Cleaning cleaning cleaning…. do you love it or hate it? I actually enjoy cleaning because the finished result of a beautiful space to be in is so lovely and I like the meditative process of cleaning a room. However, living with lots of boys and men, I can say that there are certain tasks that I do not relish! One of the important parts of cleaning is making sure you are not harming yourself or the environment. It is all too easy to flush chemicals into the waterways, and leave toxic residue inside your home. The way you clean and what you use, has never been more important. Using lashings of chemicals across your home is not good for you or the planet. Luckily there are so many options.
Jessica Bragdon, founder of Koala Eco, has lots of ways to make cleaning both more pleasant and less harmful for you and the environment. It’s an Australian company committed to the wellbeing of the planet. She and her husband Paul named the business after the koala, a marsupial that’s instantly identifiable with Australia, but one that is also suffering population decline owing to reduced habitat. Koala Eco specialises in making cleaning products for the home and body that are absolutely free of any synthetic chemicals or toxins, and won’t harm people, pets, or the planet. The main ingredients are 100 percent pure essential oils from Australian native plants. They all have incredible antibacterial and antiseptic properties.
“The Eco part of the name (and .eco domain for our website) represents the goals and values of a passionately committed environmental community on an international and multicultural scale”, says Jessica. “We were one of the first businesses to be invited to re-badge as a .eco company by the Vancouver-based .eco movement, launched by two former United Nations Environment Programme staffers. It’s backed by more than 50 environmental organisations including Conservation International, United Nations Global Compact and WWF; and so we’re conscious of being part of a strong network that unites in support of each other’s goals in making a positive change for the planet” explains Jessica.
Jessica stresses it isn’t enough just to make products that are environmentally friendly; they also want to do something constructive to support the efforts of charities and organisations who are actively fighting for the wellbeing of the planet. That’s why for every Koala Eco product sold the couple make a donation to the charity One Percent for the Planet. This is an important part of living a more sustainable life. Using a reusable cup for your coffee in the morning and thinking you have it covered, is just not the way to go.
Koala Eco use pure essential oils derived from trees and plants like Eucalyptus, Tea Tree, Lemon Scented Iron Bark, Lemon Myrtle, peppermint, lavender and rosemary. They also use essential oil extracted from the peel of citrus species like grapefruit and mandarin. As well as the essential oils they use vinegar, sugar-based biodegradable alcohol and bicarbonate soda, plant-derived solubilisers and surfactants, and purified water. So everything is non-toxic, vegan, grey water safe and is not tested on animals. No dyes, masking agents, synthetic perfumes, chlorine, bleach, sodium laurel sulphates and phosphates. They also sell scrubbing brushes and cloths made from organic bamboo.
Originally from the United States, Jessica grew up in Boston and New Hampshire. “I lived in NYC a long while (which is where I met my Australian husband Paul), and I worked in the boutique hotel industry. When I moved to Australia a few years ago to be with Paul I worked for a cultural non-profit in creative enterprise development in Perth. Paul is a chartered accountant who grew up in rural Western Australia. We have two little boys, Emerson and Arthur, and a rather mature Australian Shepherd called Gotham” shares Jessica.
Koala Eco was born out of a determination to source safe, affordable, chemical-free cleaning products that smell amazing and work. “Paul and I felt our two young sons (and Gotham) shouldn’t have to hold their breath in order to avoid absorbing chemicals every time we cleaned the family home, so we were constantly on the hunt for safe, affordable, chemical-free cleaning products that not only could make our home smell (naturally) fabulous but would also actually work”. After not finding what they were looking for, the couple decided to make their own cleaning products, using formulas derived from nature and sourced locally. “We did a lot of research and started working carefully with a local chemist and lab to create really special products, and the result was Koala Eco” says Jessica.
Jessica has always loved anything to do with the natural world, and comes from a family of inquisitive and entrepreneurial people – so she thinks she was destined to find her way to creating something like Koala Eco. “My late grandmother would take me and my twin sister on long hikes through the forests around her New England home, pointing out the flora and fauna along the way. She passed on her passion for natural things to our mother, who likewise was an avid plant and garden enthusiast. Family outings invariably meant visits to historic gardens, plant nurseries and flower shows” remembers Jessica. Australia has the most incredible range of plant-based resources and remedies, so we have a wealth of natural anti-bacterial and insect-repelling materials right on our doorstep. What Koala Eco does is combine these ingredients to make cleaning products that are not just effective and safe for ourselves and the planet, but also smell divine.
Jessica says it is worth considering the overall ethical benefits of using eco-friendly, non-toxic cleaning products in the home. “There’s a reason why a lot of ordinary products have warnings on their labels about being hazardous if accidentally inhaled, or come into contact with skin. However careful you are, can you be sure these products are not leaving behind any vapour or residue? If you are using harsh chemicals on bathroom and kitchen surfaces, are you really cleaning them? And if we are all using toxic products, what is that doing to our water systems, and everything that relies on water to thrive?” she asks.
The couple walk the talk and use their products around tjheir own home, so they are really close to the end result of the hard work, as well as being at its beginning: the ideas, the research and development. “When you are raising awareness about care for the planet, your own ethics have to be without question: you have to make sure you are walking the walk as well as talking the talk. Being parents has a huge impact on how we live and behave. Children watch and listen intently – they observe what their parents or peers or carers do. So Paul and I have been aware that if we start by modelling good habits, it’s much easier (and much more authentic) to show our sons what being kinder to oneself and the planet entails than it is to tell them” she explains.
By getting your children to take responsibility for small yet important things, like working out what the family can recycle….trying to get the message across in a fun and constructive way, making it meaningful to them by making it part of their lives, you are teaching them how important these things are as they grow. In Jessica and Paul’s house, cleaning is definitely a family affair! “Our children are responsible for realistic things like making their beds, setting and clearing the table and putting dishes in the dishwasher” she says. To make cleaning easier, Jessica says she tends to do a little bit of cleaning and tidying daily, and tries to focus on one task at a time. This is a great tip for keeping your overall mess under control.
Jessica’s tips for creating a sustainable home
- Buy local and choose seasonal produce whenever possible
- Buy (and buy into) things that are recycled, or recyclable and refillable
- Keep cloth bags in the car for grocery shopping or any shopping so you always have them and never have to rely on store bag
- Avoid bottled water in preference for your own reusable glass or metal water bottle
- Use stainless steel containers for lunches and leftovers etc.
- Never use straws!
- Stay away from chemical and synthetic products, such as artificial air fresheners, cleaners, candles, perfumes, and sprays…stick to essential oils to support the olfactory system (and the planet) in a healthy way
- Many “green” cleaning products on the market are not free of synthetic fragrance, many combine a large percentage of toxins with a small percentage of essential oil so customers are misled into thinking they are choosing products free from harmful synthetic fragrances – always check labels and do your research
- It’s really important to take small steps and make sure you take time to recharge, regroup, rest and connect with nature
Taking time to enjoy your day is really important to a healthy lifestyle. Jessica says during a working day, it can be a challenge to grab a few minutes to sit and centre yourself, but it is very important. She will practice a bit of meditation, with essential oil diffusing through the house; currently her favourite is pure Australian Lemon Myrtle for its fresh and astringent aroma. She also makes time to have a really good coffee, and have some chocolate! “I am obsessed with Taylor Maid Organic coffee. My twin sister sends me coffee beans from California. I also am also obsessed with TCHO Chocolate” she says.
You can find Koala Eco here