A green living hero

Green Lifestyle

Sit down for the highlights of our recent chat over an organic vegie juice with Malcolm Rands, the founder of the global brand, ecostore.


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As I enter the cafe to meet Malcolm Rand, I'm met with a big, warm, welcoming smile. Malcolm is the kind of guy who makes you instantly feel at ease – a very honest, humble man who is a true leader. It's not hard to see how easily he would have been steered into a vocation that has led him to help hundreds of thousands of people to lead a greener lifestyle.

Malcolm is the co-founder of the global green brand, ecostore, which began in 1994, and is based on the principle of removing toxins from our environment, and our lives, through a range of eco-friendly, ethical household items.

Malcolm really does live the 'green dream' at a community-run eco-village, a small group of committed people living in a secret location in New Zealand. For over 30 years, the residents have tended to the soil by avoiding using sprays, pesticides and herbicides, grown their own food, and avoided as many toxins as they can within the area.

Connecting environment and health
I asked Malcolm what the connection was for him regarding the environment and our own health.

“Well, that’s quite a simple one," Malcolm told me. But the journey itself is one of the most fascinating eco-epiphanies you'll have heard.

"It was back in ’86 and ’87, and I’d been living for seven or eight years in our eco-village. Our back boundary was national park, and all the water coming into our village was probably as pure as any water on the planet. We challenged ourselves by saying, 'wouldn’t it be great if the water leaving our property was just as pure as the water coming into it?'

"I must admit we were probably a little bit 'up-ourselves', as we were all farmers, and our land practices were pretty good."

But, what the villagers didn’t expect was that the water coming out of their homes had some of the highest levels of toxins in the village.

Malcolm began researching all the products they were using in their homes – the shampoo, dishwashing liquids, laundry powders, soaps, and more – but had trouble getting all the ingredients. "It was almost impossible to find out. Companies were allowed to use whatever they liked and didn’t have to tell anyone about the ingredients."

What they eventually found out horrified them. Malcolm said he was pretty upset to find that, "that there really were more toxins in our home than than we were putting on the land!".

In the absence of suitable household products on the market, Malcolm and his wife Melanie started to make their own products. Wanting to share all these great products with others, the Rand family set up an online site where people could buy products via a mail-order all around New Zealand – at the time, a fairly unconventional method of distribution. "Only some Kiwis were crazy enough to buy dishwashing liquid by mail order," laughs Malcolm.

"Soon after, we started getting phone calls and letters from customers – and they were all saying the same thing: 'we’re cleaning the house with your products, and now we don’t sneeze anymore when we clean the house', or 'I’ve got this rash that I’ve had for years, or I’ve had this funny little eczema thing over here, or behind my knees, and it’s gone', and 'my asthma is getting better'."

He tells me that they were shocked by the personal responses, as the main purpose of creating the products was to look after the land. This reaffirmed Malcolm's belief, "that the effect of a chemical on your skin is just as important as the effect on the environment, and vice versa. So your health is just as important as the environment."

The lack of knowledge
Malcolm tells me that he's worried about the lack of awareness about toxins in our environment – particularly in Australia.

He gravely explains his concerns about a report called Endocrine Disrupting Chemicals (PDF): "Way back in 2012, the United Nations and the World Health Organisation came out with a blanket statement saying that household chemicals – and they named about 10,000 household chemicals – are seriously affecting people’s endocrine systems."

"It was big news, and it was reported just about everywhere around the world, but it never got reported in Australia."

"The trouble is that the people using these chemicals are the biggest advertisers in the media, so it would sort of be biting the hand that feeds you, so to say."

The truth about toxins
A lot of the debate in Australia has centered around petrochemicals, but Malcolm believes this can be a dangerous idea, when there are many other toxins as well.

"What we’ve also found is that we won’t use half the plant-based chemicals as well," says Malcolm. "Just because these things come from nature, it doesn't mean they're safe. A lot of dangerous chemicals are actually plant-based."

"Take for example, Sodium Laurel Sulfate – everyone’s heard of that, and it's plant-based. Cocomide-DEA, it’s in everything, it’s plant-based, and we don’t use it in ecostore products because it’s a terrible chemical... That’s why it’s been an expensive excercise for us, as we’ve had to throw away a lot of the cheap and easy options that everyone else has used."

Dismantling stereotypes of a green clean
Luckily, the great thing is that a lot of work has been done since 2012 on plant-based chemicals, and their cleaning-efficacy is not compromised. Malcolm proudly tells me how they "test all of our non-toxic products up against the mainstream petrochemical products, and sometimes they can even work better than them. And they’re the same price, or sometimes cheaper".

"Most people don’t realise is that the big cleaning companies can play all these tricks on you," he says, explaining that mainstream cleaning liquids are heavily watered-down, and the powders are plumped-up.

We commiserated that a big stereotype of green products is that they don't work as well as mainstream ones, and Malcolm lets me know from his experience that, "in the past that might have been true. But it’s time to move on, because now eco-products do work."

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