Community//

How You and Your Toothbrush Can Help Fight Climate Change

Colgate is working to preserve our environment by making sustainability a household habit

The Thrive Global Community welcomes voices from many spheres on our open platform. We publish pieces as written by outside contributors with a wide range of opinions, which don’t necessarily reflect our own. Community stories are not commissioned by our editorial team and must meet our guidelines prior to being published.

One of the results of the lock downs and remote work that accompanied the COVID-19 pandemic was that it sidelined cars and buses and their tailpipes. For many of us — most anywhere in the world — the result was notably crisper air and more stars in the night sky than we’ve seen since childhood.

We’re accustomed to the disturbing facts surrounding climate change. The hottest five years ever to be recorded have occurred since 2015, and the United Nations (U.N.) predicts that global temperatures will rise by as much as 3.2° C (38° F) by the year 2100, with catastrophic impacts like food shortages and scarcity of fresh water.

But it’s the stars that emerged amid the pandemic slowdown that reminded us of the power we have to change course. 

Colgate-Palmolive is proud of our achievements in sustainability. We have established ambitious 2025 sustainability goals targeting net zero carbon emissions in our operations by 2040 and aiming for 100% renewable electricity by 2030. We’ve been at it for years. We recently received a 2021 ENERGY STAR® Partner of the Year Award for Sustained Excellence, marking the 11th consecutive year we’ve been recognized by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and the U.S. Department of Energy as an authority in energy-saving practices. 

We have a goal to reduce the carbon footprint of our operations. But our biggest opportunity to make a difference is shared with the people who choose our products. We have a responsibility to offer products that help people live more sustainably at home.  Just as the behaviors we adopted during the COVID-19 pandemic had the effect of reducing air pollution, making sustainability a household habit can help save the planet. 

The link between water and greenhouse gases

As a company, Colgate has the goal of achieving Net Zero water at our manufacturing sites in water stressed areas by 2025, and all areas by 2030. But the far bigger impact we can have is through our “Save Water” campaign reminding people to  turn off the faucet while brushing their teeth. Since our “Save Water”  campaign started in 2016, this simple message has helped to save an estimated total of 155 billion gallons of water worldwide. 

Saving water is in and of itself an important goal, especially in water-scarce regions. But many people don’t realize that using less water at home also translates to reduced energy use. Most of us obtain our water from municipal sources that rely on an energy-depleting infrastructure to collect, treat, process and then pump the water to our homes. We then use more energy every time we heat that water and again when we treat it after use. 

As a result of consumers seeing Colgate’s water conservation campaign and changing their habits accordingly, we estimate that the equivalent of 8.3 million metric tons of greenhouse gases have been prevented from entering our atmosphere. That’s equal to the amount of carbon emissions produced by driving 1.8 million passenger vehicles for a year. 

Lowering emissions by reducing plastic

When consumers think about plastics, they often focus on containers languishing in landfills. But plastic consumption is also closely connected to carbon emissions. Plastics are produced with oil, gas, and coal, and as these fossil fuels are extracted from our environment, an estimated 12.5 to 13.5 million metric tons of carbon dioxide equivalent are emitted per year in the United States alone. Globally, the problem is even greater.

At Colgate, we’re always searching for new ways to reduce our reliance on plastics and subsequently reduce our carbon footprint. The company is striving to achieve net zero carbon in our operations by 2040. But we can have a far bigger impact by making it easier for people to choose products that use less plastic and have packaging that is recyclable, reusable or compostable. 

While much of our product packaging has long been recyclable, figuring out how to make toothpaste tubes recyclable posed a challenge because they’re traditionally made with a mix of materials, including a layer of aluminum. After many years of research and testing, we were thrilled to unveil our first-of-its-kind recyclable toothpaste tubes in 2020 under the Colgate brand. By 2025, we aim to have all our tubes recyclable. To speed an industry-wide transition to recyclable tubes, we’re sharing our technology with third parties, including competitors and tube makers, to help make all tubes part of the circular economy.

We’ve also recently introduced Colgate Keep, a manual toothbrush with an aluminum handle and replaceable heads. People who switch to Colgate Keep cut down plastic waste since the toothbrush has  80% less plastic compared to our similarly-sized toothbrush.

Most recently, we’ve re-launched Palmolive Ultra dish soap; this familiar product is now being sold in bottles that are made from 100% post-consumer recycled plastic [1], which will help keep more than 5,200 tons of plastic out of landfills in North America every year [2]. Choosing products like Colgate Keep and Palmolive Ultra is such a simple yet effective way for consumers to lower their carbon footprint while still utilizing the products they’ve long trusted.

Powerful partners

Without question, there is more to do. To achieve the impact and scale we all want, we must work together, leveraging an entire ecosystem, inside and outside the company. We’re focused on how we design products, what happens to the product and packaging after use, and everything in between. So, to help us reimagine a healthier future for all people, their pets and our planet, we are building key partnerships around the world with various stakeholders. These are just a few of the many partnerships we’ve formed in recent years that are helping us to engage and collaborate on sustainability with our suppliers, customers, nonprofits, and other industry leaders. 

Project Gigaton: Colgate has signed onto this Walmart initiative, which is aimed at having Walmart and its suppliers avoid one gigaton (one billion metric tons) of carbon dioxide emissions by 2030.

The Climate Pledge: Co-sponsored by Amazon and a non-governmental organization called Global Optimism, this pledge commits Colgate to reaching Net Zero carbon emissions by 2040. 

New Plastics Economy Global Commitment: We have joined forces with other global companies in support of this project run by the Ellen MacArthur Foundation in conjunction with the UN Environment Programme. Our common goal: to eliminate all unnecessary plastic and keep innovating to ensure that all the plastics we use are reusable, recyclable, or compostable.

Country level Plastic Pacts: We participate in a number of country/regional level Plastic Pacts around the world as they emerge, including the US, Canada, the EU, Australia and New Zealand, and others.

These are just a few of the many partnerships we’ve formed in recent years that are helping us to engage and collaborate on sustainability with our suppliers, customers, nonprofits, and other industry leaders. With the Colgate brand in more homes than any other, we understand our  responsibility to make sustainability an easy part of people’s everyday lives. We commit to create products and brands that offer people choices that are better for the planet and give us all a reason to smile.

###

Footnotes

 [1] 46oz and under in the U.S. and 20oz in Canada

 [2] Based on estimated US and Canada 2021 volumes for Palmolive Ultra 100% PCR PET bottles (excludes 30oz)

    Share your comments below. Please read our commenting guidelines before posting. If you have a concern about a comment, report it here.

    You might also like...

    Community//

    “Enlighten and inspire for better living.”With Penny Bauder & James Tu

    by Penny Bauder, Founder of Green Kid Crafts
    Community//

    Matt Rees of the Climate Solutions Podcast: “Lead by example by making positive lifestyle changes”

    by Penny Bauder, Founder of Green Kid Crafts
    Community//

    Livia van Heerde of Climate Nights: “Confidence, confidence, confidence”

    by Penny Bauder, Founder of Green Kid Crafts
    We use cookies on our site to give you the best experience possible. By continuing to browse the site, you agree to this use. For more information on how we use cookies, see our Privacy Policy.