Thursday, March 27, 2014

The End It Project: a sparkling smile

The End It Project is my journey toward a life that is wholly unsupported by slavery. Each month on the 27th (because there are roughly 27 million slaves in our world today) I research a different topic and share my findings here...

So, this month I focused on oral hygiene (sparked by needing a new toothbrush). I found a lot of companies that haven't taken a stand either way, which forced me to make a decision - accept a don't ask, don't tell mentality as being ok, or only support companies with explicitly ethical business and manufacturing practices. Being me, I went with the latter.

In that light, I wasn't able to find anything bad out about toothbrushes, but I did find a really good one - Smile Squared was founded in 2010 by a couple who had seen the impact that regular dental care could have on the lives of children in Third World countries. They have a one-for-one program, and you can get adult and kids' bamboo (the Chinese factory was personally visited by founder Eric Cope, because, in his words, "giving kids toothbrushes that were made using child labor is not good") toothbrushes through their website, and just last month they released an American made adult brush into 1500 select Wal*Mart stores across the country. The location that I visited here in Little Rock carried them - $3.97 is what I pay for the Oral-B brush I would normally get, so the price is definitely comparable, and it's a good toothbrush (I'm a little picky).
If you're in the market for a baby toothbrush, Green Sprouts has a socially and environmentally responsible silicon fingerbrush that I really like (this is also the company that we got Brooklyn's hairbrush from).

Toothpaste, on the other hand... there be murky waters. Pretty much all toothpaste (any brand that you will find on the shelves of a supermarket) contains sodium laurel sulfate, which comes from palm oil. Palm oil, unless otherwise specified, is Not Good. Also, the aluminum tubes that most toothpaste comes in are an issue (unhealthy, and of questionable origin).
The larger the company, the higher the demand and the wider the cracks (for example, P&G has several very impressive documents that they claim to enforce - but they are the only group saying anything good about themselves; outside sources have a bone to pick with nearly every aspect of the company), so in this, as with everything, make it yourself if you can and shop small if you can't/don't want to.

There are a few alternative options. Lush Toothy Tabs are my #1 pick - anything from this company is great (I don't say that lightly, but I know someone who works for them). And Toothy Tabs are fun - they come in a variety of flavors, and it's much more entertaining to chew up a tablet and then brush your teeth with it than it is to squeeze a glob of goo out of a tube. They're $4.95 per box of 40, which I feel is doable (if you're not an after-every-meal kinda person --- which I am not).
If you must have goo in a tube, then go with Tom's of Maine. That's also who you'll want to get your dental floss and mouthwash from --- everything is sustainably sourced and ethically produced (bonus: they have a nonfloridated option in their toothpaste, if you don't like flouride). Eco-DenT is also a good option, and their line also includes chewing gum and a toothbrush with a disposable head (less waste that tossing the entire brush, handle and all).
Finally, if neither of those float your boat or your budget, you can brush your teeth with a small amount of baking soda made into a paste with a little water - add peppermint essential oil (look for it at a natural food store, and check the label to make sure that it's just peppermint oil) to freshen your breath.

Accessory postscript! There are so many great accessory companies out there that explicitly provide jobs for people rescued from human trafficking that, rather than have one really really long post, I'm going to share about a different one each month. [following photos courtesy of 31 Bits and used with permission]

This month, 31 Bits. Unique and beautiful jewelry pieces made from recycled paper, by women in Uganda. They "use fashion and design to empower women to rise above poverty" and the items are lovely, wearable, and not unreasonably priced (pet peeve: marking something up just because it's for a cause and people will automatically pay more for it). You can buy through their website, through the TOMS Marketplace, or (if you live in Fayetteville) at The Mustache on the Square.

Any companies you'd like to add to the list?

[The information presented here is based on my own personal research, and the opinions are my own - I am not being paid or compensated in any way by the above mentioned companies]

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