Leading the miswak revolution

Miswak

What revolution would I lead?

When I try to answer this question lately an image and a new word in my vocabulary keep coming up. So I have decided to start the blog with this question and this topic.

Here is the image and the word:

image

MISWAK

Have you ever seen it before? What is it, you may ask? This is a miswak. It is also known as a chewing stick and twig toothbrush among other names. It is basically a twig for cleaning teeth.

It is mainly used in parts of Africa and Asia as well as used by Muslim practitioners. Apparently, it has been around for at least 5000 years.

For years, I have been looking for alternatives to plastic with varying degrees of success. Toothbrushes eluded me for a while.

First, I found a toothbrush made out of bamboo invented by an Australian dentist. I bought one. When I went to buy the next one, I couldn’t find one; my local health food store didn’t sell them anymore.

Then, I heard of people brushing their teeth with a stick. But it still eluded me. Finally, one day I did a search on the Internet and I came across a Wikipedia entry. I also saw a couple of videos in YouTube about how to use it.

The next step was to find a shop that would stock it. I found a British shop online that would deliver to Ireland. I placed an order big enough to last me for a while. The downside for me is that each stick is individually wrapped in plastic. Still, I was thrilled when I got them in the post.

The most ecological alternative would be to grow the tree yourself and take a twig every time you need a stick. According to Wikipedia, some trees are better than others because of their antimicrobial properties.

What are the advantages?

  • Convenience: I can bring it anywhere and I can brush away. I don’t need much water or any toothpaste. I can make more than one toothbrush out of one twig, smaller ones for travelling or for my child.
  • Cheap: around €2 per stick, it seems to last an eternity. You are also saving on toothbrushes and toothpaste.
  • Space saver: if I go travelling it reduces the number of items needed.
  • Whitens teeth: I also noticed my teeth got whiter.
  • No waste: When you finish with your toothbrush you literally finish your toothbrush so you can rest in the satisfaction of creating zero waste. NO WASTE. Think about that for a moment.

Why change from a plastic toothbrush to a more natural alternative, would you ask? Why would you go to all this trouble? Let’s face it, we are all busy, busy, busy with our lives and who has the time and the energy to do all this research when you can just simply go to any shop and buy a plastic toothbrush. Plastic is widely available.

For me it’s a no brainer. As far as I know, toothbrushes are not being recycled.

So where do they go? The obvious answer is landfill. Dentists recommendations on changing your toothbrush varies, ranging from at the very least twice a year, every three months or throwing the toothbrush when the bristles are not even any more.

Every 3 months??? That’s 4 toothbrushes in a year per person. The average life expectancy in 2014 for Europe and United States was nearly 80 years old. 4 toothbrushes a year by 80 gives us a total of 320 toothbrushes in a person’s lifetime. If we multiply that figure by the western world’s population or the world’s population ( currently estimated over 7 billion) we get an astronomical figure in the billions just in toothbrushes that end up in landfill.

To make things worse, plastic doesn’t degrade so it will take toothbrushes hundreds, if not thousands of years to disappear.

I remember a few years ago I was watching a documentary on  TV about somebody walking along some beaches (in Hawaii, could have been?) and looking at what type of rubbish was coming ashore from … where? Toothbrushes were one of the main items in the pile of rubbish. I love going to the beach and that documentary had an impact on me.

It posed a major question: where does my rubbish, your rubbish end up?

This documentary made it clear. Part of it ends up here, in our beaches, it goes somewhere.  We are all connected. Plastic doesn’t evaporate, it doesn’t dissolve, it stays with us for thousands of years, so unless you are planning to use it for that length of time and leave it to your children as part of their inheritance, I would not use it. My new habit is STOP BUYING MORE PLASTIC. If it’s not good for the planet, it’s not good for us either.

Next time you brush your teeth think about how you could help planet Earth and yourself. Think about how you can buy a wooden stick and make a small change and, if we all do this, it would be a huge step towards a ZERO WASTE SOCIETY. Imagine this: no more toothbrushes in landfill. We can do it. We have the power. We are doing it. Plus you will feel empowered and in control of your life, a little bit happier and certainly healthier.

If this article has been of any use to you, if it has inspired you in any way, please let me know in the comments below. Or if you have any answers to the questions in the article or more related information about it, if you are already using a chewing stick or if you have never heard of it before please participate in the comments below. Or if you are selling this product and would like to make life easy for people and would like to be featured, please make a comment.

Thanks for reading.

 

8 Comments

  1. Yeser on March 12, 2015 at 7:58 pm

    Amazing article, I really enjoyed it. It was informative and well written, it was eye-opening about the unrecyclable plastic.

    I live in Syria in my deceased grandfather’s house and this waysak has always been there next to my toothbrush but I had no idea what it was and when I saw the pic you posted it grabbed my attention and now I’m glad I read your article. Good luck. I’ll try the waysak.

    • Amor on March 12, 2015 at 8:10 pm

      Thanks for telling me your story, Yeser. I find it amazing. As a newbie, battling with self doubt and time, I got great encouragement from your comment. This is exactly what I wanted to achieve: spreading ideas people don’t know about. Here it’s an idea: go out there and tell people about Miswak. Spread the word. Be part of the revolution.

  2. Keira on March 12, 2015 at 9:32 pm

    Hi Amor – I also read your post with great interest! An alternate to a plastic toothbrush, I have to say (guiltily), has never crossed my mind before. Thank you for sharing and I take great inspiration from the lengths you went to to life according to your values.

    • Amor on March 12, 2015 at 10:42 pm

      Thanks Keira, if you live in England I have read somewhere you can get them in some market with no packaging, just a rubber band around a bunch of them. Talk about it with people, spread the word.

  3. sisil on May 7, 2015 at 12:15 am

    Very informative and eye opening.

    I thought of the same about pens and ballpoints too. They vary extensively (from cheap ones to expensive ones), have parts from plastic, and seems like difficult to recycle. What I do is I try to use it until its last drop of ink, extending its lifetime, so it doesn’t go to the trash prematurely. The logic behind this is by using each pen to its maximum capacity, I will use less pens over time. And I’ve only succeeded a couple of times. More often I lost the pen before it reaches the end. Now I’m more mindful of my pens bordering to possessive LOL.

    • Amor on May 7, 2015 at 9:07 am

      I know. Pens is another of those things. My feelings is it shouldn’t be this hard to have a life where plastic doesn’t exist. It’s everywhere. What I do with pens I try is to have a pen I really love and use refills. I have also seen wooden pens by a crafter.
      I’m trying to get rid of plastic as a goal but I’m not obsessive about it. There is no point. We are doing our best.
      I’ll publish future posts on this subject.
      Thanks so much for your input.

  4. Chandra Sivaraman on May 7, 2015 at 10:55 pm

    Very thought-provoking article. Such a simple step we can all take to reduce trash. Anything that generates less non-biodegradeable waste is in general better for the planet and by extension for us and future generations.

    I love your use of miswak as a symbol of how easily we can contribute to a healthier planet. I also admire your skeptical nature and how you are always questioning what we take for granted. That is one quality we all need to develop if we are to swim against the rising tide of consumerism.

    As an aside, there is a toothpaste brand in India called Meswak that uses the same herb, but sadly comes in plastic tubes.

  5. Amor on May 7, 2015 at 11:06 pm

    Thank you for your kind words.

    I have been using it since the end of last year and my teeth are whiter. The first time I used it, I was surprised at how clean they felt. I don’t use toothpaste. I floss ( I haven’t found an alternative to that yet) and rinse with water. Some people make homemade toothpaste. Before that I used a fluoride free toothpaste. And before that I used to use normal toothpaste. It is a process.

    It takes time. My aim is to share what I know so that other people don’t waste as much time.

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