I tried a bamboo toothbrush in the pursuit of sustainable consumerism

Image provided by Ryan Price / BamBrush

Image provided by Ryan Price / BamBrush

With a slew of sustainable products flooding our newsfeeds via crowdfunding campaign websites like Kickstarter, it’s difficult to tell what’s actually sustainable and what’s just trendy. I decided to try out one product called BamBrush, a biodegradable toothbrush made of bamboo developed by UVic business student Ryan Price and his friends — among them a second business student and a member of the Navy — to see if the idea of sustainable dental hygiene would really work.

Day 1: I picked up my first BamBrush sample at the Martlet office. Instead of the expected green stock that hangs out of a panda’s mouth, the brush is brown and lightweight with a minimalist design. The handle is dipped in green paint with black lettering that says Bam. After returning home and chowing down on some garlicky pizza, I decided to test this baby out.

BamBrush grew out of a weekend project in which Price and three of his friends came together to create an eco-friendly product. They’re a brand new company, but have already made deals with suppliers directly from China in the hopes to see their product grow.

The current model comes in four colours and is 98 per cent biodegradable — the naturally antibacterial and hypoallergenic bamboo handle can be composted, but the high grade nylon bristles cannot. Though, it beats putting polyurethane plastic in your mouth for months before tossing it into the landfill. (Price recommends snapping the head off, and says they’re looking into alternative bristles.)

At first, he thought of putting bamboo in my mouth every day seemed kind of strange yet intriguing, then grew a bit worrisome. What about splintering? Regardless, I wet the toothbrush and put my favourite Super-Icy mint toothpaste on the nylon. It was business as usual, and didn’t feel any different than a regular toothbrush.

DAY 5: I left my cool, new toothbrush in my dollar-store toothbrush holder. My seven-month-old blue plastic toothbrush sat envious and unused as I smiled into the mirror with my BamBrush in hand.

BamBrush is not just a toothbrush; it’s also a subscription service that ships toothbrushes to their customers for about five dollars every six weeks. Price’s main goal is to promote proper hygiene in a sustainable way by adhering to the Canadian Dental Association’s recommendation of changing out your toothbrush after a maximum of three months.

“It’s difficult to change a behaviour,” said Price. “Your dentist is right: you should be changing it, and here’s a better solution than plastic toothbrushes.”

In the last few years, companies have taken notice to the trendiness of farmers markets, sustainable clothing, and all the PETA videos we’ve been sharing on our Facebook feeds. It used to be that “going green” was just for hipster hippy kids, but now it’s for everyone.

“Everyone’s super passionate about trying to make a positive difference as well as making a few bucks,” said Price.

Other companies have caught on to the idea of mixing consumerism with ensuring the lasting survival of the planet, with products an edible spoon developed in India that’s made out of compacted millet, rice, and wheat, and Florida-based SaltWater Brewery’s edible six-pack rings made out of natural beer byproducts.

Day 7: One week into my BamBrush adventure, I met with Price to talk about his company’s place in an already trendy market.

Mainstream market trends can push better products, and many companies jump on the bandwagon to profit, but not all of them can deliver what they promise. Even Price has some competition in the bamboo toothbrush market, including a company that’s seemingly disappeared after a successful Indiegogo campaign, and other toothbrush manufacturers that tout sustainability. With so many options, it can be difficult to choose a company to stand by.

Price hopes to differentiate his product with his subscription service that minimizes packaging and effort for the customer by delivering the toothbrush right to their door. Being new to an already existing market,  they’re looking to build a strong subscription base and develop partnerships with dentists on the island.

“We want to be in everyone’s mouths,” said Price.

Day 15: My toothbrush is still going after two weeks of use. The logo at the end of the handle is completely gone, but it’s not a big deal. It’s natural for paint to dissolve in water after a prolonged plunge and I have been known to have a pretty hard brushing regime. (And no splintering!)

Overall, I loved using my BamBrush knowing that I’m making much less of an impact than using my plastic brush, and I’d love to have a new brush show up at my door every six weeks, especially if that brush is 100 per cent compostable.

Just because sustainable products are trendy in the mainstream, doesn’t mean  Birkenstock-wearing, Mason-jar-drinking West Coast hipsters like us should shy away from it. If we support more eco-friendly products like BamBrush, then companies will start making them for us. The competition will grow, and amazing products will come out of it which could be the beginning of an entire movement to better protect our planet.

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