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Nelson Naturals, The Original Zero Waste Toothpaste Company

Dana DiPonio and Kevin Hagell of Nelson Naturals on display with their products. — Submitted photo

Since the 1950s, the production of plastic has outpaced that of almost every other material, and much of the plastics we produce are designed to be thrown away after only being used once.

As a result, plastic packaging accounts for about half of the plastic waste in the world, and considering there are country-sized islands of plastics floating around the world’s oceans, it’s a startling picture knowing that only 10% of plastic used in Canada gets recycled, and while the trends in the zero-waste lifestyle continue to grow, global plastic production is also projected to skyrocket over the next 10 to 15 years.

To that point, it’s well known that this crisis is fuelling a dire straights situation globally, and the need for more companies and retailers to rethink how consumers handle and identify how their products fit into changing attitudes and lifestyles is today’s conversation.

From the food we eat, to what we spend our money on, from the way we move around, to the dreams and aspirations we all have for a better future – there is a suite of actions we can take to support the shifts needed to achieve sustainable development goals.

This is a story of how one small Canadian company in Nelson, British Columbia is combating the global plastic crisis by reinforcing a simple solution, that 400 million plastic toothpaste tubes can be replaced by 1 glass jar. 

Since the first toothpaste tube was invented in 1886 consumers haven’t seen much change and innovation to how they dispense that pearly white paste onto their brush. Now imagine ditching your common plastic tube and choosing to have your toothpaste delivered in a jar?

Everyone loves the feeling of clean teeth, yet we don’t always consider the environment when brushing. Consumers are now realizing that every choice we make, and what products we purchase will have a direct impact on the planet. Over the course of our lifetime, the average person will use anywhere from 200-500 tubes of toothpaste. When you times that by the population of a country…you can see where we are going with this.

It is estimated that every year, 400 million tubes of toothpaste are thrown into landfills in the United States alone. On a global scale that number rises to 1.5 billion. 

Nelson Naturals is truly disrupting the industry and helping to reduce global plastic waste at the same time. The Original Zero Waste Toothpaste company makes all-natural toothpaste and toothpaste tablets dispensed in refillable glass jars called Crush & Brush, and as such, are helping consumers reduce their plastic waste 1 tube at a time. 

The products are very versatile and earth-friendly, and their innovative toothpaste tablets are an inventive way to rethink how we experience brushing our teeth entirely. They are travel-friendly, fun, fizzy and foamy, with zero mess and no fuss. The tablets are incredibly refreshing, effervescent and designed to be perfectly portioned, meaning one tablet = one brushing. 

In this edition of The Daily Dose, Editor Jeff Sawyer speaks with Kevin Hagell and Dana DiPonio, co-founders of Nelson Naturals to explore their journey from a small table at the Nelson farmers market to being sold by over 5000 stores around the world.

Nelson Naturals has always been ahead of the zero-waste movement. Take me through the development of how Nelson Naturals started, where did it all begin? 

We started Nelson Naturals in 2012 at the Cottonwood Farmers Market here in Nelson BC, and this April will be our 8th year in business. Back in those days zero-waste wasn’t even a thing, but we knew we wanted to have a product that was more effective than other natural toothpastes and wouldn’t contribute to plastic waste. 

In the beginning, it was actually very hard to sell toothpaste in a jar because very few people “got it”. Now our plastic-free packaging is the main reason people seek out our products. 

For a small company how do you see Nelson Naturals competing with larger brands that are catering to the growing demand for products and services with a zero-waste philosophy?

While many of the large brand name companies attempt to reinvent the plastic toothpaste tube, Nelson Naturals is ahead of the game with packaging that has a truly circular lifespan. 

Not only does the toothpaste come in a plastic-free jar, but they are also offered in bulk for refills. Once the jar is emptied it can be taken back to the store for a refill for years to come, or the lifespan of the jar itself.

What best practices does Nelson Naturals incorporate into your manufacturing and production methods that actively reduce waste consumption?

We have end to end waste reduction measures implemented throughout our manufacturing process and all of our shipping and packing materials are paper-based, 100% plastic-free, and repurposed whenever possible. 

From your perspective, what are some everyday lifestyle changes that anyone can do to help zero-waste become a household principle?

Start small, some of the easiest ways to head towards a plastic-free lifestyle can be found at your local grocery store in the form of bulk goods and plastic-free produce. 

The beauty of an open market is that it gives products both good and bad an equal opportunity to compete and puts all the power in the hands of the consumers.

By voting with your dollars you can tell companies what you want more of, and the stuff you don't want will just disappear.

This is very evident with the rapid vanishing of single use plastics, and how now even big companies are innovating to be more-eco-friendly.

Who have been your greatest influences for waste reduction?

Probably our Grandmothers; they are the original zero-wasters. They grew up in an era where they had nothing like the abundance we have today. Many people probably remember “The Junk Drawer” at grandma's house where they saved every bread bag, glass jar and rubber band that they ever purchased. They were the Queens of repurposing and not letting things go to the landfill.

They never let food go to waste, they mended all our clothes, and you’d be hard pressed to find a single use anything in their homes.

They also helped to in still in us the idea that it wasn’t about how new or shiny the things you owned were, but about being grateful for all you had. They truly embraced the zero-waste principle in every way.

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Fresh off the exciting news of a nomination for the NEXTY Awards at the upcoming Natural Products Expo West being held in Anaheim, California, which recognizes the most progressive, innovative, inspiring and trustworthy products in the natural products industry. Nelson’s very own Nelson Naturals will be polishing up their game with new reach and unprecedented exposure by achieving unique recognition in their class.

The NEXTY Awards are the pinnacle recognition of excellence in the natural products industry and are awarded to one stand out product in each of the 22 different categories.

Nelson Naturals products are available in almost every city and town in Canada, and are quickly popping up all over the United States and Australia. Locally you can find Nelson Naturals and Crush & Brush at the Kootenay Co-op, Save-on Foods, Ellison’s, Remedy Rx, Pharmasave and Gia Rising.

Think outside the tube and contribute to a better planet!

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