Sustainable Toothpastes: Hello Vs. Tom's Of Maine
So what happens when you email a company telling them why you chose not to buy their product? In this particular case, I ended up exchanging emails with the CEO of the company.
Not what I was expecting.
Emailing a company isn’t something I typically do. Actually I don’t think I’ve ever done this. But standing in Target in the toothpaste aisle looking at new brand called Hello, I was inclined to this time.
I’ve been a dedicated Tom’s of Maine toothpaste user for almost 10 years now, but I was intrigued to see an unfamiliar brand that’s focused on being all natural. I picked up the box and started reading the packaging. Words and phrases like: no dyes; no preservatives; and no artificial sweeteners caught my eye. Curious I turned the box over and continued to like what I read: Never tested on animals. Vegan + leaping bunny certified. 100% recyclable paperboard + printed with soy inks.
“Wow,” I thought to myself, “Another brand focused on being all natural and environmentally friendly. And they’re in a big store like Target!” The price was about the same as Tom’s and I was ready to buy it. But I wanted to know what the tube itself looked like inside the paperboard. I was disappointed with what I saw when I got it out of the box.
Sure, the tube was nice looking. It also felt good in my hand – smooth and substantial, like a tube of lotion. But that was what also made me hesitate going straight to the checkout lane. The Hello tube of toothpaste was a bit too substantial for being a tube of toothpaste. The cap was the main turn off for me. The plastic cap was large, several times larger than a standard toothpaste cap. This means a lot of resources were used to create this cap. I didn’t see any reasons for the cap to be so large except to package it differently than other toothpastes. I hate waste and this cap symbolized waste to me. Sure, the plastic cap may be recyclable but a lot of people don’t recycle. And recycling is only part of the sustainability equation. People tend to forget that a lot of raw materials, electricity and water are used to product a plastic cap like that one.
I placed the toothpaste back on the shelf and left the store.
And then I emailed the company to let them know why I didn’t buy their toothpaste. I didn’t expect to be taken seriously or receive a response back. But I figured how else would they know that I was very interested in buying their stuff but chose not to purchase it? Perhaps there are others out there who feel the same way as I do about the cap and if we all said something then it could possibly have an effect on the company.
EMAIL FROM HELLO'S CEO
The day after I emailed Hello I receive an email back from Craig, the founder and CEO of the company.
Craig’s email started off commenting about the “pesky cap” (his words). He said that the cap is actually the only component they used that is a stock item. Their tube is custom, and is BPA free and includes a EVOH barrier layer “to help maintain the integrity and stability of the natural flavors and formulation, which is free from preservatives.” But the cap is a stock because in his experience making a custom closure is very challenging (he was involved with the company Method from the start and a founding board member). Craig said Method had a lot of issues with their custom dispensing elements/closures, even though one had won design awards.
Curious to why Hello chose the of style tube that they use for their toothpaste, I asked in a follow up email. But he never answered that question. His initial email to me did mention that they are “working on all sorts of new concepts to make a better and in your estimation, more eco-friendly cap.” I guess I’ll have to see if the design of the tube and/or cap changes in any way.
It was the second half of the email that got me thinking. Craig continued,
"Moving away from the cap for a moment, I personally think that in not buying our paste, you missed out on the bigger benefit: using a paste that's been thoughtfully crafted and sourced by an independent group of entrepreneurs with soul and science on our side. Our pastes are vegan. They're Leaping Bunny Certified, which means that not only is our finished product never tested on animals, but every ingredient supplier we work with verifies to Leaping Bunny that they too do not test not animals. Our pastes are free from dyes, artificial sweeteners, microbeads, triclosan (look that one up, omg), artificial flavors, preservatives and peroxide. We sweeten them just a touch with sustainably harvested stevia from Paraguay, and the xylitol we use is sourced from non-GMO corn. We primarily use vegetable-derived glycerin, and the case of our palm-derived glycerin (sourced from the Philippines and Malaysia), and the supplier is part of the Roundtable for Sustainable Palm Oil. We make the tubes and the caps in the USA, we use soy-based inks on our boxes, and we use FSC-certified paper sources to help maintain our forests."
Craig also pointed out in his email that the other ingredients in their toothpaste are all natural as: erythritol - derived from corn that helps prevent cavity-causing bacteria from adhering to the surface of your teeth; and hydrated silica - polishes teeth and removes stain.
Those are all huge pluses. Especially the part about their palm oil supplier. Jerud and I don't buy anything with palm oil in it unless we know it's sustainably harvested. The palm oil industry is wrecking havoc on the natural environment and those that live in it.
I wasn't familiar with triclosan so I looked it up. It turns out that triclosan is the most prevalent antibacterial compound found in products like toothpaste, detergent, surgical cleaning treatments, and even toys. Health and environmental groups are trying hard to remove it from the market because there's been a lot of "scientific evidence documenting adverse health effect, including impacts to the thyroid hormone." (Source) The Beyond Pesticides website continued to say that "studies have increasingly linked triclosan (and its chemical cousin triclocarban), to a range of adverser health and environmental effects from skin irritation, endocrine disruption, bacterial and compounded antibiotic resistance, to the contamination of water and its negative impact on fragile aquatic ecosystems."
It turns out that in the fall of 2016, the FDA banned triclosan in soaps. But it hasn't been banned from toothpastes. Despite that it seems like all toothpaste companies have stopped using that ingredient in their toothpaste, except for Colgate. (Source)
HELLO VS. Tom's of Maine
With all the new information Craig gave me about their toothpaste, I decide to go to Tom's of Maine's website and compare apples to apples. It turns out that Tom's of Maine and Hello are tied in the quality of ingredients used and how its sourced, along with their environmental packaging, efforts and goals. But there were two differences that stood out for me: Tom's toothpastes uses less packaging - the tube itself and the cap is smaller. But Hello is a small independently owned company while Tom's no longer is - it's now owned by Colgate-Palmolive.
Yes, the same Colgate that supports triclosan and still does animal testing on some of their products.
At this point my brain felt like it was going to explode.
Who do I choose and how do I make my decision? There's a lot I can say about this, but I'm going to quickly go through my thoughts and how I've reached my final decision:
Pros of Tom's
- Tom's is one of the early companies to provide natural toothpastes to the masses. And despite the founders selling their company to Colgate-Palmolive, Tom's has been able to keep the ethos that they've always had.
- Being under the Colgate parentage means Tom's is distributed wherever Colgate products are distributed. This means Tom's is able to reach a wider range and types of consumers - consumers who aren't typically conscious and focused on buying natural and environmentally sustainable products.
- By purchasing Tom's products, I'm using my money to tell Colgate that I support true green products (vs. greenwashed products) like this and want more of them.
Cons of Tom's
- By purchasing Tom's products I'm indirectly supporting Colgate. While I don't know how much of my money from buying Tom's products goes to Colgate, I know some amount does. This means I'm indirectly supporting animal testing, the chemical industry, environmental degradation, etc.
Hello on the other hand, is pretty much everything that Tom's of Maine is, but without a large parent company doing and investing in things I don't agree with. They are new to the market and therefore need more support. So with that in mind, I guess the oversized cap of Hello's toothpaste isn't that big of a deal in the larger scheme of things.
Review of Hello Products
Disclosure: We received complimentary Hello products. Our opinions are completely honest and our own.
I remember the first time I used Tom's of Maine toothpaste - I thought it was gross, kind of salty and tasted like baking soda. I doubt those thoughts will cross anyone's mind when using Hello toothpaste, even if they've been using standard overly sweet toothpaste.
We tried three flavors of Hello: Mojito Mint, Sweet Mint, and Natural Watermelon (for kids). Mojito Mint is definitely my favorite. It's delicious, light and fresh tasting. It's sweet but only mildly without being overwhelming. The flavor also tastes real.
I don't like the Sweet Mint as much. Like the Mojito Mint, it's not overly sweet. Except I don't like the sweet flavor it has.
The Natural Watermelon toothpaste is for kids, but we tried it anyways. I can taste the watermelon, but it's not like I'm eating candy. I think there's enough watermelon flavor that kids will enjoy it.
The Hello toothpaste isn't as foamy as Tom's. It's taken me a little getting used to and not use more toothpaste to make it foam more. But foam or no foam, the toothpaste leaves my mouth feeling fresh, minty and clean.
Since the tube stands on the cap, more toothpaste is used up thanks to gravity. I feel like less toothpaste will be tossed away compared to regular toothpaste tubes where more effort has to be put into squeezing out every last bit of the toothpaste.
I don't find the Hello toothpaste cap more or less convenient to use than regular screw on or flip toothpaste caps.
Hello Breath Spray
I haven't used breath spray since...a really long time. So I can't compare it to anything else. But it doesn't have the bitter taste I expect breath sprays to have. The Supermint and Mojito Mint sprays are alcohol free and don't use artificial flavoring. If I was going to use breath spray, I'd chose these.
Rockstar Toothbrush (Soft)
This toothbrush has a dense and sturdy head while still being soft, but not as soft as other brands of toothbrush. I like the angle and shape of the head, and the toothbrush itself is easy and comfortable to hold. The handle is made with 50% recycled material which is great. But I wish the packaging was more minimal because the hard plastic packaging like that isn't typically recyclable.
If you like trying new things, check out Hello the next time you need more toothpaste. Let me know what you think.