Tips for turning your home into a sustainable haven from Woolkin founder


A few years ago, Anna Rees-Jones was preparing to bring little lives into the world. Realising a lot of toys and kids’ products on the market were full of harmful chemicals, she decided to design her own.

Anna, along with husband Blythe and business partner Luke, developed a range of beautiful, fun and engaging kids’ products that are safe to use, rich with natural benefits and made from renewable materials (namely wool, which prompted the name ‘Woolkin’). Today, the Bay of Plenty-based business is booming, and ships its eco-friendly goodies across the country as well as abroad.

Kiwis are slowly but surely catching on to the sustainability movement, but it can often be tricky knowing where to start. We sat down with Anna to learn how we can encourage our families to become more environmentally friendly at home, at school and on the go.

How can we make our home a more natural and sustainable environment?

Start off with the basics. Think about simple ways to improve what you’re already doing without adding any cost. For example, I used to go for convenience (snap lock bags, plastic wrap, the works), but we’ve slowly switched to bento-style lunch boxes and reusable wraps. There’s less waste, and no extra cost.

Nappies are a tricky one, because there are advantages to both disposable nappies (fewer cleaning products needed) and cloth nappies (less plastic waste). Personally, I used a combination of both, which worked well for our family, but it’s just about minimising waste where you can.

Keeping up with the latest material objects can also affect your family’s eco- friendly factor, not to mention become a huge financial obstacle. Instead of upgrading your lounge suite every year just to be on trend, why don’t you save that money and use it on something else?

How do you encourage your kids to ‘go green’?

We talk about it all the time; so do schools these days – it’s amazing. Our school has a big focus on waste reduction – everything that comes to school has to go home again, which we think is a great initiative.

At home, we often talk about pollution. My kids love the ocean, so we talk about how precious it is, and how pollution has become a big problem – a problem we can all do our bit to try and solve.

Instead of driving, we’ll ride bikes or walk to school most days, which is an easy step towards minimising the impact our vehicles have on our environment.

Can being more environmentally friendly save you money?

Absolutely! If you use beeswax reusable wraps, for example, you’ve got a good few months of using the same product to wrap your food without having to keep buying new containers or plastic wrapping. I was a bit reluctant at the start, but once I used them once I was addicted, they’re incredible! They keep everything fresh and they’re so simple to use.

Buying food in bulk is often cheaper than buying pre-packaged food, and buying second-hand clothing is a great way of reducing waste while also saving money.

Being a mum, I’m always busy, but making my own body scrub at home is a super easy and cheap way to treat myself. I love to experiment with different ingredients in the fridge and pantry, and it leaves my skin feeling beautifully soft and smooth (without the price tag).

What’s changed in the last ten years in terms of sustainability? Is there still a long way to go?

Being ‘eco-friendly’ wasn’t a big conversation ten years ago. Today, we’re more educated and aware of our footprint on the earth, so it’s a really exciting time for New Zealand (and the world).

The conversation around plastic straws and plastic bags is great because our kids hear it, they’re part of it, and they understand why we’re no longer using these products. If you went cold turkey and told your kids they’re no longer allowed a bright blue straw with their smoothie (without explaining why), they’d be upset because they wouldn’t understand why. It’s all about teaching our kids from a young age and getting them on board with positive, healthy and sustainable habits.