• Julie Rhodes

My Toothbrush Moment

Updated: Jun 24

Many people who have made a personal commitment to become more eco-friendly often have a moment where something clicks. An aha moment - a sudden realization or understanding that makes it personal. Urgent. I have had such a moment. It has to do with toothbrushes. Two hundred and twenty eight of them.


One summer afternoon I was reading about waste reduction strategies. I read something that really stuck with me - every plastic toothbrush that each of us has ever used is still on the earth somewhere. Unless it's been incinerated, it's still on the planet because plastic will not disintegrate in our lifetime.

I was 57 years old at the time of this realization. Coming up with an average of four toothbrushes per yer, I arrived at 228 toothbrushes of mine that are somewhere on the earth. Most are likely in a landfill, buried beneath tons of other trash (and toothbrushes). Others may be floating in the ocean. But all are out there. All 228 of them. And if I take that number and multiply it times the members of my family or the number of my coworkers or the residents of my city, or the US population, we find ourselves in the billions. Billions of toothbrushes in trash heaps across the country.


I was overwhelmed by the thought. Just thinking of the sheer volume of toothbrushes was mind-blowing. It occurred to me, however, that I could make a change immediately. And I did. No more plastic toothbrushes for me. I bought a bamboo toothbrush. And while the bristles are not biodegradable, the handle sure was and into the compost bin it went once I had used it for awhile. I felt like a winner.


Now, I am completely aware that many would think this was a teeny tiny drop in a giant-sized bucket. But to me, it was much bigger. It was an awakening. A realization that my trash footprint could be as big or as small as I chose. I control that. My toothbrush moment was empowering and liberating.


A final thought: My wish for each of you is that you have a moment like mine. A realization that you can make a difference and feel a sense of obligation to do so. Let's move forward together.

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Image by Krzysztof  Niewolny

Action Challenge: Pick something you can do right now to save the world. Make a donation, use a resusable cup, say no to a straw. It's up to you!

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