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[The Market] The toothbrush that saves your teeth, the environment, and the less empowered

Key Takeaway: It may cost a little bit more, but you’re doing it for the environment and for the poor. Minka’s Toothbrush Movement is made from bamboo – a water-resistant, naturally anti-microbial material – that provides environmental sustainability. Plus, they¬†support a Habitat for Humanity program aiming to provide sanitary supplies and training in communities that don’t have such yet.

I currently use an electric toothbrush, for several reasons. First was that there was a spare one – an Oral-B Complete Action Power Toothbrush Deep Clean, to be exact – lying in my mom’s wardrobe, still in its already-yellowed packaging after about a decade (the batteries leaked when I¬†opened it). As it was a relatively older model and I had no idea whether or not the replacement brush heads would still be available (it uses the small ones that must be pried loose with a provided tool, not the longer ones found in most standard models today), I had my parents buy about a dozen when they went abroad last year.

Second, I’ve read that some research shows that electric toothbrushes¬†may¬†be more effective than manual ones. The research is mixed, and many say that proper manual brushing will be just as well. Rotation-oscillation brushes are said to be only very slightly more effective, and the people who stand to gain the most from using an electric toothbrush are those who have limited hand dexterity or those who have a hard time reaching certain teeth. Ultrasonic ones, however, have been shown to be better at breaking down plaque.

Third, I was tired of always disposing of my current brush every three to six months (which is the recommended) – the entirety of it. Sometimes, we reuse old toothbrushes as household cleaning implements for narrow spaces, but most of our brushes eventually find their way into the garbage can. True, I do have to replace my electric toothbrush heads regularly, but the waste is comparatively less compared to regular brushes – although the brush body and electric component itself might be even more of an environmental challenge.

As of this writing, however, I still don’t have the rechargeable batteries I want to use for all my C-/D-AA-/AAA-powered devices, and my Oral-B’s battery ran out about several weeks ago; I’m using it as a manual toothbrush right now. And so, when my regular contributor and very good friend Kevin Christopher M. Tee – the one responsible for those inspiring artworks of our Weekly Words – showed me this social enterprise feature, it presented me a very interesting opportunity to go green one step further. Welcome, Minka.

Rappler (2015)

Rappler (2015)

Minka is a throwback to the roots of the toothbrush, when ancient civilizations used what they dubbed “chew sticks” – twigs with one frayed end that they rubbed between their teeth. This one, the Toothbrush Movement, has all the efficiency of the modern implement but the spirit of the ancient original – it’s recyclable and sustainable. The handle is made from bamboo, which is both water-resistant and by nature anti-microbial – hence being cleaner for you to use, and cleaner for the environment, too.

Not just that: 10% of sales are donated to the Water, Sanitation, and Hygiene (WASH) Program of Habitat for Humanity Philippines, which works with communities to add clean water supplies, sanitary toilets, and hygiene programs. In impoverished countries, this is a major concern: as of 2013, 2.4 billion people lacked access to sanitation facilities, 2 million dying every year due to diarrhea-related diseases, mostly children below 5 years of age. In the Philippines, as of 2014, 16% of households lacked clean or potable water, and 55 Filipinos die daily from a lack of proper sewage. HFH’s WASH Program is thus crucial – and it must be sustainable.

I would call on Minka to step up and take this step towards sustainability, but already they are going the philanthropic and social entrepreneurial way with their product and business model. For that alone, I salute them – and I pledge to support them.

The brush does cost money – around Php200.00 (about US$4.50), four times that of a standard toothbrush. But think of it as an investment into the environment and for impoverished communities around the country. The National Geographic documentary¬†Human Footprint¬†says that the average person uses about 156 toothbrushes in their lifetime – about two a year. What is four hundred pesos or nine dollars a year, coupled with an all-natural toothpaste, for socio-environmental awareness? Now I’m itching to get my own.

Minka¬†is a South American term that means “collaborating together for a common purpose”. I invite you to join me and join the Toothbrush Movement where we can be¬†minka, bringing our own individual higher purposes with us.

Minka’s Toothbrush Movement is available at Healthy Options for Php199.00.

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