Mother’s Day – with our own eco-mama
To help us celebrate all the amazing mums this Mother’s Day, we spoke to ecostore’s original eco-mama, Melanie Rands. Melanie started the company back in 1993 with her husband ‘ecoman’ Malcolm. Melanie kindly shared with us her unconventional business story, how she achieves balance in her life, and the ecostore products she loves to use every day of the year.
Back in 1985, young and idealistic, the couple knew they wanted to create a better world – searching for land with a group of friends to build a community. They found it at a good price, on farmland too steep for farming. From a large Pacific family, Mel was comfortable with the thought of living in a busy community and sharing what they had. Unafraid to take risks and challenges, they started ecostore a few years later.
During this time, Melanie was a schoolteacher, while also getting involved in the local arts scene and woman’s festival. For a young mum, living in a rural area, establishing the eco-village and starting ecostore, there were plenty of challenges to balancing being a wife, mum and entrepreneur.
“We both made a decision as parents to work part-time to bring in some income. Each of us would work and each of us would spend time with the babies. It was really important to both of us because we really shared values – it all came back to that. I think we realised that we have to sacrifice something in order to be more hands-on parents.”
There was no electricity, and the couple spent summers spent living with the daughter in a caravan on the land while they built the eco-village. But with a big vegetable garden, no mortgage and both working part time, they managed to get by.
The couple shared the responsibilities of raising kids, running a business and building a home. “While I was at work Malcolm would be taking the kids to playcentre, he’d be making the sourdough at home – he would swap bread for other things. In a way, that forced us out of our gender stereotypical roles. When the shoe was on the other foot, I would take on the main part of parenting and cooking. It was a necessity, really.”
Alongside raising her children, Melanie is most proud of the values that she and Malcolm brought to the company they started. These shared values helped them to not lose sight of what they were trying to build together. The ecostore philosophy from day one: make it easy, accessible and pleasurable for people to make a positive difference for the health of their family and environment.
“We made these products that we believed in: we believed in the reason for doing it, we believed in the products themselves. There has been a huge raising of awareness of the issues, and why people might want to choose an ecostore product over a commercial product. I’m really proud of those things.
I’m also really proud that we challenged the idea of what business was. We didn’t want to be just a regular business. We wanted to be an ethical business. One that was based on solid values.”
Melanie’s everyday ecostore favourites
I love the Lemongrass Handwash, it’s gentle on my skin and with new COVID handwashing habits in place – it means I’m washing my hands many more times a day – so it’s important to use something that won’t strip the oils from my skin or give me really dry hands. Lemongrass is one of my favourite things in the garden – I especially love to combine fresh stalks of lemongrass with fresh ginger to make a delicious tea.
Wind and sun are very harsh on my skin here in the North, so I always keep a lip balm in my bag. I prefer to use the Beeswax Lip Balm. Because it’s on your lips like lipstick it’s hard to avoid ingesting it, so I like to keep it simple.
Malcolm and I have moved back to our eco-village full time and one of my favourite times of the day here is the late afternoon. I love to take our dog Lewa for a walk on the beach and have a swim in the ocean. When we get home I run a bath in our old outdoor bathtub and add some magnesium salts to the water to help relax any tired muscles. I have a special muslin facecloth that I often use (a gift from our ecostore Japan family).
Water is very precious here, so Malcolm usually has a bath after me, which is one of the reasons I prefer to use an ecostore bar soap in the bath – because I don’t need to use much and it keeps the water clear. My favourite at the moment is the Rose & Almond Oil Bar Soap. I love the creamy feel of it as well as the colour and the gentle fragrance. The bath is a lovely ritual where I take time to look up at the sky and listen to the birds chattering in the creaking giant bamboo.
After the bath I use ecostore Rose & Geranium Body Lotion to help protect and moisturise my skin. It’s a lovely way to take some time for myself and to transition from working in the garden or around the house to start thinking about lighting the fire, cooking a meal and the evening ahead.
I’m in love with the Orange & Thyme Multi-purpose Kitchen Cleaner and use it every day in my kitchen to wipe down our wooden table, our stainless steel benchtop, stove top and the tiled walls. I love using fresh thyme from the garden and particularly like the fresh, clean herbal fragrance.
Our bath empties into our own greywater system so we’re very careful about the products we use in it during and after the bath. I usually give it a quick clean and rinse with ecostore Lemon Liquid Scourer. I love the convenience of using one product on many different surfaces in all areas of the bathroom – in the hand basin, tapware, on the tiles and on the polished concrete.
A message from Mel for Mother’s Day
“I think it’s really important to remember, as parents, everyone is doing their best. Be kind to ourselves about it. If you can be kind to yourself, it’ll help you be a good parent. When you’re stressed and struggling, feeling like you aren’t doing well enough, that’s when the ball starts unraveling (laughs). We all want to do the best we can, and everyone is doing their best. That’s all you can ask of yourself.”