SPUNJ sat down with Nature First founders Justine Reichman and Noël Graupner to hear the story behind the brand and the laundry detergent pods that come from berries.
What were you doing before you started Aiure and Nature First?
Noël is a horticulturalist turned Ayurvedic physician. After studying Ayurveda in India, NYC, and California (where she remains a student of the California of Ayurveda’s doctoral programme), she runs an Ayurvedic practice in NYC and teaches Vedic philosophy courses twice annually.
Justine is an entrepreneur with an interdisciplinary background in business, fashion and interiors. She created the global lifestyle brand, bo’em, which was ahead of its time and was one of the first brands to launch the bohemian trend in America in 2002.
How did you two meet?
On one of her many travels to India, Justine discovered a facility which was fabricating very unique textiles. Drawn to learning more about the science behind the traditional herbal formulations used to natural dye the linens, Justine began seeking out literature and teachers of Ayurveda back in NYC. A coincidental late night subscription-email peruse led her to find Noël’s Fall Introduction to Ayurveda course which happened to begin the following evening and…! She signed up! We met in class and became fast friends.
You say you came across the soap berry fruit by happenstance. Tell us how that happened.
Working with natural dyes and organic fabrics is truly an education in gentleness. The qualities of the plants which transfer into the fibers of the cloth are obliterated by almost all laundry detergents on the marketplace – even the most ‘organic’ and ‘natural’! We were completely surprised by this and a bit dumbstruck as to how to wash our linens. Weren’t all fabrics dyed naturally at one point? How did people wash their fabrics before modern chemicals were introduced into the mix?
The question had hardly rolled out of our mouths when we happened on the berries in India, and then an Indian friend mentioned the soap berry solution her mother used to prepare for her to wash her hair and body when she was growing up. We were in awe thus turning our kitchen and bathrooms into laboratories, washing anything and everything we could find, and were so impressed by, and eager to share the results that we reoriented our entire company.
What inspired you to create Aiure and Nature First?
Aiure is based on the recognition that personal-health, social, environmental, and economic crises we face today as a global population are interconnected expressions of one crisis: the misperception that we are separate from Nature. We think people are ready to hear this message and to learn how to take better care of themselves and their environments. As an educational platform, aiure is joining the growing number of individual, business, and design voices offering information to learn from and, examples to follow.
Nature First by aiure is a collection of simple, every-day home care products which make taking action and participating in self- and environmental-care super convenient and accessible. We aren’t gimmicky, we aren’t trendy. We found Mother Nature’s soap which – by design – is effective and completely safe. By making the soap berry available on the marketplace in recognizable formats like laundry pods and stain sticks, we think we can meet consumers of varied backgrounds and agendas where they are at, and thus have a beneficial impact on personal and planetary health.
Packaging is a big problem in terms of creating waste and using plastic. What kind of packaging do you use?
Finding a way to package our first product – the laundry pod – was the most challenging aspect of our business. Because we chose a pod format (versus say, a powder) which we believe will reach a larger consumer base due to its convenience, we needed to find a container with an air and moisture barrier. Not wanting to contribute to the single-use plastic epidemic, we were left with few viable packaging options.
For the time being, we’ve come up with a fully compostable package. The package itself is produced with wind energy, printed with vegetable ink and will decompose in less than 89 days in a compost bin or facility. It introduces no toxic residue to the environment.
We include an educational insert card inside the package with information on why and how costumers can compost the package.
What are your plans for the future? Do you have more products in the works?
Our laundry pod is the first of many products in the Nature First by aiure collection. The soap berry is an outstanding and versatile cleaning and sanitizing agent. We will be building out our homecare line with essential home and personal care items like stain sticks, dish soaps, and all purpose cleaners.
Listen to a talk we did with Justine and Noël here.