Gift Guide: Earth Day

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April 22 is Earth Day. While adopting Earth friendly habits on Earth Day are good, I would like to challenge this community to adopt sustainable practices every day. The reasons for doing so are quite simple, really.

First, it saves money. For those who argue that sustainable products are pricier than non-sustainable products, take it as a sign that the need to practice going without remains. Perhaps the crux lies in certain shopping habits? Most of the time, the most sustainable option is buying nothing. The second most sustainable is revamping old things into new ones. The third most sustainable is accepting hand-me-downs or asking to borrow. A fourth sustainable option is to practice minimalism, so that even the purchase of a more sustainable option is cheaper than buying ten gadgets that add up to the same functions. I find that most people, when it comes down to it, are simply not intentional enough.

Hand me down pants, and an all organic cotton shirt gifted by PACT.

On that previous note, it limits clutter. A bag of 12 rolls of paper towels can be replaced by one or two reusable rags. A case of water bottles bought from the grocery store can be replaced by a reusable water bottle. A stack of books can be replaced by library ones, a closet full of clothes can be replaced by a capsule wardrobe, a bag of rolled up plastic bags can be replaced by one or two totes, etc. All of this to say, one of the solutions to waste is summed up in the word “LESS”.

Thirdly, it creates community. Challenge friends and family to save the Earth. Celebrate by experiencing Mother Nature – go on an arduous mountain hike, or surf in the ocean before work. Share common items with each other. Give your baby’s old crib to an expecting friend. I take unwanted articles of clothing from my friends all the time. Carpool to work, and chat about your day on the way home.

These reasons, and so much more. Consider this a gift guide for yourself, and Mother Nature.

More ideas, right this way.

Tushy: The Cushy Way to Spray DooDoo Away

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I am going off-grid from the PC charts here as I digress to talk about tushies and Tushys – as in human ones and bidets. I have been meaning to make the switch to bidets for a few years now. One of our closest friends has been raving about its usefulness and environmental friendliness at every opportune moment, but I never did like that big clonker that was sitting atop his toilet. So I have been putting it off for the sake of aesthetics, which we all know is an important part of my intentional life. However, as more and more of our friends made the switch, the urge to get one increased, and finally, my less-waste self came across the most minimalist, affordable, pretty bidet I could find: Tushy!

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Where It All Began

Tushy was founded by Miki Agrawal in 2015, the same co-founder of Thinx. It has since then revolutionized the way young people doo their business. Bidets have become a sort of fad, but it is nothing new. Many countries around the world use bidets, and my friend who I mentioned earlier got his after visiting Japan and using bidets in the public and personal restrooms. In a more primitive sense, I, myself, experienced butt-washing in my youth, having never used toilet paper until I was thirteen years old. In my country, we use buckets of water to rinse our bums or simply hop in the shower. In fact, I remember first immigrating to the United States and being told by my mom that “toilet paper does not do the job.” To her, a bum’s not clean until it has been washed with water. This, of course, wasn’t the reason I got on my hands and knees to add a bidet to my toilet. The motivation came from the environmental effects of making the switch. Below are a few statistics.

How Much Are You Saving with Tushy?

The average non-bidet user uses 57 sheets of toilet paper a day. This adds up to about $10 worth of toilet paper a month, or $120 of toilet paper a year. A tree produces about 100 pounds of toilet paper, and one person uses up about 50 pounds of toilet paper a year. For a family of four, this adds up to two trees per year. Because it takes 37 gallons of water to create one roll of toilet paper, 4884 gallons of water is wasted per person per year.

It takes no statistician to confirm that switching to a bidet results in saved money, trees and water. However you also save yourself time from having to buy toilet paper. You save yourself stress during no-TP emergencies. You save your bum from chafing and your significant other from skidmarks. You save yourself the embarrassment.

Tushy is juuuuuust right

Is this all feeling a bit too much? Well your wallet won’t think so since Tushy is quite the affordable bidet, costing only $109 (although my readers can receive 10% off of their Tushy purchase using any of my affiliate links within this post as long as they enter the code: THEDEBTIST at checkout).

Does that sound too little? Tushy is the perfect minimalist bidet, with a sleek white frame and simple adjustable knobs in neutral colors (ours is Bamboo!). We own the Tushy Classic and as baby bear says, it is juuuuuust right! For those who want a little more, the Tushy Spa has a water temperature control making those cold mornings more comfortable.

The Dirty Details

So I know some of you are hoping I spill a few dirty details. However, the only thing dirty might be your toilet seat cover when you remove it to place a Tushy underneath. No worries though! Seeing all that gunk is the most difficult part of this set up. And hey! What a great time to clean up!

Breezy Installation

Here are, however, a few things we came across during installation that you may appreciate. The manual says to turn off the water using the water shut-off valve behind the toilet. Some knobs, however, no longer function due to disuse. In which case, one would need to turn off the water to the entire house. Which is what we had to do.

Secondly, have plenty of towels around. You want to catch any water that comes out of the toilet, in case the shut-off valve doesn’t work. Also, wear gloves. When you get to the part that requires toilet seat removal, you want to make sure you won’t feel any surprises. Hopefully you clean your toilet regularly, but we won’t judge!

Lastly, adding the bidet underneath the toilet seat cover may make the screws that once clamped the toilet seat down too short. The added height of the bidet will require longer screws. No worries, I simply trekked to Home Depot and went down the bathroom and toilet aisle. There’s a section for toilet repair and you’ll need to buy two very long screws, which costs about $3.

Overall, I think the installation is super simple. I was able to do it by myself. If I didn’t have to run to Home Depot to get more screws and if my toilet’s water valve actually shut off, it would have probably taken me 15 to 20 minutes. Which means I would have been using Tushy within the hour. But instead, it took me a good hour due to the “complications” I came across. It’s taken me longer to build Ikea cabinets.

The Reviews

It has only been less than 24 hours but I absolutely love Tushy! I feel suuuper fresh and squeaky clean. Mike gave me a thumbs up as he exited the bathroom this morning. That’s a HUGE sign. In addition, I have had a lot of positive feedback from people in this space. I’ve had people reach out to me to tell me they received this for Christmas. I’ve heard stories about moms installing this in every bathroom in the house (including the trailer!). I have friends who just moved in together literally this weekend saying they are getting one for their new space. And that one friend that has been raving about bidets for ages? He said, “Welcome to the first day of your new life.”

I feel it.

This post was in partnership with Tushy. They gifted me the Tushy Classic with a bamboo knob and I am straight-up IN LOVE. It’s the perfect Valentine’s Day gift for your bum. To get 10% off your new Tushy bidet now, use this affiliate link made especially for TheDebtist readers, or enter THEDEBTIST at checkout! All thoughts, opinions, and content are my own.

Small Space Living

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Tip 14: Forgo the coffee table.

We have yet to corral a coffee table into our living room. Erm, what we designated in our minds as the living room. In reality, I’m referring to a corner of our small space that our neighbors decided would better fit as a bedroom for them. Regardless of the designation, the room where we have a couch and a projector has yet to hold a coffee table.

I just haven’t  come into agreement with one.

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I used to own a coffee table. It was a big and bulky thing that I came across at a consignment store when I was first (and finally!) moving out of my parents home – at the ripe age of twenty-three. I rationalized to myself its bulkiness, saying that the solid wood meant that it would last. “Heavy-duty” was the word I used, when explaining the table to Mike that evening. I convinced him to accompany me the next day to “look at it”, but really I meant “pick it up and take it home”.

It had drawers (two in fact) for storing things. The upper drawer was topped with glass, so that you could look in on the display. It always felt cluttered though, so all it did was collect dust. The bottom drawer was worse. It collected junk. If things disappeared, that would be the first place I would look.

What’s more, when we moved into our small space, a 900-square-foot loft without any doors, the coffee table we owned took up what felt like half of the living room. Since it was a solid wood table, without legs or airiness beneath, it made our space seem divided and small(er). Plus the dark colored wood – an almost black-grey kind of brown – absorbed much of the natural light.

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We ended up donating it to a family in need, which was its only saving grace. But I’ve been hesitant to add a coffee table again since the trauma of criss-crossing between the guilt I felt for getting rid of it and the hatred I felt for its unbecoming qualities.

I suppose today’s post about forgoing a coffee table originates from negative experiences with mine. We have been making do with a tiny side-table, which I also have half a mind to donate. At least it’s easily movable to the corner of the room, allowing both of us to lay out a yoga mat in front of the couch.

I do prefer the flexibility of a side table. In fact, I’ve considered multiple flexible options in lieu of a coffee table, such as ottomans and foot stools in the form of tree stumps.

Below are a few contenders, in case you are also searching.

+ A camp stool – for the sole purpose of putting tired feet up onto something. I love this stool because you can fold it up and stash it against the wall or behind a console, for a less cluttered look.

+ Maple nesting tables, of the stackable variety, to reduce real estate when not in use.

+ A mushroom tree stump, for holding a drink or two. Bringing natural elements in, without buying more houseplants.

+ A step stool, which has dual-use for shorties such as myself.

+ Actual ottomans, in a rich sienna leather. Extra seating when gatherings resume post-COVID.

Less Waste: Period.

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I’ve already dedicated an entire post on less waste and periods when I first spoke of how I managed my visits from Mother Nature using a single cup. But I feel as if this requires a revisit, for the glaringly obvious reason that there are a few scenarios wherein Lunette failed to prove itself a friend. While the cup has been mostly sufficient for all my feminine care needs, I have found that when it comes to travel, a more dependable plan B needs to be in place.

Walking down the streets of Mexico City does not seem like a problem, until you realize that their bathrooms generally don’t have private loos that contain sinks in the same stall. Where to empty a cup? Even if sinks were available, could one trust the running water? The last thing I want to do is explain myself in Spanish why I have a bacterial infection while wallowing in pain from the ever-so-common downfall of all menstruating persons.

Likewise, traveling on a 15-hour flight to New Zealand and Australia isn’t much fun with Lunette. While the airplane does have a private sink, the tight quarters make the entire process tedious and, once again, I worry about running water. Always the water.

Still determined to find a way of managing my monthly miseries that’s good for the planet as well as good for me, I decided I needed a plan B.

So I thought of Thinx. It’s a purchase-with-purpose underwear that has a mission to provide reliable access to safe menstrual hygiene products for those in need. With partners like Girls Inc., Safe Horizon, and the Alliance of Border Collaboratives, Thinx plans to expand access to basic hygiene products and community services like reproductive healthcare and mentoring.

On top of that, it is a REALLY good product. I am a minimalist by nature, who does not subscribe to single use items. This means I do not buy pads or tampons, at all.  Thinx checks those boxes for me. It is a re-usable panty that is reliable in what it claims to do which allows me to continue living life scotch free of worry or discomfort.

Thinx has versatility, with multiple styles to fit your personality and preference. I own the boyshort in black which I wear under my running shorts, the sport in dusk which I wear under my leggings, and the super hiphugger for my everyday needs. Each style has a different level of protection, so that heavy flow days could be as carefree as lighter days.

And the upkeep is simple too. Hand-wash in cold running water and hang to dry. I have only three pairs but by hand-washing right after use and cycling between them, I can survive an entire cycle without missing a beat.

Lastly, it saves people money. If I assume that a box of tampons is purchased every month, with each box costing $7 (to be on the more conservative side), then there is a  savings potential of $84 a year. The Lunette cup lasts you 3 years, so that adds up to $252 in savings. I would wager Thinx can last longer than that. It may seem like chump change but let’s assume all females adopted Thinx over the course of their entire life. And for each Thinx purchased, let’s say it saves another female in financial need from buying tampons and pads. You create a whole chain of events that end up saving the world a lot of money, and the oceans a lot of waste. Not to mention saving young girls in low-income communities from missing school and other opportunities.

Just think.

What a world that would be.

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Play Pretend: A New Bathroom

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As thirty days of escrow continue to creep on by, I can’t help but daydream about all the fun we are going to have in our new place. Off course, not all at once and definitely not right away. Buying a home doesn’t completely absolve us of all other responsibilities! No, we’ll be making the home feel more like OUR home at a s-l-o-w pace, as if that wasn’t already expected. No need to rush in, all foolhardy. But for now, a girl can dream.

Currently, the obsession lies with the bathroom, specifically the one upstairs. It will likely be the first room that we plan a renovation for, with the hopes of tackling it sometime next year.  Why not right away? Because we believe in YNAB budgeting and maintaining a healthy balance between student loans and property ownership. Because we recognize that renovating any space is a WANT and not a NEED. Because sometimes, you just have to live with the selections of the previous homeowner, and still be grateful there’s a roof over your head, you know? Not in dire need of anything at all, the reno can wait, but my thoughts have a mind of their own. In an effort to source things ethically, here are a few products that I am playing pretend with. All products are either Fair Trade Certified, organically made, solutions for sustainable living, or have a social impact in third world countries. Some of them check off more than one box, too.

+ For clean butts and minimalist stylesTushy Bidet – I’ve written about a history of not using toilet paper until I was in my teens, here. Plus, friends rave about bidet living and I am pretty much ready to go back to a zero toilet paper life. For now, Who Gives A Crap has my back. But I still dream of a bidet for the sake of reducing my carbon buttprint. The US spends $6 billion on toilet paper alone. That crap is unsustainable. Additionally, in an effort to fight the Global Sanitation Crisis, Tushy has partnered with Samagra and has helped provide clean latrines for over 10,000 families. If you’re interested too, get 25% OFF all original Tushy bidets here! Plus, get Tushy towels for ONLY $5 with the purchase of any bidet. Ends 9/30.

+ For drying off after five-minute showersCoyuchi Towels – Fair Trade Certified and GOTS certified, these are loomed in India using organic cotton. For a no frills towel, I am looking at these guys, specifically in the slate color.

+ For keeping puddles off the floorCoyuchi Rug – A matching mosaic canyon bath rug, off course! Organic cotton and hand-woven, also in Slate. Why this infatuation with Coyuchi? Let me count the ways

+ For vanity above the vanitiesThe Citizenry Provdencia Mirror  –  Two matching mirrors over the vanity sinks. You’ve likely heard about The Citizenry by now, but these mirrors hold a special place in my heart. These mirrors were designed by Cristobal and Valentine, a husband and wife duo that lives in Santiago, Chile, and did you know that I, too, lived in Santiago, Chile for a bit? Citizenry gives people access to a market that they wouldn’t have otherwise, and in a fair trade working environment, these mirrors brought together multiple artisans from multiple backgrounds, such as glass, stone-cutting, and wood working. I want to support people from the city I once lived.

+ For the clothes that served usThe Citizenry Hamper – Hand–crafted from locally sourced palm leaves by master artisans in Guerrero, Mexico. Each basket takes three days to complete, from start to finish in a fair trade working environment.

+ To cover up – Ty Shower Curtain – A simple recyclable shower curtain made of #2 plastic material. Unlike other vinyl showers, it does not off-gas and it breathes, making it less likely to grow mildew or mold. Ty is made of 100% HDPE, one of the most common recyclable plastics and is PVC free. At the end of Ty’s life, you may recycle it locally or send it back to Grain to do the recycling. For the artistic, they also sell a customizable version here.

How about you? Any sustainable bathroom faves?

Curating Closets: Saying Goodbye to High Heels & Saying Goodbye to Select Styles + An Additional 10% OFF of Nisolo’s Annual Summer Sale

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My height is officially 5 foot 1 inch. I have been this tall since I was a freshman in high school. You could say I peaked at 14 years old. No growth spurts ever visited me again (I am not sure if they ever did to begin with). At around this age, I was learning about super models, reading magazines, watching Project Runway, and working for clothing companies as a style specialist who dressed mannequins that were 5 foot 8 inches tall. The concensus was universal and the messaging was definitive: Taller girls are prettier. Taller girls are more desirable. Clothes are made for taller girls.

As young as sixteen years old, I started experimenting with making myself appear, or actually be, taller. I fitted my tiny feet into even tinier high-heeled shoes and walked around everywhere in them. I wore them to high school, and ran in them occasionally in order to get to my next class on time. I remember returning home with bruised feet and pounding heels. I wore them to work as an eighteen year old, climbing ladders as I made the window displays of my retail store pretty, dressing and undressing those towering mannequins. Even with heels on, I barely reached their shoulders.

When I met my husband in college, I started wearing 4-5 inch wedges, with the desperate desire to get anywhere near to his 6 foot 3 inches frame. Obviously, I was never close. But it was a booster to my self-esteem.

To this day, I thank providence that my husband was the person I ended up meeting. A very simple man, he never noticed things of vanity and outward appearances. After eight years of being together, he still can’t tell the difference between when I wear make-up and when I don’t. He won’t realize that I’ve chopped my hair, unless I’ve already told him before-hand. To be fair, he has pointed out time and again that I don’t realize when he’s shaved off three weeks worth of beard, either. All of this to say that he has taught me the lack of importance of outward appearances.

I remember when we first started dating, I became overly obsessed with stocking up on very tall shoes. I asked for them for birthdays and Christmases. One particular Christmas, I even requested he buy me these ridiculous, tall and spikey Sam Edelman heels, which sell for $200 a pair. Ugh, the joys of being naïve, and the qualms of being reckless. But he just didn’t understand it. I think the only reason he noticed that I was wearing towering heels was because I was struggling to keep up, stumbling on cracks on the sidewalk, and scurrying in small, calculated steps. He kept asking me, “Why do you do this to yourself?”, pointing out the impracticalities as well as the dangers of walking on stilts. But I was convinced that walking stilts gave you power, that being taller made you more covetable. Reinforced by other women’s oohs and aahs at my pretty shoes, this is what I continued to believe. I think the best part in all of this was his apathy towards whatever I chose to wear. Equally so, his apathy to whatever HE chose to wear. Over time, I realized that neither he nor I used appearances to measure a person’s worth. So why were they so important to me?

It took me eight years, but I can finally say that I have outgrown that misconception that heels make you beautiful. Or that they’re attractive at all. Looking back, there was nothing attractive in the way I tip-toed to class, the way I looked down all the time at where I was going to step next, or the way I tripped, twisted ankles, or stumbled. I have given away all of my very tall shoes. I still have heels for those special occasions, but we are talking one to two inches, and few and far between. I have replaced my favorite brands with more subtler types. I embrace shoes that are more empowering in their ability to get me through a busy day. Off course, I have written extensively about how the majority of my shoe collection consists of Nisolos, because they have a curated collection that does just that.

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For those interested in curating their own closets and replacing their shoes with ones of practicality and durability, this week marks Nisolo’s Annual Summer Sale, their largest sale of the year. Products for both men and women will be marked down 30-50%. Additionally, they are giving an additional 10% OFF sale styles to The Debtist Readers, when you use the code DEBTIST10 at check out. The sale and this offer is valid from 7/23/18 to 7/27/18. If you would like to receive more offers such as this, sign up for the newsletter below, where you will also get posts delivered straight to your inbox!

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My hope is that when we talk to young girls in future generations, we refrain from complimenting them on how cute they look, or how pretty their dresses are. Instead of saying these things, we should be complimenting them on their character. I imagine a world where we say, instead, “How kind that was for you to share with your friend”, or “how brave you are for trying something new.” We compliment them too much on how they appear, rather than how they are. Instead of putting the emphasis on appearances, we should reward them for their actions.

 

 

 

Toilet Paper Company Who Gives A Crap + $10 OFF

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Toilet paper is a thing you never want to run out of. But as of late, I have been suffering from qualms about where to source ethical toilet paper. I have switched over to Seventh Generation toilet papers more than a year ago, because they are 100% recycled, but I still didn’t like that they came packaged in plastic. Try as I might, there was nary a roll that could solve my anti-plastic problem. It perturbs me so much that a necessity such as TP should require plastic wrapping, that I started considering alternatives and having conversations with friends who have gone the bidet route instead. Bidets are awesome and zero waste, and everyone who owns one swears by them. However, I am not about to spend a couple hundred dollars in order to go zero waste. And then I remembered, oh wait. TP is NOT a necessity. It’s a privilege and a convenience. Didn’t I say I was going to rid my life of conveniences that are unfriendly to the environment and do not align with my core values? So I started to think about nixing toilet papers all-together without getting a bidet, and doing things the old-fashioned way.

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I remember the first time I started using toilet paper. I was thirteen years old. Ew, you say? No, not ew. Actually, on the contrary, people from my culture find butt-wiping with paper to be quite unsanitary, ineffective, and unclean. Think about it – you’re essentially using paper to remove particles, without even so much as a way to wash or sanitize your bum. In the Philippines, there is no toilet paper, typically. Go to a public restroom and all you’ll see is a bucket in the corner by the sinks filled with water. You take a small little bucket and grab water if you are going to drop a few kids off at the pool. I remember returning to my country for a one-week dental mission trip, and hearing stories of colleagues twerking in stalls next door. Funny thing was, I myself was perturbed and had Kleenexes in backs of scrub pockets just in case I needed to go to a public restroom. According to my home country’s standards, if you were actually to clean yourself, you would wash with water and soap after every seat you take on that porcelain bowl. That’s just the way it was done. My mom was anti-toilet paper for the longest time. I remember cousins visiting from Virginia and my mom complaining that they were “wasting paper”. So yeah, for the first thirteen years of my life, I did not use toilet paper. Like, ever.

I was just about to revert to my old ways when I discovered Who Gives A Crap, which is probably what you’ve been wondering during this post thus far. Finally, TP packaged and delivered in bulk, with not a single ounce of plastic in sight.

Good for the world, their toilet paper is made from 100% recycled paper, thus saving trees from having to wipe our bums. Speaking of bums, you’ll be happy to learn that the paper contains no inks, dyes, or scents. More importantly, this TP makes a difference for people in need.

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Who Gives a Crap is an Aussie company started by three dudes  (Simon, Jehan and Danny) when they realized in 2012 that 2.3 billion people across the world do not have access to a toilet. That’s roughly 40% of the global population! It also means that 289,000 children under the age of 5 years old die every year from diarheal diseases caused by poor water and sanitation. That’s almost 800 children per day, or one child every 2 minutes. So they decided to give a crap about it. Who Gives A Crap donates 50% of the profits to help build toilets and improve sanitation in the developing world. To date, they have donated over $1.2 million Aussie dollars to charity, while saving trees, water, and energy. You can learn more about their impact here.

On top of that, their marketing is AH-MAZING. I mean, selling toilet paper does not seem like a fun job, but they definitely make it fun! The packaging around each roll has suggestions on how the paper can be reused – ie: as wrapping paper or gift tags! Three of the thirty rolls are dedicated for emergencies. As in, DO NOT OPEN these rolls unless you are running low, or for the unplanned. A perfect reminder that a new box is in order. And if you think that recycled paper is uncomfortable for the bum, trial proves that it is not. Tres-ply paper goes a long way, although for those seeking a more luxurious feel than saying “three” in French, there IS also the “premium” option, made from 100% bamboo. They also sell forest friendly tissues and forest friendly paper towels, in case you haven’t made the switch to linen just yet.

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Now I know the question that’s all on your minds. What’s the cost? The price is actually not bad! They have bulk orders of 24 double rolls for $30 but by using this link HERE, you can get $10 OFF, which then makes it $20 for 24 rolls! Or you can order 48 rolls for $48, and with the $10 OFF, it makes it very comparable to other toilet paper rolls selling at Target. Plus, it is important to note that you aren’t just buying toilet paper. You are buying others access to dignity, health, and an overall improved quality of life! Plus, trees are meant for Koalas, not bums. So next time you are running low, use the code and try Who Gives A Crap. Because we ALL should give a crap.

Getting to Know: Heather McDougall of Bogobrush

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Heather McDougall is the co-founder of Bogobrush, along with her brother John McDougall. Both are children of a dentist who pursued careers in other fields but they have come full circle and returned to the toothbrush. More importantly, they are using this single, everyday, taken-for-granted item and using it as a means for social change. More than just another toothbrush company, Heather has some very inspiring ideas about the ways in which the toothbrush can affect our environment and under-served communities, as well as communities in other impoverished areas outside of our borders, in a positive way. The Bogobrush is a great example of how the items we choose in our lives could carry a value that goes way past a monetary number. 

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How did Bogobrush come about? What were the inspirations, motivations and goals that fueled the birth of the Bogobrush?

John and I say the idea came from when we were kids, growing up as children of a dentist. But, really, neither of us had any intention of following the family business. John went to design school while I went to law school. During those years, we realized our shared passion for sustainability. We wanted to do our part, so we talked about a lot of ideas. We kept coming back to a toothbrush. It’s something people use everyday! More than half a billion manual toothbrushes end up in landfills or polluting natural habitats in the U.S. alone, and more than 80 million Americans lack access to adequate oral care. We had somehow come full circle from childhood.

What was it like growing up with a dentist in the house? I am sure you learned a lot of oral hygiene tips and tricks. Is that the part of the reason why you felt a calling towards helping people with their at-home oral hygiene?

Growing up was a blast. Our mom and dad always encouraged creativity, play, and adventure. Naturally, we also learned a lot about oral health: tips for best ways to brush teeth, what the best toothbrush bristles are, the foods and drinks that are harmful to oral health, how oral health affects heart health, and as we got older, we’d hear how lack of access harms a variety of communities around the country and world, and how policies and diet habits are barriers to quality care. I don’t think we felt a calling at the time, but it certainly helped us see oral health as a real issue to tackle for sustainability.

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Heather and John as little tykes, brushing away.

I understand that currently there are two models for your brushes- a recyclable plastic and a biodegradable handle. Could you describe each in more detail? Why did you guys decide to have a plastic one, rather than going entirely with biodegradable options?

Our plastic brushes are made from entirely recycled plastics that would have been thrown in the landfill. We use what is technically called “re-grind,” which is the plastic waste from other manufacturing projects. We get it from those projects, re-grind it up, and it become the recycled Bogobrush. The handle is 100% recyclable – just toss it in the recycle bin when it’s use is over.

The biodegradable Bogobrush is made from leftover plant material from farms across midwest America. The plant material gets mixed with a vegetable based oil and turns into a material that can be molded like plastic but is biodegradable! Both options can be found here.

We have both options so Bogobrushes can choose which end of life stream is best for their lifestyle. Not everyone composts or has access to community compost so recycling is the best bet. Same thing in reverse. And while composting is awesome, recycling has now become more energy efficient than landfills, and that’s an important industry to help advance.

I totally agree! We, ourselves, do not have an option for composting, and I am a huge proponent of supporting the recycling system in order to advance its abilities for future generations. So, what now? What exciting plans do you guys have in the future for the Bogobrush?

Later this year we’ll be launching a whole bunch of new products. We’re launching new colors, new biodegradable materials, and an updated design – still the same beautiful product, just more refined and less material so it’s better for the planet. Plus, the cat’s not quite out of the bag, but we’re also working on a children’s collection. We have some really fun things launching with that, and we hope you’ll follow along later this summer when we announce it fully!

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Definitely! I will be very much interested in the kid’s toothbrushes, since we see a lot of children in our office! Besides Bogobrush, what are some of your other favorite oral hygiene brands?

I love Cocofloss for my dental floss. I’d love to do a partnership with them for Bogobrush some day, too. 🙂 I also really love the Toothy Tabs from Lush Cosmetics. So easy to travel with and they have super random flavors. One of my faves is Grapefruit and Black Pepper. Mint toothpaste loyalists beware. Ha!

Bogobrush stands for Buy one, Give one. I think it’s amazing that you guys are devoted to making a social impact in the lives of under-served communities. What are some communities that benefit from the Bogobrush?

To date, we’ve worked with low cost health clinics in communities across the U.S. For instance, in Detroit, we partner with Covenant Community Care. These clinics serve populations who are under-insured or don’t have any insurance at all. They provide a beautiful health clinic, and top quality care. We think quality matters and helps everyone feel valued.

Recently, we decided to start expanding our giving beyond clinics and even beyond toothbrushes when the case is right. This past May, we partnered the Engineers without Borders from North Dakota State University on their work in a partner community in Guatemala. This will be an ongoing relationship and we’re excited to see how we can help support their work for educating about engineering, clean water, and health. We’re also working to get connected with urban farming and art education. Anything that we think relates to sustainability, we want to join the communities and lend our support.

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Partnership with NDSU Engineers without Borders

Currently are you guys accepting applications from other organizations to be a part of the Give Back program? If other communities are interested in benefitting from the Bogobrush, how might they became part of the program?

Yes! We are actually just creating an official application process for this. We’d love to hear from folks interested in partnering – once, twice, on-going, or any ideas welcome. Send an email to contact@bogobrush.com to get started.

Do you guys plan to extend your outreach program to international levels? I have a bit of wanderlust in me, so this question definitely peaks my interest.

Yes again! The Engineers Without Borders program is international support. We’re also working on a relationship with some folks in Spain who are doing reforestation and ocean clean-up work. For us, it’s all about the community of Bogobrushers and their communities of giving back. The Engineers Without Borders are at NDSU, and North Dakota is where John and I grew up so we have loyal supporters in that community. As long as people feel a personal connection to the give, we aren’t too concerned about geography. The folks in Spain will sell Bogobrush, so their sales and customers will be connected to their outreach work.

How may dentists in particular become more involved with spreading Bogobrush’s impact?

We’d love to talk to dentists about providing Bogobrushes to their patients. This could be through resale, or the brush dentists often give after hygiene appointments. Longer term, we’d love to develop a program through our subscription service online that helps dentists remind their patients of appointments and other important oral care check points. And, if dentists have any outreach causes their connected to, let us know and we can find a way to work together. Of course, on the simplest end of support dentists can spread the word on social media, offer to write blog posts, and share knowledge with our community.

What is the most difficult obstacle in trying to convince others to switch to a Bogobrush?

Our biggest obstacle has been getting the story out. Most people don’t care about their toothbrush. It’s an object that they have to use, and they dont’ think about it much beyond that. This means, a toothbrush, especially a manual toothbrush is mostly commodity and price-based. We are using values to sell a toothbrush. That means our job is to tell stories. To show people why a Bogobrush is worth paying a few dollars more for – the environment and helping your community. This fall we’ll be doing a lot more sharing our story because we have funding for marketing!

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How do you guys overcome difficult times?

Stay focused on the bigger mission. If we wanted to sell a cool looking plastic toothbrush, the hurdles would be much smaller. We’re trying to push the needle on a variety of fronts, though. We talk about our dreams for the world, we talk about our dreams for our own lifestyle, we talk about our vision for the company as it expands beyond Bogobrushes and into even more products that can help the world. Bogobrush is an amazing toothbrush, but for us, it’s so much more than that. It’s the start of something so much bigger.

How do you unwind and refresh?

Unwinding and refreshing happens for me whenever I turn off the switch on work, and let my mind roam freely through other adventures. For instance, John and I both love to be active and moving. For me that means yoga, hiking with my husband, or walking my dog. For John, he snowboards, hikes, or goes indoor climbing. Unwinding can even be dinner as a family, ditching my phone for a few hours, dancing in my living room, or playing music.

What would you consider your greatest success so far? And what is one moment you won’t ever forget?

Regarding success with Bogobrush, there are moments in time that we celebrate, but right now the greatest success that comes to mind is the very first step. The first decision to type into google “toothbrush manufacturer.” A close follow-up to that is learning to evaluate the balance of persistence and pivoting. We’ve been working a long time on this. We could give up at any number of challenging times, but our persistence and faith in our vision keeps us going. And our ability to see that sometimes the path forward is to turn right or left allows persistence to pay off.

One unforgettable moment is from 2014. John and I were in our bristling partner’s facility watching our first run of recyclable handles go through the machine, and success! We’d first tried to make Bogobrush from bamboo with overseas manufacturers. This didn’t work, and in bristling we lost more than half of the handles to breakage. Being with John, 2 years later to watch our pivot turn into success was so amazing.

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Bristling the Bogobrush.

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Success! Bogobrush bristles in the making!

If you could give one piece of advice to other creative entrepreneurs wishing to create social change, what would it be?

Know why you’re doing what you’re doing. Question why you’re doing what you’re doing. I don’t think 100% certainty is necessary, but a gut level peace and energy will keep you moving. And bonus advice – when you get stressed, do something else that’s fun! Nothing is as big of a deal as we think it is. I’m super guilty of this, but step out, do something fun – even if it’s forced. 🙂

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Canyoning in the Snake Canyon on a trip to Oman. “It was one of the most epic things we’ve ever done!” Heather is on the left with her husband David and John is on the right with his wife Hannah.

Thank you Heather for taking the time to interview with me. You’re an inspiration to the dental field and a wonderful reminder that we can make changes beyond the doors of a dental office. Bogobrush is currently offering TheDebtist readers their first subscription for free. Mike and I have personally been using Bogobrush since January of 2018 and we will not go back.