Tom’s of Maine was established in 1970 in Kennebunk, ME by the Chappell family. In 1975 they introduced the first natural toothpaste to the US market. The Chappells have always focused on creating natural products that are not harmful to the environment. In 2006, Tom’s of Maine was acquired by Colgate-Palmolive. This was initially a concern for me, but Tom’s of Maine has never changed their approach, and their “small-company” culture has remained strong. The Colgate-Palmolive acquisition has helped Tom’s of Maine reach a greater audience with their products being distributed in over 40,000 retail stores.
Tom’s of Maine Whole Care Toothpaste is a great alternative to standard toothpaste brands. The company is focused on social and environmental causes. They still need to put in the work to become more sustainable but they are on the right track as of now. They are the first company to provide a fully recyclable toothpaste tube and prove their commitment to recycling by providing several resources on their website. I have been using Tom’s of Maine for the past few years and I will continue to do so as long as they stay environmentally conscious. Overall, I would recommend this product to all consumers.
For each of Tom’s of Maine’s products, you are able to see the exact list of ingredients used in making the product. When you reach their website, locate the Whole Care toothpaste under the oral care section, and then click on the ingredients list. On this list we see each ingredient used, the purpose of the ingredient, and a broad-view of where it is sourced from. To learn more about an ingredient, you can click on the name of it and the website will direct you to a different page. The new page explains what the ingredient is, what it does, how it is made, alternatives to it, and a section to determine if the product is “right for me.”
The Whole Care toothpaste is made of 12 ingredients: 1 active and 11 inactive. The ingredients include: Sodium Monofluorophosphate, Glycerin, Water, Calcium Carbonate, Hydrated Silica, Xylitol, Natural Flavor (peppermint oil), Sodium Lauryl Sulfate, Zinc Citrate, Sodium Bicarbonate, Carrageenan, and Benzyl Alcohol. The active product used is Sodium Monofluorophosphate 0.76% (0.13% w/v fluoride ion). This is an anti-cavity ingredient that has sparked controversy on whether or not it is harmful to humans. Studies show that only excessive amounts of fluoride are harmful to human’s health thus the small amounts consumed from toothpaste do not pose a threat. The FDA approves the use of Sodium Monofluorophosphate in toothpaste. The next ingredient used is glycerin which is a moistener/humectant. Glycerin is a natural ingredient derived from vegetable fats such as soybeans, coconut oil and palm oil. People have been using glycerin for hundreds of years and it typically does not pose a threat to human health (allergies may occur in some people). The question here is whether or not Tom’s of Maine is using glycerin derived from palm oil. I contacted their support team to see if I could learn where their products come from, however they denied my inquiry. If Tom’s of Maine is using palm oil for their glycerin, this would not be a sustainable practice. Calcium carbonate is a mild abrasive derived from rocks such as limestone and marble. It helps remove plaque and mild stains on teeth. Hydrated silica has a few different uses such as being a whitening agent, a mild abrasive for cleaning and a thickener for gel toothpaste. It is derived from silicon dioxide, a compound that forms about 12% of earth’s surface. Knowing these last two ingredients are most likely mined, it poses a question on the damage they’re causing to the environment and if they are practicing safe procedures for the employees. Because Tom’s of Maine will not give a list of the companies they source from, it is difficult to determine how sustainable these practices are.
I utilized the Environmental Working Group’s database to look up each ingredient used. The EWG ranks ingredients on a scale of 1-10 (1 being the best, 10 being the worst) to determine their harm towards humans. A majority of the ingredients in Tom’s of Maine’s Whole Care toothpaste ranked between 1-2 with the only exceptions being Peppermint Oil and Benzyl Alcohol. These two products ranked a 4-6 because they can be an allergen to some people. Overall, the ingredients pose a very minimal threat to human health and the environment.
Beginning in 2019, Tom’s of Maine began the transition towards recyclable toothpaste tubes. At first I thought they were making their toothpaste tubes out of recycled material, but unfortunately they are still producing new plastic. This new plastic is now recyclable which is a positive. Americans throw out over 1 billion toothpaste tubes every year, so it is a step in the right direction. Tom’s of Maine’s website provides easy access to any questions consumers might have about their recyclable tubes. There is a page with FAQs, a video explaining their recyclable tube, and a downloadable form giving general information about recycling. The box the toothpaste comes in is also recyclable.
Overall the materials being used to produce this toothpaste are naturally more sustainable than other toothpaste brands.
Tom’s of Maine focuses on gathering naturally sourced and naturally derived ingredients for all their products. They have a Stewardship Model which guides them in collecting their ingredients/materials. The Stewardship Model makes sure the ingredients are natural, sustainable, and responsibly sourced. On the Stewardship page, there are 3 sections giving an explanation of what Tom’s means by natural, sustainable, and responsible. Most important to us is the section on sustainability. There are 4 standard for being sustainable: (1) Prioritizing the use of recycled and renewable materials, (2) Striving to reduce packaging waste through recyclability and biodegradability, (3) Supporting the use of sustainable growing and harvesting practices, and (4) Working to minimize the total environmental impact of our supply chain. The Stewardship Model doesn’t directly tell us where they source their ingredients from or how they are processed, but they do say they analyze the starting materials and processing steps used to acquire the ingredients. Unfortunately there is not direct information on the manufacturing process that Tom’s of Maine uses.
Although Tom’s of Maine only gives us a broad-view of how their ingredients are sourced, the company became a Certified B Corporation in 2019. A Certified B Corporation means the company meets the highest standards of social and environmental performance, transparency and accountability. It is considered the “gold standard” certification among sustainability. Companies are rated on a scale 0-200, and you must hit the 80 point benchmark to become a Certified B Corporation. Tom’s of Maine is a little over this benchmark. Based on their score, we can conclude that Tom’s of Maine is being sustainable to a solid degree, but they should be pushing to improve their score each year to be truly sustainable.
In 1995 Tom’s of Maine’s original fluoride toothpaste became the first natural toothpaste to earn the Seal of Acceptance from the American Dental Association (ADA). The Seal of Acceptance allows consumers to trust the product is safe and effective. To earn this certification, companies must provide studies that show equivalent safety and effectiveness as compared to clinically tested products, a list of ingredients and prove the manufacturing and lab facilities are up to standard. To be the first natural fluoride toothpaste to earn this award shows Tom’s of Maine’s commitment to creating natural and sustainable products that are effective.
In my email with Tom’s of Maine, customer support assured me any supplier that is used, meets the requirements they have set for human and labor rights. Seeing as they are a small, family owned company, I would assume they treat their employees well. I have not found any bad reviews on the treatment of their workers. I have seen that many of the workers have stayed with the company for over a decade which assures me they enjoy working for the company.
Tom’s of Maine encourages their employees to take 5% of their paid time (12 days/year) to volunteer for causes they are passionate about. Many employees spend this time volunteering for causes that support environmental protection. Tom’s also donates 10% of their profits each year to national non-profits and community based efforts in Maine. The company focuses on prioritizing health, education and the environment which are all important aspects in achieving a sustainable society. Tom’s of Maine clearly cares about the impact on their employees, consumers, and communities worldwide.