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Meet Koala Eco - An interview by The Clean Collective's Georgia Lawson

We've been completely crushing on Koala Eco since our hunt for the best toxin-free and eco-friendly cleaning products began. They’re a personal favourite in our homes and we stand by our claim that their range works so well and smells so divine that you will actually look forward to using it. If you have a partner or friend that you’re trying to convert from conventional cleaning products, hand them a bottle of this botanical-smelling magic and consider the job done. I sat down with Koala Eco Founder, Jessica Bragdon, to learn more about the Koala Eco story, and it took our crush to the next level.

“We’re both from entrepreneurial backgrounds, and so being Koala Eco’s first—and arguably most demanding—customers, we had some pretty specific and sophisticated aims in mind.”

Why did you decide to create your brand?

Would you believe, it was created out of a sense of frustration? My husband, Paul and I felt our two young sons (and our family dog) 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.

But we couldn’t find what we wanted, so ultimately, we thought: why don’t we just make our own?

We’re both from entrepreneurial backgrounds, and so being Koala Eco’s first—and arguably most demanding—customers, we had some pretty specific and sophisticated aims in mind. Primarily we wanted something that not only worked flawlessly, but also could be misted safely around our children, and wasn’t going to harm the planet either. Then, aside from the formulas being 100% safe, natural, and effective, we also wanted our products to look stylish in case we needed them handy for easy access or were just too busy to put them away.

So, we did a lot of research and started working carefully with a local chemist and lab to create really special products from Australian plants, and the result was Koala Eco, launched in Sydney in early 2017.

“If it’s not doing you or your family any good, imagine what it’s doing to the planet.”

How did your own personal toxin-free journey begin?

We’d always been conscious of trying to live as free of chemicals as possible, but once we started getting serious about making our own products I began to do a lot of research. I’d always figured that conventional cleaning products would have a few nasty chemicals in them, but when I really began to educate myself, I was shocked.

At present, there are more than 84,000 chemicals in commercial use, with 1,000 new ones being developed every year around the world. Long after household exposure to these chemicals has happened, links have been made to health issues like hormone disruption, allergies, asthma, and cancer. Research shows certain chemicals may cause long-term, gradual changes, unnoticeable to the human eye. Some common ingredients are regarded as ‘sensitisers’ and repeated exposure can cause a build-up in the body, leading to allergies. Add in the artificial fragrances a lot of products use to mask these toxins and you’ve got a complete cocktail of horror.

If it’s not doing you or your family any good, imagine what it’s doing to the planet.

“So, whoever buys our cleaners ends up giving back to the planet in more than one way: by using products that won’t damage the environment, and by triggering a cash donation to One Percent For The Planet.”

What does ‘clean and green’ really mean to you?

A combination of things. ‘Do no harm’ is a bit of a personal mantra for me. I simply don’t want to be contributing to anything that will harm either our family or our planet. And look at what we have here in Australia. This country is blessed with the most extraordinary range of plant-based resources, from antiseptics to medicines: natural remedies that have been part of the Aboriginal pharmacopeia for tens of thousands of years.

I buy local and choose seasonal produce whenever possible. I would encourage everyone to buy (and buy into) things that are recycled, or recyclable and refillable – and avoid plastic at every opportunity. I keep cloth bags in my car for grocery shopping, or any shopping, so I always have them and never have to rely on store bags. I avoid plastic water bottles and take my own reusable glass or metal water bottles everywhere. I use stainless steel containers for lunches and leftovers, and our children know never to use drinking straws.

For the sake of a healthy future for everyone’s children everywhere, we believe in supporting environmental conservation. We take the ‘eco’ part of our name very seriously, because for us it just isn’t enough to make products that are environmentally friendly; we also want to do something constructive to support the efforts of charities and organizations that are actively fighting for the wellbeing of the planet.

We chose to support One Percent For The Planet to assist in the ongoing protection of land, forests, rivers, oceans, and also to encourage sustainable methods of energy production. Every time someone buys a Koala Eco product, the company donates a percentage of that sale to One Percent For The Planet. So, whoever buys our cleaners ends up giving back to the planet in more than one way: by using products that won’t damage the environment, and by triggering a cash donation to One Percent For The Planet.

“She was like a latter-day version of Snow White; animals and birds seemed to be drawn to her. She 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.”

What is your biggest inspiration?

It’s not a what, it’s a who: my grandmother. She was like a latter-day version of Snow White; animals and birds seemed to be drawn to her. She 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.

Given this inspiring education in all things botanical, it’s hardly surprising that, after we finished university, my sister and I started a floral business in Boston. Then years later, here I am with my husband Paul, running a business that is entirely based on plant species!

“We want Koala Eco to be part of the solution rather than the problem. Maybe it’s only a tiny drop in the ocean, but that’s what the ocean is made of: tiny drops.” 

What can we expect to see from your brand over the next few years?

Well, we are going to keep researching and producing products for the home that make use of the extraordinary natural resources Australia has. We have some incredible new products which will be released very soon.

We’re thrilled to be launching in some retail outlets in Hong Kong in time for the Lunar New Year, and it would be lovely if Koala Eco could be on the shelves in some other countries. So expansion will be part of the plan, but not at the expense of quality or ethics – we’ll keep true to our original aim of making products that are safe, natural and smell gorgeous because that’s all we want to use in our own home.

We want Koala Eco to be part of the solution rather than the problem. Maybe it’s only a tiny drop in the ocean, but that’s what the ocean is made of: tiny drops.