Ape gives eco-inspiration

SHOULDER TAP: Orangutan mascots are a reminder why Belinda Robinson started her palm oil-free manufacturing business in Kerikeri. Behind her are her drying racks.
SHOULDER TAP: Orangutan mascots are a reminder why Belinda Robinson started her palm oil-free manufacturing business in Kerikeri. Behind her are her drying racks.

It was a meeting with an orangutan in Borneo that changed Belinda Robinson's life.

She points to a picture of a gentle ape on her computer.

"I met him at a rehabilitation centre and he made such an impression on me that I started to think about destruction of the orangutan habitat for palm oil and how palm oil is in so much of what we use."

Belinda came to New Zealand 13 years ago from Britain where she spent 20 years working as a hairdresser and salon manager.

"My kids were little and I didn't want to spend 50 hours a week in a salon so I thought ‘what does everyone need' and whatever that was had to be eco-friendly and palm oil-free."

She spent three years researching before launching her ecobeings business from her Kerikeri home.

From a small well-equipped shed, she produces handmade soaps and household cleaning products that have no palm oil ingredients, are not tested on animals, have no sodium laurel sulphates and no articifical fragrance or colours.

"I've really gone back some 70 years to the days before synthetic detergents, when children didn't seem to have the raft of allergies that we see today."

The soaps have been available at a Kerikeri health shop for a couple of years and the cleaners are on supermarket shelves in Kerikeri.

And she's looking at growth.

Belinda, who operates alone, envisages expanding to meet demand and she says she will be in position to offer jobs in Kerikeri.

"But I will definitely keep it in Northland."

Ecobeings is on the Made in New Zealand website, participating in a people's choice award.

To vote for ecobeings in the people's choice award visit buynz.org.nz.

Northland