SMALL STEPS TO CHANGE THE WORLD WITH OUR FRIEND ROGER NEFKENS
SMALL STEPS TO CHANGE THE WORLD WITH OUR FRIEND ROGER, FOUNDER OF THE BAMBOO BRUSH SOCIETY
At Max Brown, we believe in providing you the basics at their best. Amsterdam native Roger Nefkens has the same belief. He started The Bamboo Brush Society, a company that makes biodegradable bamboo toothbrushes, with the goal of doing something about the incredibly polluting plastic toothbrush industry. To him, he doesn’t just make bamboo toothbrushes, he makes a product that represents a first small step toward positive change. Roger shares his story and tells us more small steps we all can take every day to make the world a better place. And if you find yourself at a Max Brown hotel, pick up our special Max Brown x Bamboo Brush Society bamboo toothbrush.
The Max Brown x Bamboo Brush Society Bamboo Toothbrush
What inspired you to start The Bamboo Brush Society?
It all started after I quit working for the surf brand O’Neill—I wanted to do something different, but I didn’t know what. I went traveling through Southeast Asia for four months. In Java, Indonesia, I met this guy and asked him where the best place was to go. Without blinking, he said Karimunjava. To get there is quite a trip; it took [me and my girlfriend] about a week. Once we got there, it was paradise, with beautiful, crystal, pristine water and white, sandy beaches. The next day, we went with some other backpackers to hop to different island where nobody lived and there was plastic everywhere—toothbrushes, flip flops, bags, water bottles, everything. We started to clean up a little bit, and my mind started to go, This should be different. These are products that I see every day or that I use every day myself. So, I started researching.
Toothbrushes can actually be quite polluting. Since they’re made from all different kinds of plastics, they’re not recyclable or very hard to recycle—they usually get burned or end up in a landfill or in the ocean. Bamboo is a great alternative to plastic. It grows very fast, it’s sustainable as soon as you cut it—new roots will start somewhere else without someone having to plant anything—it only needs rain water and you can make beautiful products from it.
Roger during his interview at Amsterdam’s Max Brown Museum Square.
How is Bamboo Brush Society changing the world?
One toothbrush at a time. [Laughs.] First, five-billion toothbrushes are produced each year, so if we can already replace a portion of that with bamboo toothbrushes, that will already save a lot of CO2 and plastics. Second, we hope that when someone starts using a bamboo toothbrush, they will also start to replace all sorts of products in his life. Lots of people say “It’s just a toothbrush. People use so many different plastics in their lives.” But for me, when somebody switches to a bamboo toothbrush, their mindset starts to change.
How do you inspire change?
One of our company values is that we’re dealing with a serious problem but we want to have fun along the way. I know I just sounded like, “You have to do this, this and this”, but you need to have fun. If we can change the minds of people who are not very eco-conscious with some humour and by not being too preachy, we’ll really start to make an impact, because it’s time that not just a small group of people are living zero-waste, but everyone starts doing there part.
‘DO I ALWAYS NEED TO
BUY SOMETHING NEW?’”
Other than our toothbrushes, what are little steps we can all take to change the world?
Every day, you decide where to spend your money: your groceries, your clothing, your banking, everything. If you start rethinking these decisions a little bit more, that makes a difference. For example, you can decide to not always go to the convenient supermarket and instead go to your friendly small grocer on the corner who has everything without plastics and probably at a higher quality. There are so many cool companies out there who really have a story to tell. Also, ask yourself: “Do I always need to buy something new?” There are so many nice secondhand things. Also, bring your own water bottle and bring your own coffee cup. Sometimes people think they really have to do everything right, but if you start with small steps, you’re already making a big change.
Is there one big positive sustainability-related change you’ve noticed?
One big change would be water bottles. Two years ago, when you went to a café and asked for a refill on your water bottle, it wasn’t really done. You had to buy a bottle. And now it’s normal.
Is there one resource you’d recommend to learn more about this subject?
In Holland, ASN Bank has a platform called Voor de Wereld van Morgen. They support all the small emerging brands and give them a platform. They provide so many tips, from shampoo to toothbrushes.
What does the future hold for Bamboo Brush Society?
Making more impact and growing the society more. We’re soon introducing a family pack with a couple of different colours. We also want to extend our collaboration with Max Brown and think about more customizations for your hotels.
I also have a new toothpaste tablet company that’s complementary to Bamboo Brush Society. I always wanted to add toothpaste but there was always an issue with plastics and microplastics. I started doing all sorts of research and I found you could make toothpaste tablets without many ingredients. The company is called Smyle and it goes live next month.
You can find the Max Brown x Bamboo Brush Society Toothbrush for sale at all Max Brown hotels, located in Amsterdam, Berlin, Düsseldorf and Vienna.