics as it comes in a glass bottle. As yoghurt only seems to come in plastic they have also learnt how to make yoghurt from it. They were a bloody inspiring young couple and have certainly given me some ideas on how to eliminate plastic completely from the Ehlers household. All in all I know that it is going to take effort, discipline and some organisation but I feel confident that I am up for the challenge. (Apparently the Fremantle Council is too – check out the Plastic Free Freo campaign).

Jess from Plastic Free gives a presentation

There were loads more classes that I didn’t manage to get to. If you went to one that I didn’t and want to share it please leave a comment. All in all it was an absolutely fabulous festival that really showed creative ways to reduce your impact on the planet. Personally I have taken a lovely lesson from it – I have realised that I need to slow down a bit and get back to basics. So on that note, I had friends over for afternoon tea and they sat down to vegetables with two homemade dips (beetroot and capsicum & walnut) followed by a warm slice of banana and cranberry bread. It tasted all the better knowing that I made it myself.

Less packaging = More homemade

Scroll down for more pics of the festival.

Cute kids game - Instead of Snakes and Ladders it was "Worms and Shute's"

Making concoctions

My finished toothpaste... mmm Peppermint!

My deodorant and the ingredients

Cooking lessons to make...

... Mango Ketchup. Nom Nom Nom

Ginger Beer making class.