ECU alumna is taking a Bite out of big toothpaste brands
By ECU News Services
Sunday, May 12, 2019
In 2016, Lindsay McCormick started an experiment in sustainability, resolving to make an alternative toothpaste that didn’t involve throwing away little plastic tubes every month.
McCormick, who graduated from East Carolina University in 2007 with a degree in communication, was traveling frequently as a producer for HGTV shows House Hunters and House Hunters Renovation. Being an eco-conscious person, the amount of travel-sized toothpastes she went through unsettled her, especially when she learned that more than one billion toothpaste tubes end up in landfills every year.
“I really try to make sustainable choices,” she said. For starters, her final communications project as an ECU senior was on deforestation. She eschews plastic bottles and even bought a sprinter van to turn into a mobile tiny home with solar panels.
“I started to search for a sustainable alternative, and that’s when I learned about all the questionable ingredients that are in commercial toothpaste. I didn’t want those ingredients in my body, but I couldn’t find a brand that was plastic-free and used ingredients I could trust. So, I decided to make my own,” McCormick said.
Two questions — why does toothpaste come in plastic tubes and what exactly are we putting in our bodies when we brush our teeth? — inspired McCormick to create Bite Toothpaste Bits, a plastic-free alternative to regular toothpaste.
Instead of a plastic tube, Bite is a glass bottle filled with chewable tablets that foam up once you start brushing. Each tablet has less than 10 ingredients (all listed on Bite’s website ). Most customers purchase a four-month subscription box of tablets, but individual bottles also are sold online, McCormick said. The first shipment comes in the glass jar and following shipments come in recyclable refill packets.
At the start of Bite, McCormick took open-source chemistry classes online to teach herself about how toothpaste ingredients work together. She also looked up toothpaste patents and talked to dentists for their opinions.
Then she bought a tableting machine and began churning out Bite tablets in her living room in Los Angeles. Now, after being featured in media outlets such as Women’s Health, Cosmopolitan and Business Insider, Bite operates out of a fully FDA-approved manufacturing facility to keep up with demand. Since August 2018, Bite has sold more than 12 million tablets, McCormick said.
Last year, she and co-founder Asher Hunt, her boyfriend of five years, quit their jobs to operate Bite full time. They’re working on building a team of employees to help grow the company.
The best part about starting her own company is hearing about or seeing strangers use her product, McCormick said. That, and making a difference in the world. One toothpaste tube at a time.
Alumna honored for early career achievement
Catherine Parker received the inaugural Public Health Early Career Alumni Achievement Award during the College of Health and Human Performance’s National Public Health Week event last month.
Just six months after starting her professional career with the Roanoke Chowan Community Health Center, Parker took on leadership of its school-based health program, working with the public school system in Hertford County.
“I’ve always been passionate about making wellness fun and that radiated — my supervisors saw that I’d be good match to work with youth. And I am. I love it. It’s been super rewarding and exciting,” she said.
“I grew up in Hertford County. In high school, my health classes were focused more on sports than on health. It left me wanting a lot more. Youth deserve — they have a right — to know how to take care of themselves. I have a strong passion for youth wellness and empowerment. Our work covers a broad range, from teaching prekindergarten students how to brush their teeth to teaching high school students how to use a condom. We try to customize based on what school nurses are seeing as issues with their students.”
Among the initiatives that Parker has supported as director of the center are the Farm-to-School-to-Healthcare project that established school gardens; student-led farmers markets that provide vouchers for access to free fruits and vegetables; and a literacy initiative within the clinic.
“I had amazing preparation at ECU,” said Parker, who earned her bachelor’s degree in 2010 and her master’s in 2012. “Faculty and staff in the health education and promotion department were incredible. The program fit exactly what I wanted to do and gave me room for creative freedom. I was fortunate to work with student health and campus wellness, where I was able to put what I learned in class into action right away.”
She was named a Bernstein Community Health Leadership Fellow in 2017 and selected for the Rural Economic Development Institute in 2018. She’s also involved with numerous professional and community organizations, including as a board member for the North Carolina School-Based Health Alliance and a member of the Town of Murfreesboro Parks and Recreation Advisory Committee.
In their nomination materials, Parker’s colleagues wrote that “Catherine’s love and passion for rural health, youth health and community health is evident in all her work. She is extremely committed to the community that raised her. She has led this center and staff to new heights of success that exceed all expectations.”
Alumni Road Race raises $5,400 for student scholarships
A little rain didn’t stop 263 runners from turning out for the 12th annual ECU Alumni Road Race and Fun Run in April. The event raised $5,400 for student scholarships, according to the ECU Alumni Association.
Mary Palamatary ’06 won the women’s overall category and said running through campus was the best part of the race. This year’s start and finish was changed to 1st and Reade streets due to construction in downtown Greenville, but the course still wound through the Student Plaza, Wright Circle and around the iconic cupola.
Economics assistant professor Vera Tabakova and maritime studies professor Brad Rodgers run the alumni road race almost every year.
“It’s a nice local run, very scenic,” Rodgers said.
“And it supports a good cause,” Tabakova said.
The alumni association annually awards scholarships to qualified undergraduate students for the following academic year. To date, the alumni association has awarded 297 scholarships totaling nearly $432,000.
New faces at this year’s race included the Pactolus Running Club, a group of third-, fourth- and fifth-grade students from Pactolus School.
“This is the first time we’ve ever had a running club. We’ve been running once a week since February,” said Blair Driver, an eighth-grade science teacher and ECU alumna who helped start the club.
Driver said the group decided to run in the the alumni road race because “we knew this race would be family-oriented and fun. And it was.”
For more information about ECU Alumni Association scholarships, visit www.piratealumni.com .