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Earthyard protects what is essential
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Earthyard protects what is essential
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I'm reading
Earthyard protects what is essential
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Partners
19 March 2021

Earthyard protects what is essential

Bec Johnson, one of the founders of Australian essential oil brand, Earthyard, talks to us about her company’s business model and sustainability commitments, and why plant oils are so remarkable.

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We’re so excited to learn about Earthyard! Tell us about the business model and your products?

I’m excited to tell you about earthYARD! We were born long before we were born. We grew out of the side of our other business Native Oils Australia (NOA), so to tell you about earthYARD I first need to explain what NOA does.

David started NOA back in 2011. David is a farmer. He’s also my father. David grew up on farms and experienced first-hand the struggles that farmers go through year after year. Drought, fire, floods, risks with crops, risking the family budget for another year of fingers crossed. He noticed that a long standing farming practice is the planting of belts of trees to manage salinity to help improve soils and crops as well as provide wind breaks for livestock. Many of these native trees and bushes are full of oily goodness that can do more than expected for a farmer.

NOA works with farmers around the country to diversify their farming models by expanding into producing essential oils for the world. NOA travels around searching for new plantations and old plantations that need a bit of hard love, and helps provide equipment and training to those who want to take on a new adventure on their land. NOA then helps these now producers get their oils in front of buyers from around the world.

The world out there craves what Australia can do and there is so much we haven’t yet discovered about what Australia is capable of. We have such a vast climate here that has the potential for so much more, so why not try?

As oils were being produced, we found that there was a strong desire not just from the big companies to enjoy a use for what we could do but also the small business, the local shop, the local therapist, the day spa, the green home owner, the eco-beauty minded and the mum and dad down the road. So many people from all walks of life had an interest in Australian-produced essential oils for so many reasons. We created earthYARD as a place for these uses and ideas to come together and as a sort of online supply shed to provide everyone, everywhere, access to totally pure and natural plant ingredients.

What are some of the essential things we need to know about essential oils?

As a guide, the following should be remembered when dealing with essential oils:

  1. It’s all natural. Essential oils are complex components comprising of hundreds of micro-constituents. Some of these constituents are highly prized as science learns more about what they can and can not do. Some have even tried to synthetically replicate these natural constituents but the real deal has been proven to be far more reliable and effective.
  2. It’s been around for while. Essential oils aren’t new-age at all. Indigenous cultures around the world have documented the use of plant oils and plant products to healing, cleansing and more for thousands of years. Aromatherapy as a practice has existed for centuries.
  3. Essential oils are essentially everywhere. I urge you to pick up bottles of store-bought cleaning products and have a good read through the ingredients. I bet you’ll spot an essential oil, a botanical extract or a constituent of an essential oil (alpha-pinene, citronellol and d-limonene are typical examples – and they come from, yes, essential oils from, yes, real plants)
  4. Pure is strong. Do not ever, unless under the guidance of a properly trained therapist, apply essential oils neat to your skin. Always dilute with a carrier oil (like jojoba, argan, apricot, sweet almond, olive, sunflower) and make sure you have a copy of or know where to access quickly, a material safety data sheet. So in the event you get a splash of lemon or eucalyptus in your eye as you’re adding a few drops to a bucket of hot water for cleaning, you know how to treat it.
  5. There is no end to creativity and education. Some oils are good at calming you down, some are energising. It depends on the person. Most people get a buzz from caffeine, personally coffee doesn’t work on me anymore – I drink it for the taste but tea keeps me humming much more effectively. Same can be said with oils and purpose. The oily community say citrus oils are uplifting, some might find them calming. But a general purpose is a good guide. There’s a constituent in Peppermint oil that spiders prefer to avoid! Who’d have thought dousing a cotton ball in Peppermint oil could be so handy! There are so many tried and tested applications for essential oils and nature derived ingredients but we can’t be at the end yet. This is where science and art come to play.

Talk to us about your sustainability commitments.

Sometimes we have to cut down a tree. Let me explain. There are some species here in Australia that run rampant. They’re invasive and they’re doing more harm than good to their eco-system. For example, the White Cypress tree is a fast spreading tree and they grow tall and close together, effectively blocking out direct sunlight from providing nutrients to the soil below. This inevitably wreaks havoc with native species inhabiting the area as the soil is drained from all the goodness that helps the eco-system to survive. So we selectively cut down trees to rehabilitate the area, all the while getting a use for the leaf (oil), the wood (oil) and the post distillation bio-mass (sustainable building materials).

Having a conscious, broad view of the eco-system and solution for waste reduction is critical to plantation selection. We don’t cut down every tree though. Only in cases like the one just mentioned. Most harvest work is done in order to allow the plant to coppice and regrow quickly. It’s a beautiful cycle that works just as well for carbon capture as a big old tree in the bush. In fact, research is currently being done to prove that growing trees do more for the balancing of our carbon filled atmosphere than a fully grown tree. We’re looking forward to understanding the results.

We also plant trees. That’s not surprising really. We plant trees on our own farm, our partners farms, and in partnership with CarbonNeutral for both essential oil production, and to establish new eco-systems.

It doesn’t start and end with trees. We have a return scheme for all our plastic packaging that we send out that goes back to the manufacturers and turned into recycled bottles for us to buy back. Why do we still use plastic? Oils are precious. And by precious I mean they’re particular and picky. Light, temperature and air exposure can oxidise them if they’re not stored correctly and thereby reduces the typical lifespan. We found glass breaks in transit too often with our larger sizes so until we can work with packaging companies to reach an alternative solution, plastic is still necessary. The loop that we have implemented though is designed to close up the requirement for new plastic production.

At earthYARD we’re all about looking inward, reflecting on how we do things, how we use materials personally and in our work, and generally how we can do better. Including having better conversations with our communities to learn how we can do better together.

How is Earthyard supporting local farmers and communities?

We buy direct to start with and we buy at market value so the whole dollar goes to the producer. We’re totally against trying to squeeze more out of farmers who are already struggling. Every dollar that we spend with our farmers goes into helping them continue to develop their business models, plant more, harvest more and employ more. When we spend time on plantations we also get to know the neighbours and understand what they do, how they do it and what they need help with.

What do you love about the business, what is inspiring you?

We’re a family business through and through. We all started in such different places but have found a beautiful synergy together. There’s Dad at the helm of the ship, Mum in the office, my husband Matt works with farmers to design and build equipment, extended family lends a hand, and our employees in the warehouse have become our adopted family members. It’s such a nice and honest place to be and we’re the same with our customers. Our customers are family as well. Family business brings about a few perks. Matt and I have a beautiful baby girl who is, as I type this, having her midday nap in my office/nursery. She loves coming to work with us and seeing all the faces that pop by and the ones we get to travel to meet.

Each face has a story and a story worth telling. The stories are of hardships, of adventure, of passion and of taking risks. These are the stories that inspire me every day to keep going. To keep learning and to keep relaying these stories where we can to those willing to listen to them. Whilst the structure of our business, like any business, may change over time, the stories won’t and there will always be stories to tell.

What is your vision of success?

We have this map of Australia made up entirely of green dots. Every time we discover a new plantation or help a farmer add essential oil production to their own business model we change the dot in that region from green to yellow. I want to turn every dot yellow. That is my vision of success. Essential oils and plant-derived ingredients are everywhere, and Australia has so much to offer in this space. It’s not just important for our health to use natural. It’s important for our farmers, it’s important for our regional and rural economies and it’s important for our planet. Go natural! Let’s light up this country already and just do things better everywhere.

 

Learn more about Earthyard here

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