VOLVERde Meets PANGA
We know that the bathroom is one of the biggest culprits of plastic waste, so we spent a lot of time trying to find high-quality, practical, sustainable alternatives.
Consider this: a billion plastic toothbrushes are tossed out each year in the US alone!
For centuries before the invention of the plastic toothbrush, our ancestors were brushing their teeth with natural materials. Ancient civilizations used "chew sticks", which were thin twigs with a frayed end, and rubbed them against teeth for cleaning. The first plastic toothbrush was first invented in 1938 by the Dupont Company.
Since plastic is not biodegradable, every toothbrush ever created is still in existence today (probably in a landfill or polluting our oceans)!
What inspired you to start PANGA?
I was inspired to start Panga after working in the dental industry as a Dental Hygienist for many years. Seeing first hand the amount of single use plastic that's discarded, or given out on a daily basis really opened my eyes. My patient's began asking me where they could find sustainable alternatives to the plastic toothbrush, floss, and other dental aids. As I looked at what was on the market- a lot of products didn't make sense to me. Toothbrushes with hard bristles, and the whole charcoal fad- which can really cause damage to one's enamel and gum tissue. I then started to research what products and materials made sense in effectiveness, and sustainability.
PANGA’s Sustainable Bamboo Toothbrush is perfect for everyday use or for traveling! Made with BPA-free, soft bristles. These toothbrushes are effective and significantly reduce plastic in our daily routines. Plus, they look beautiful and stand on their own.
How do you identify? What's your background?
I identify as Latina, and my family has a wild history of how they made it to the US, maybe too long for this bit- but here's the high level overview: My father and his family immigrated from Argentina to Los Angeles in the 1970's. They fled a collapsing economy in search of more opportunities here in the states. It took my dad more than 10 years to gain citizenship. My grandmother on my mother's side is from Puerto Rico, and moved to Los Angeles in the 1960's. She moved with her only son, not knowing how to drive or speak English and wound up learning how to drive stick shift in Los Angeles traffic! I can't even imagine. Both of my abuelas were impeccable seamstresses. They found jobs in these industries, one in alterations, and the other sewing braziers in a factory.
What's a sustainability tradition you learned from your abuelita?
Oh, so many come to mind! Both of my abuelas (and my mama!) were huge on upcycling, reusing, and sustainability. This was of course rooted in their upbringing of not having the means to waste ANYTHING. You need a lunch pale? You're re-using the grocery bag until it breaks. You need a tupperware? You're re-using the cookie tin, or the sour cream tub. It was always this way, and a sure surprise to what you'd find in these containers, ha! As they were both seamstresses, there was no such thing as fast fashion. They would make their own clothes, alter ones that didn't quite fit right, or mend pieces that were worn out.
How has being a Latina affected your journey as an entrepreneur?
I've been proud to be part of the representation in this field, both in dentistry & entrepreneurs in a dental related space. From what I've observed in this journey is a lot of sheer confidence from fellow entrepreneurs (that are mostly white males). As I have found my voice, my footing in the space, the confidence follows- but I always have this intrigue, almost awe for people who can just step in and own it. I am one who takes time to assess everything, and if it's not authentic, it's not for me.
How do you decide which products to make and how to develop them?
I really base this off of my experience as a Dental Hygienist. Taking every day, familiar dental products- and seeing how we can make them not only effective and safe for your oral health, but that will also be kind to our earth once it's discarded- whether it be recyclable, compostable, or biodegradable.
What's next for PANGA? What are you most excited about?
We are rolling out into more dental offices and stores throughout the country. At your next dental appointment, ask your dental professionals if they are open to making a sustainable switch if they haven't already! I am excited that there are waves of people talking about making small changes in their everyday life to make a bigger impact. I am excited that BIPOC entrepreneurs are gaining access to resources to thrive and represent in the sustainable space.