Best Eco-Friendly Toothbrushes (for Kids and Adults) – Clean Teeth, Clean Earth

Bamboo toothbrushes in mason jar holderSomething we don’t think about often are our toothbrushes. However, toothbrushes can be one of the most wasteful products we use regularly! From the materials, to the production, to the packaging, to the amount used, to the discard, there is constant waste. (Not to mention the toxic chemicals that are contained in plastic toothbrushes and their manufacturing). For the health of ourselves, our children, and our environment, here is a little snippet about toothbrushes. (Scroll to the bottom to skip to sustainable and eco-friendly toothbrush alternatives.)

Considering tooth health is directly linked to heart health, teaching our children how to properly care for their teeth (with the safest, healthiest tools) will set them on a path of living their healthiest life.

What are typical toothbrushes made from?

The first evidence of cleaning our teeth is from around 3,000 BC, from Egyptians who used twigs and leaves to clean out their teeth. We of course have a much more thorough way of cleaning our teeth now, but the Egyptians definitely had the most sustainable way! Now, our toothbrushes are sadly made from plastic handles (which typically contain BPAs and phthalates – both endocrine disruptors – in addition to other harmful chemicals like crude oil) and nylon bristles.

The manufacturing process itself also uses harmful chemicals and non-renewable energy sources.

Where do they end up?

Where most of our waste ends up: Landfills! This might not seem awful at first since toothbrushes are small items, but when everyone replaces their toothbrush 2-3 months (which is recommended) we end up with OVER ONE BILLION toothbrushes in a landfill EVERY YEAR in North America ALONE. (That elicits capitalized emphasis!)

Plastic toothbrushes take over 400 YEARS to decompose! The nylon bristles take roughly 30. And when these materials decompose, they leak toxic chemicals into our earth, which seep into water supplies and could potentially affect food supplies as well. I emphasize all of this to show why using an eco-friendly toothbrush is so important for us now, but also for our future generations.

What should I use as an alternative?

As an eco-friendly alternative, many toothbrushes are now being made with bamboo wood! Bamboo is a fast-growing, sustainable resource. It is also anti-microbial, meaning that your bamboo toothbrush won’t hold nasty bacteria.

Bamboo toohbrushes with nylon bristles are the most common eco-friendly toothbrush you can find, but the most sustainable toothbrushes are those made without plastic handles OR nylon bristles. Thus, bamboo toothbrushes with boar bristle is the #1 most sustainable toothbrush since the boar bristle biodegrades much faster than nylon.

However, I have yet to find a boar bristle kids’ toothbrush. Plus, we are a vegan family and don’t use any animal products or byproducts anyway, so we don’t use the #1 most sustainable toothbrush. Instead, we currently use toothbrushes with bamboo handles and BPA-free, dye-free nylon bristles (listed below).

Purchase links

These are all packaged in sustainable (aka compostable) packaging. We did not list any with non-compostable packaging, as we don’t consider those truly sustainable. We also listed the best adult bamboo toothbrushes, because we as parents lead the way for our children by example.

#1 sustainable toothbrush: Bamboo handle with boar bristle – unfortunately can’t find in a children’s size

#1 sustainable kids’ toothbrush: Bamboo handle with BPA-free and dye-free nylon bristles

#2 sustainable kids’ toothbrush: Bamboo handle with organic COLOR and BPA-free nylon brisles

#2 sustainable toothbrush: Bamboo handle with BPA-free and dye-free nylon bristles

Our favorite for adults: Bamboo handle, BPA- and dye-free nylon bristles, PLUS bamboo traveling case and charcoal floss from a glass container

Conclusion

For the health and future of our children and our earth, it is best to use a bamboo toothbrush that comes in compostable packaging, as these biodegrade the fastest. The BEST and most sustainable toothbrush option is a bamboo handle with boar-bristle bristles and zero-waste packaging. However, as of this posting these are not found in a children’s size and are not suitable for those who refrain from using animal products.

Thus, we have concluded that while not technically most sustainable, the next safest and eco-friendly option is a bamboo handle with BPA- and dye-free nylon bristles, which come in kids’ sizes and adult sizes. As parents we need to set examples for our children, so when you add kid-sized bamboo brushes into your cart, be sure to add some adult-size ones in there too!

What are your favorite eco-friendly toothbrushes? How long has your family been using more sustainable options? What would you like to see us write about next? We love hearing from you; let us know in the comments below! 🙂

Top 5 Classic Sustainable Gifts for Kids

Girl with giftsAs parents, grandparents, aunts, uncles, etc., we are constantly buying gifts for the kids in our lives: birthdays, holidays, baby showers, learning supplies… This can contribute to a lot of waste! From the manufacturing, packaging, wrapping, transporting, to toys themselves, a lot of waste can go into just one toy. Instead of contributing to this amount of waste, here are some classic, sustainable* gifts for kids! These are also mostly open-ended toys, meaning that they have multiple uses and will keep kids occupied with their imaginations. 🙂

*I judge “sustainable” by a standard of non-plastic (or least plastic), non-toxic, and something that will last a long time and nourish instead of harm our earth once the kids are done playing with it.

Getting children gifts made from sustainable materials is not only better for our planet, but shows them first-hand what it looks like to care for our earth, and can open up the door to conversation about why sustainability is important. Here are our top classic sustainable kids toys:

1. Wooden blocks (magnetic and non-magnetic)

2. Musical marble tree

3. Play house

4. Easel

5. Music set

1. Wooden blocks

Wooden blocks are a classic toy that are made from sustainable materials, are non-toxic, and give children a world of avenues to create, build, and use their imagination. Our wooden block set is from a family member who made it for us, but there are many wooden block sets you can purchase easily. We love wooden blocks because they are safe and sustainable toys, but are also extremely durable and last for a long time. However, if you have a toddler or baby who loves to throw things, be careful of where you keep these blocks so that they don’t make their way into tiny hands that will throw them…! Wooden blocks are generally great for kids 3 and up.

There are also magnetic wooden blocks, which are the coolest thing! Our preschooler loves the magnetic wooden blocks because they are easier to stick together than Duplos (or large Legos), and they actually stick together unlike the regular wooden blocks. The wood also is easier to grip in his little hands than Duplos.

Purchase links:

Melissa and Doug wooden blocks

Magnetic wooden blocks, 24-piece set

Tegu magnetic wooden blocks 42-piece set

Our favorite (but out of stock as of this posting) magnetic wooden blocks: Earthtiles

2. Musical marble tree

We love love LOVE our musical marble tree! Marble trees might not be considered “classic”, but marbles are. Marble trees are made from wood and typically dyed with natural plant dyes to make it non-toxic and more sustainable. However, not all of them are, so be careful from where you purchase. We got ours from The Small Folk for our first son’s second birthday, and he liked it well enough, but now that he’s older he really enjoys it. It’s such a simple toy, but makes such a pretty sound as the wooden marbles plink down each wooden leaf; it’s mesmerizing! We keep it in the box up high most of the time, and bring it down when the kids are getting bored indoors or want to play with it. Our preschooler loves it, and our 1-year-old is enthralled — although of course we make sure to supervise them when using it, since the wooden marbles could be a choking hazard. This toy is definitely best suited for those 3 and up, but can be great for practicing fine motor skills with young ones (as long as an adult is watching very closely!).

Purchase links:

Our favorite musical marble tree from The Small Folk (this is the “mini” size at 12″, which is plenty for us, but there is a bigger size on the same website. Keep in mind the price is $74 AUD, which is closer to $52 USD. Also, no assembly required!)

From Amazon (this one stands at 20″ for $72 USD. It may seem easier to order since it’s on Amazon, but it’s unclear whether the paint/dye they use is non-toxic. Also, assembly is required — you must fit each leaf into its spot.)

3. Play house

A wooden play house (I decided not to call it a “doll house” because really it has many uses; my oldest uses it with the wooden dolls, but also for his dinosaurs) can keep kids’ imaginations rolling. It is so versatile; they can use a variety of toys in there and they can rearrange it for each scenario. This is a classic toy for a reason! I think traditionally these have been marketed to girls, but my brother and I played with ours together growing up, and now my two boys both love theirs. This is a great open-ended toy with so many uses, and getting a wooden one instead of cheap plastic will last longer, and have a much healthier impact on our environment.

Purchase links:

Hape decorated wooden dollhouse (with solar panels, how cute is that!)

Melissa and Doug decorated wooden dollhouse (don’t have this one, but it’s slightly cheaper than Hape and just as cute)

– Small World Toys unpainted wooden dollhouse (listing this because it’s an unpainted house, but the reviews aren’t as good as the two above)

4. Easel

Easels are so multi-functional! Letting our kids’ creativity out is so important, and easels can be used for painting, drawing, teaching, and learning. They can also be used by kids of all ages; my baby loves to use the chalkboard part (since I don’t let him get into the paint or markers 😉 ), while my preschooler loves finger painting and drawing on the huge roll of paper. Easels can be made from plastic, but in order to make them more sustainable, wooden easels with a non-toxic finish is the way to go. Getting an easel with a magnetic dry-erase board on one side, chalk board on the other, bar to hold a roll of paper, and a paint cup holder underneath is definitely the best bang for your buck.

Purchase links:

Wooden easel (made with non-toxic paint and no formaldehyde)

Melissa and Doug tabletop double-sided easel

Recyclable, sustainably-sourced easel paper

Paint brush set

Natural, non-toxic paint

Non-toxic unicorn chalk

Safe, washable markers

Refillable dry-erase markers

5. Music set

While sometimes noise can be a little much for us as parents, allowing our children to be exposed to and play music can be therapeutic for our children! It also helps get some energy out indoors while stimulating their beautiful brains. There are many different music sets out there, but a lot of them have flashing lights and make sounds of their own, which can overstimulate a child’s brain and disrupt their own creativity (not to mention most of them are made from cheap plastics — not great for our children’s health or the environment). Buying an open-ended, well-made music set and letting children play and experiment gives children the freedom to learn and be creative, which will better set them up for success as adults.

Our favorite musical instruments include a variety of things, from a little drum to bells to tin whistles to xylophones and harmonicas, they each have their place in the environment of learning for children.

Purchase links:

Hape music set (good for toddlers, ages 1-4. Hape is always my first choice for sustainability, with their bamboo and non-toxic paints. However, they don’t have as much variety as Melissa and Doug.)

Melissa and Doug’s band in a box (great for a variety of ages!)

Tin whistle (great for all ages — sadly, I have yet to find one with a mouthpiece made of something other than plastic)

Xylophone (for younger kids)

Learn xylophone (for older kids)

Conclusion

Wooden blocks, marble trees, play houses (or, dollhouses), easels, and a good music set comprise my top five classic, sustainable gifts for kids. They are open-ended and are especially great for times like now when we are staying at home and homeschooling. They all have amazing reviews, both from our family and from the listing websites, can be used by a variety of ages, and aren’t made from toxic materials. I love it when my kids can play together, and these toys provide an avenue of ways for different ages and interests to come together to create and imagine. And when we are done with them, we know they won’t take 100’s of years to biodegrade in a landfill!

What have been your favorite classic, sustainable gifts? I’d love to hear in the comments below!

Best Sustainable Cups for Kids

There just isn’t enough information out there on options for sustainable kids cups, aka non plastic kids cups. True sustainability, in my mind, doesn’t contain plastic, as plastic is made with and can leak harmful chemicals, and it is not as easily recycled or compostable as other materials. I have tried and used many different types cups for my kids, and I wanted to compile a list of our favorite cups that are eco-friendly but also budget-friendly. So, from glass cups to stainless steel kids cups, here is a review of our favorite sustainable cups for kids!

1. Bamboo cups

When going to landfill, bamboo cups will biodegrade more quickly than other sustainable materials. Plus, bamboo is quickly grown and is an abundant resource. These factors technically makes bamboo cups the best sustainable kids cup. When they are disposed of they will quickly go back into the earth to nourish and not harm, but this is also a downside since bamboo needs to be cared for carefully so it doesn’t start biodegrading in your sink.

Bamboo cups like these are good for liquids and for older kids. There aren’t many bamboo cups I would recommend for toddlers, as toddlers tend to enjoy throwing their cups (or is it just mine?) and would likely break the bamboo — not that it’s happened in our house before… 😉 Plus, they don’t sell many bamboo cups with lids (although you can definitely buy some cups with silicone tops like these, and use lids on the bamboo cups!). However, here are some bamboo cups with one top we HAVE NOT tried before, so while I can’t personally recommend them, they are an option.

There are also wide bamboo cups like these that are great for snacks. We wouldn’t recommend them for liquids for littles though, as they can be more easily spilled and harder to hold because of their girth. However, they are so cute!

Bamboo can be easily cracked when thrown (as I mentioned my toddler likes to do), so bamboo cups are ones that need careful maintenance. It is also not recommended to put bamboo in the dishwasher as it can wear it much more easily and eventually crack it. Unless using them for older kids or snacks, bamboo is not functionally my favorite.

2. Glass cups

Glass is another eco-friendly, harmful-chemical-free material that is great for food and beverages. Understandably, your first reaction might be, “You want me to give my children glass?!” Hear me out! There are some great glass kids cups that are safe, like these ones that are almost fully covered by a silicone sleeve. They also come with bamboo lids and straws, for less spilling! Pro tip: For toddlers who like to take the straw out and make a mess, wrap a rubber band around the bottom half of the straw and place the straw in the cup, then put the top on. This keeps them from pulling out the straw and making a mess. 🙂 A downside to these ones: The bottom of the bamboo straw is flat and my kids get frustrated because while they are sucking out of it, it gets stuck to the bottom of the cup.

As discussed above, bamboo is a material that disintegrates faster than other materials, and also requires more intentional care (ex. can’t go in the dishwasher or soak in water). Thus, this cup with bamboo straws and lids is a great choice for the quickest biodegradable parts, but is not our number one choice for price and ease. These glass cups with silicone sleeves, lids, and straws are our personal favorites, especially since they also come with silicone tops that don’t have straw holes so we can pack them for outings without worrying about spills, and bring the straws and other tops along.

For older kids and adults, here are some glass cups with silicone sleeves! We adults like to use these as wine glasses, personally. 😉

3. Stainless steel cups

Stainless steel cups take the lead in sturdiness. If you drop them they might eventually dent, but they have thus far been the longest-lasting eco-friendly cups we have. Stainless steel is a hard and durable material that is really easy to clean by hand or in the dishwasher (win!).

For toddlers, these smaller Brava Ware stainless steel cups with silicone lids are wonderful, as the silicone sippy top is soft on baby teeth and the cup size is perfect for little hands. The cups alone are also a good size for snacks, and for using without the lids as they learn to drink from regular cups.

There are also stainless steel kids cups with silicone grips and lids, which are better for older children — I wouldn’t recommend these for toddlers as the top is much more likely to leak. These 8oz ones are a step above the Brava Wear ones for school-age kids, as they hold more in volume and are shaped like their first coffee cup. These are also the best price for the most bang for your buck, although if you want different colors you can spend a few dollars more and get these. If you want straws for smoothies or just out of preference, these 12oz cups with lids and straws are the way to go.

A caution about the Brava Wear silicone lids: When your toddler sticks their finger in the small vent hole repeatedly, it can eventually tear and make them  more prone to spilling. Also, even the toddler ones are not spill-proof (as few kid cups are). They do keep most of the liquid in when knocked over, but for best results keep these cups in an upright position. However, the silicone lids make for really easy washing! Since the material is flexible you can turn the lid inside-out to get every nook and cranny with a sponge (or in the dishwasher). With regular washing, they don’t build up mold or start to stink like many plastic ones do.

For older kids and adults, bigger cups like these 20oz stainless steel cups are a great option for everyday use since they don’t contain toxic chemicals, they hold a lot of liqiud, and they are very durable.

I honestly can’t think if a reason why I wouldn’t recommend stainless steel cups!

Conclusion

Purchasing the best sustainable cup for your kids and family really depends on your intent — what do you need them for? Drinks? Snacks? Smoothies? Travel? To replace the current sippy cup? Each eco-friendly material has different qualities and characteristics, as well as different manufacturing processes, and being familiar with how they each differ from typical plastic kids’ cups can be helpful to how you choose and care for them.

Bamboo tend to be the most sustainable since they are made from an abundant material and quickly biodegradable, but because of that they can easily crack and wear out. Glass cups don’t give off any harmful chemicals and are easy to care for, but can crack on a hard surface when dropped at the right angle even with silicone sleeves on. Plus, they can also be heavy for small hands. Stainless steel cups are our family’s #1 choice for eco-friendly cups since we like the sturdiness, ease of cleaning and care, choices of lids, and ease of use for toddlers. We do thoroughly enjoy the glass and bamboo cups we have purchased, and understand why others might choose those regularly, but we plan to stick with stainless steel cups and silicone tops.

What kids of sustainable kids cups does your family use? Share your experiences and recommendations in the comments below! 🙂

About Me

Hello and welcome to Sustainable Kids’ Stuff! I’m Shannon, a “mom-trepreneur” who loves anything parenting, hiking, yoga, marriage, nature, and animals. 🙂

When I became a mom I realized just how much waste there is when it comes to our kids’ products — from diapers and wipes to plastic toothbrushes and snacks, to plastic toys that get played with for five seconds and then forgotten, I had a feeling all the waste I was producing from my children just wasn’t good for the environment. Not to mention the chemicals that kids’ products tend to contain (even ones that are assumed to be “safe”!).

Thus began my journey to find the most sustainable, eco-friendly, safe, clean, and preferably locally-made products for our littles!

It’s been quite the journey so far. We have purchased and tried many products, and are still continually on the hunt as more options come on the market and as our kiddos get older. You can be assured this site will be updated with the best and most recent options!

Why I started this website.

At the time when my oldest was six months, I wanted to introduce him to a sippy cup. In my research I learned it’s not good for kids to have hard-tipped sippy cups since it can mess with their teeth growth and development, and many of those sippy cups are cheap plastic (which is not good for the environment, either in production or waste, and can also be harmful to my child’s health). So I began to look for the best sippy cup, which then led me down a rabbit hole of all the other things we would soon need for our growing boy!

When doing my research, I found it was hard to find unbiased, thorough, third-party reviews on products, and I don’t know about you, but I always like to find good reviews before I spend my money on something. So, I started this website as a one-stop-site to help other parents find and learn about products before they buy them, as well as get more sustainable ideas!

Let’s vote with our dollars!

When we buy something, we can choose to align with our ultimate beliefs, or go against them. Sometimes we choose the way that might not align with our beliefs because it’s the “easier” way at the time. I would never judge because I have absolutely done that before, but that’s why I’m using this site to make it easier for you to spend your money on things that align with your ultimate values and beliefs.

Here’s to yours (and your kiddos) health, and to our earth!

If you ever need a hand or have any questions, feel free to leave them in a comment below and I will be more than happy to help you out. 🙂

All the best,

Shannon

Founder of Sustainable Kids’ Stuff