Every single year, 1.5 BILLION toothpaste tubes end up in landfills and the plastic in those tubes needs 500 years to degrade, but we can do better. Alternatives to the ole toothpaste ’n tube combo are on the rise, and it’s about time, dang! I for one have been on a journey to find a true alternative that really is as good or better than that wasteful generic stuff. Much to my dismay, the most popular brand of toothpaste bits, “Bite,” proved to be too expensive for what it offers. I found myself needing to use two bits, costing me $0.40 per brush, and not having the same “squeaky-clean” feeling that generic toothpaste brought me. After a couple more goes at toothpaste bits, I landed at Uncle Harry’s. It’s affordable at just $6 a jar, and if peppermint doesn’t float your boat, there are 4 other flavors to check out. It’s a slightly thicker consistency than ‘regular’ toothpaste, and if you desire that foamy brush, check out their ‘tooth suds’ line. This peppermint toothpaste would simply look a-dor-a-ble next to a bamboo toothbrush, maybe your next sustainable bathroom switch? Overall, as a conscious company, supporting Uncle Harry’s is something that should make you feel good dental-wise and mental-wise!
The straight-up ingredients of the toothpaste are bentonite clay, calcium carbonate, colloidal silver water, sea salt, ionic minerals, mustard seed, essential oils of peppermint, eucalyptus, clove, wintergreen, and oregano. Let’s unpack this because that probably doesn’t mean much to you. First of all, some may be skeptical of a ‘natural’ toothpaste’s effectiveness, but it is reassuring to know that the isolated components of the essential oils, including eucalyptol, menthol, methyl salicylate, and thymol, have been proven by the FDA to be anti-gingivitis/anti-plaque– woohoo! Now some bad news, bentonite clay contains naturally-occurring traces of lead, meaning it is not safe to swallow. Although it is claimed to be made of 100% natural food-grade ingredients, it might not be your new go-to if you have children in your household who may swallow it or you are pregnant/breast-feeding. Overall, these ingredients are gluten-free, glycerin-free, fluoride-free, and vegan– shoutout to my dietary restricted friends, this one’s a-okay for y’all! Finally, as for packaging, its recyclable glass jar has perfect potential for your spice cabinet or a DIY candle project because Uncle Harry’s does not accept them back for repurposing, small oof. The current lid of their toothpaste is unfortunately plastic, but their team is testing metal lids to replace them, which shows their goals for improvement!
The Pros: All Uncle Harry’s products are non-GMO. They have always been cruelty-free and are a vegetarian company, okay Uncle Harry, we see you! None of their products contain stabilizers, fillers, or preservatives, but still have an average shelf life of 1-2 years, which, for reference, is about the same as a generic toothpaste tube. They also make their products in small batches, reducing the risk of waste and enabling them to pay their workers more of a fair wage. Uncle Harry’s is an equal opportunity employer with living wages starting at $18.00/hr! Benefits for these employees include: “free gold level medical/vision insurance, retirement, paid time off (sick pay/vacation leave), yearly bonus, free monthly product allowance, lots of yummy vegan & vegetarian food, and insanely awesome staff outings/company events.” On their company blog, employees are also highlighted via a “Staff Favorites” series, where consumers get the opportunity to read about the people who are actually involved in the production of the products, what a concept! There are even some discount codes for these Staff Favs for my deal-hunters ‘cuz who doesn’t love a good bargain? The Cons: Uncle Harry’s isn’t the most transparent about where they source their ingredients. Of course, I’d like to think that it’s all locally source or directly from their farm, but this information is not outright published, so we can’t be totally certain. However, they do seem open about having a dialogue with their consumers via their contact form. Specific to the impact of the ingredients, bentonite clay and calcium carbonate are extracted via mining processes. Typically mining processes are thought to be environmentally damaging, with possible deforestation, loss of wildlife habitat, erosion, and depletion of natural minerals.
The company’s factory/warehouse and farm are located in Redmond, Washington. One of their main claims is that they have been family-run for the past 25 years, currently run by the Harry of “Uncle Harry’s” adult children– wholesome alert! This company is truly dedicated to becoming zero waste in all facets of its business. When it comes to packaging for shipment, they teamed up with a local box maker to create custom cardboard packs, which reduces the need for bubble wrap *completely*. If you’re interested in total plastic-free shipping, which, who isn’t, they allow for this to be left in the customer comments of your order and are seeking to add it as a full feature. Their company blog discusses their monthly drop-offs to their local recycling center for hard-to-recycle products, composting throughout their facilities, reducing single-use paper towel usage, and switching to unbleached, recycled paper towels, having 100% Green Energy through Puget Sound Energy, and utilizing sugarcane-based paper for their office needs. One of their recent changes, which I find super cool, was reducing plastic waste when transporting products between their factory and distribution center by acquiring a reusable bulk container instead of plastic-wrapping pallets of products. Small changes like this, which a consumer might not even think about, are what really show Uncle Harry’s knows that simply producing sustainable products is not what makes them a sustainable company– it’s their ongoing commitment to reducing opportunities for waste. It’s gob stopping to know there are companies like Uncle Harry’s that truly seem to care about their impact and reflect on what they can do better.