Move over plastics! Have you heard about the Irish company that’s disrupting the toothbrush industry with its very own, sustainable, bamboo product-line?
VirtueBrush took part in this year’s #VOOM Impact Award competition – showcasing their range of high quality, sustainable bamboo toothbrushes. We recently caught up with founder and “ecopreneur”, Dylan Regan, to see how he and his business have been getting on since the #VOOM Impact Award.
What’s the story behind the VirtueBrush?
I am a person who has been interested in sustainability for a long time and felt frustrated with the level of plastic in my life. I think a lot of people are feeling that frustration these days. They see there is a serious environmental problem with plastic and have very few good alternatives to choose from to help them escape from it. The toothbrush is a good example as it is something you use every day for your whole life. You replace it five or six times a year and yet every toothbrush you ever used is probably in a landfill somewhere or floating on top of the world’s oceans.
So I decided a toothbrush with plant based materials would be a good product to bring to the UK and Irish market, as I couldn’t find one in shops myself. After a lot of research I found that bamboo would be the best material to use because of its amazing material and environmental virtues, like being naturally antibacterial and incredibly strong and fast growing.
How was the experience of taking part in this year’s Virgin Media #VOOM IMPACT Award?
The VOOM 2016 competition gave us the motivation to jump into marketing the VirtueBrush as there was a clear fit with where we want to go with our business and the IMPACT category of the competition. This is for businesses that put social and environmental impact, as well as profit, at the heart of their business. The response was fantastic. We did very well in the voting and also received orders during our successful Crowdfunding campaign from people in Ireland, England, France, Spain, Germany and as far away as San Francisco, Canada and Australia.
All in all, VOOM encouraged us to get out there and start speaking with customers, partners and the media
We have delivered over 350 VirtueBrush toothbrushes to our new customers and are now looking forward to organising our launch party, date to be confirmed. All in all, VOOM encouraged us to get out there and start speaking with customers, partners and the media, which has proven already to be a very good thing. We were delighted to be chosen as Semi-Finalists for the IMPACT Category of this prestigious business competition. Over 2,500 businesses entered the award from across the UK and Ireland. It was a great achievement and honour to make it into the top 10.
How is the VirtueBrush making a positive impact on the planet?
As a brand and a company we want to be part of the solution for creating a sustainable future. There are a number of areas in which we think we will be able to make a positive impact to create a virtuous circle for those who choose the VirtueBrush. The first is reforestation. We intend to plant three trees per toothbrush sold. This may not seem a lot, but as Depeche Mode say, “everything counts in large amounts”. Five thousand toothbrushes being sold for example would result in 15,000 trees being planted around the equator where they are most needed and most productive. We are setting ourselves a target of planting 100,000 trees by 2020 as part of this initiative, and one million trees by 2025.
We intend to plant three trees per toothbrush sold
A tree can sequester 48 pounds of CO2 per year from the atmosphere so one million trees would sequester 211,772 tonnes of CO2 per year while also supporting jobs in the local communities where the reforestation is happening. On average, one tree produces nearly 260 pounds of oxygen each year. Two mature trees can provide enough oxygen for a family of four. Of course there are numerous other benefits that trees and forests provide, including seeding clouds and helping to regulate the climate.
Secondly, the fact that the VirtueBrush toothbrush is made with a 100 per cent bamboo handle means that harmful and hard to recycle plastic toothbrushes are taken out of circulation. The Moso Bamboo we use has matured for at least five years and is ready to be harvested at that time. The bamboo plant is unique in that it will grow back quickly unlike a regular tree, up to four feet in a day. It’s actually a type of grass that has natural antibacterial qualities, dries out quickly and has a tensile strength greater than steel. Bamboo has over 1,000 documented uses and it’s high time we started using it more and more to replace disposable plastic products like toothbrushes and that’s a big part of why we have created this business.
Thirdly, we will be using our marketing communications to promote sustainable living and we think the toothbrush is a good product to use for this as it’s something we all use every day in a personal way. We have joined the PlasticPollutionCollation.org and plan on helping with advocacy for helping to stop the production of unnecessary disposable plastics at source so these products never end up in landfill or our oceans, creating damage in particular to the ocean food web. If that wasn’t enough we will also be moving toward getting FairTrade certification and have already started working on broadening our range of plant based oral health products with added Virtue. The VirtueBrush is currently stocked in a number of grocery retailers, pharmacies and hotels. It’s also available to buy directly on Virtuebrush.com.