This week in Arlesheim, Switzerland team has taught me that nothing is superficial at Weleda – It’s with purpose. Or not at all.
My week in Switzerland, the birthplace of Weleda and Anthroposophy – which helps guide the principles of Weleda, has helped me discover the deeper reasons behind why Weleda do the things they do. If it doesn’t work to strengthen the balance of the body, mind and spirit it has no place here.
From people to plants to purpose – nothing happens by accident here.
My wonderful guide the week was Christoph Lüthi. He has been with the company for many years and you would be hard pressed to find a person with more well-rounded knowledge of the Weleda products, philosophy and the region around Arlesheim, Switzerland. Anything I have learnt this week, I owe it to his calm explanations and wealth of wisdom.
Where it all began
Together we took a tour of the Goetheanum, built by Weleda’s founder, Rudolf Steiner, as a center for the anthroposophic movement and its various activities in areas such as organic farming, natural medicine and Waldorf education.
Here, everything has been created with intention – the external organic architecture reflects the natural environment surroundings and the interior has been built with the intent to connect people together.
The grand stage is the heart of the building and is so much more than a stage. The sculptured concrete walls portray the earth from the beginning to the distant future, the ceiling paints show the process of human evolution from the creation of man to present day. And the light streams in through nine coloured cut glass windows to tell of the human beings cosmic and individual development.
Our anthroposophic colour theory let us play with colour rather than form.
This experience gave me insight into why Weleda has a‘rainbow’ of products. It’s not just because it looks pretty, each package and product is designed to consciously to reflect the natural ingredient inside uses Steiner’s anthroposophical color theories.
Look at the Sea Buckthorn Body Wash – The glowing orange packaging is intended to make us imagine the Italian sunshine the fruits where ripened in and the warmth of the plant oils on our skin. Even the gradient of color getting darker at the base makes us subconsciously aware of where the bulk of the product lays.
What does a plants scent look like?
The plant observation was so interesting, to smell a plant and then to visualize it. But, that doesn’t mean draw the plant! Your senses became so much more heightened and aware when you pose yourself this challenge.
Not all scents are created equal
This week I had the pleasure of meeting with the Swiss head of Fragrance Competence Centre, Leo Zängerle.
At Weleda, all fragrances are created using 100% pure and natural essential oils. No bio-technologically produced fragrances (eg: vanilla) are used here! Fragrances have a special importance for Weleda products and are all developed in-house, which is exceptional within the cosmetics industry. They haven’t been chosen for their scent or how in trend they are now. They are carefully selected to support the body at various stages of life – to unlock the inner benefits of each unique plant so it can work in harmony with your body’s own restorative abilities.
Natural cosmetics – not just surface level
Lot of people have asked me whether Weleda will be making more cosmetics. I can’t answer that but hopefully yes! What I can say is that the Weleda natural cosmetics are all ‘functional cosmetics’. Each product has to answer the question – does it ’strengthen the skin instead of masking flaws?’ Does it really work? Like Weleda medicine works. Nothing is superficial in Weleda.
Putting back more than you take out
We had an all-day excursion to the Demeter-certified biodynamic farm, “L’Aubier”, in Montezillon near Neuchâtel, in the French speaking part of Switzerland.
This is a farm determined to make things better, bio-dynamic preperations are made at the farm to enhance the soil life and strengthen the wide range of crops and plants. The animal life here is as bio diverse as the plants!
A pharmacy that’s turned itself inside out
I was lucky enough to meet Dominik Saner, who runs the Saner chain of five pharmacies. What I loved about visiting his Basel pharmacy was that all the eco green things are front and centre… not hidden in the back corner like a lot of places. Saner and Weleda co-founded these pharmacies with the intention to put human beings at the centre of medicine – to give them the opportuntity to choose from a range of medical options – what suits them and their needs best.
The woman behind Anthroposophical medicine
Ita Wegman 1876 – 1943 became a doctor in 1911, highly unusual for a woman at the time. Together with Rudolf Steiner they founded of anthroposophic medicine. And Weleda too.
As well as developing medicines and care products, Dr Ita Wegman also created various therapeutic treatments, including rhythmic massage which I was lucky enough experience at the experienced hands of cosmetics expert, Myrtha Leuthold.
This is an anthroposophical medical form of massage that’s warm, nurturing and enveloping therapy that enlivens and balances the body, while calling forth the client’s own healing forces.
Sustainability at work
The Weleda offices in Arlesheim have been built with sustainability in mind throughout the entire process – from how the raw materials are extracted, to the production and even to the delivery.
Here are some other ways Weleda lives and breathes sustainability:
- The Weleda Arlesheim carpark had been re-naturated into a certified natural garden and greenhouse for the staff to enjoy for recreation, meetings and outdoor working
- Solar energy and hydro energy powers all buildings
- Every product is created using 100% green electricity
- More than 80% of the building are made from local wood and natural building materials sourced from sustainable forestry
- Green screens cover the building to create shade and cool down the building naturally
- Bikes get the prime parking spots at Weleda
- Cyclists are rewarded with free bike repairs days
- Electric bike riders get access to free charging
- All riders can participate in the Bike to Weleda campaign to win great prizes
- Public transport commuters receive a third of their commuter costs returned
- Weleda offers guided nature tours for employees to enjoy the local plants and animals – beaver like animals called Nutria live in the river behind the office
- Family eco projects such as Bee Hotel building workshops
The new building takes things to an even higher lever.
This whole building was created with intention to be completely reused or recycled. It uses…
- Only renewable energy
- Only recycled concrete was used for the foundations
- Only natural, toxin free paints used.
- Locally produced furniture
- Eco lighting reacts to the natural light in the room intuitively knowing when to turn on and off
- Even the fire extinguisher is a sustainable one, using only environmentally friendly fire treatment!
What’s the thing you’ve most enjoyed learning about from Weleda Switzerland?
All photo credits go my very talented Global Garden sister Anna Lena Holm. It’s been so wondering doing this journey with her by my side.