DIANNE COTTER: How did ecostore come to be?
MALCOLM RANDS: Well, I was involved in a range of non-profit projects, and the most impactful work involved looking at what rituals are important to different cultures. And the most important festival celebrated by every tribe on the planet is mid-winter. But in the Southern Hemisphere we celebrate the Northern Hemisphere’s festivals—it’s a colonial thing—and so on June 21, when it’s our mid-winter, we do nothing but be completely miserable!
So I got the whole town of Whangarei in New Zealand, where I did most of my work, to celebrate Merry Midwinter. I managed to create enough excitement to get everyone involved. And what we did was turn our sub-tropical town into a working ski resort for five days. We had parades, bands, a big Maori welcome. I wanted Whangarei to be the mid-winter town of the Southern Hemisphere! And do it every year. But there was conflict between the various councils and bodies so the project didn’t continue.
So how did you go from snow to cleaning products?
Even though Merry Midwinter didn’t go according to plan, everyone wanted to be part of it. And I thought, How can I create that energy again? I spent a whole year thinking, What turns me on, what am I good at, what do I know, how does my family fit into it? And I came up with this mind map, which we are still using today, that revealed business, for me, is not about making money—it’s about doing something I enjoy that lets me give back to the world. My wife and I had been using sustainable and organic gardening practices for many years, but realised we were still being exposed to way too many toxic chemicals through the cleaning and body-care products we were using.
How do you approach the products you make?
So, we use the precautionary principle— if there’s any doubt about the safety of an ingredient, we’ll leave it out and find a safer one. I always ask myself, Would I be ashamed to show this product to my neighbours in the eco-village? Shockingly, there are very few government regulations controlling the chemicals used in skincare and cleaning products. Which is why we also fully disclose every ingredient on every label. It’s your right to know.
What’s the greatest lesson you’ve learnt from this journey?
I assume that if something is really obvious to me, it’s obvious to everyone. But I am learning that people need to understand where I am coming from, what my philosophy is, rather than just assuming they do.