Bamboo toothbrushes are a hot topic in the low waste community. They are the new stainless steel straw.
Why? Because they are completely compostable. As you know, a typical toothbrush is made from plastic and recycling options for them are not available. A bamboo toothbrush makes sense from a low waste perspective, and is in many respects the most eco-friendly option.
But does it make sense for you?
The low waste lifestyle is an incredible step into lowering your carbon footprint, and it is a gateway into understanding the true impact consumers have made in the climate emergency. But not every ‘swap’ needs to be made to consider yourself ‘low waste.’
Ask yourself these questions before you buy a bamboo toothbrush.
Question One: How can I buy it?
I’d be willing to bet that in many environmentally progressive cities, consumers have easy access to these types of low waste items. But I live in Dallas. I could not tell you a store within 10 miles of my house that would sell a bamboo toothbrush, and it doesn’t make sense to drive out of your way to buy a low waste item. What does that mean? If I wanted one, I’d have to order it online. Probably 3-4 times a year. Do the environmental shipping costs from ordering a special low waste toothbrush online outweigh me throwing away a plastic one? I doubt it.
Question Two: Can you properly dispose of it?
Just because something is completely ‘compostable,’ doesn’t mean it will compost under any condition. You have to actually compost it in order for it to decompose. That means, if you don’t compost at home, you don’t have access to city compost services, or you don’t pay for composting services, then this expensive low waste item will become a wasteful item. Of course, I highly encourage composting, and even those in an apartment can do it, but the sentiment that compostable items are beneficial doesn’t hold if you’re throwing them away in a plastic bag that will go to a landfill.
Question Three: Is it right for your health?
Why don’t I use a bamboo toothbrush? The main reason is because my dental health significantly improved when I switched to a mechanical toothbrush. Some may call me a hypocrite for preaching about climate change, and then choosing to still use some plastic items. The thing is, we need to be smart about our environmental practices, and make sure that they’re suitable both for ourselves.
Bonus Question: Can I live without it?
This doesn’t apply to a toothbrush. You need it. But if you’re considering other low waste swaps, ask yourself if you can just cut that item out altogether. Many low waste alternatives make a lot of sense. Reusable bags and cups? I am all in! Straws? I have reusable straws, but most of the time I am just fine going without.
Ultimately, don’t sacrifice your health or further sacrifice the environment by going on a low waste shopping spree just to say you live low waste. There are other, better ways you can compensate and make a bigger impact than using a bamboo toothbrush.