From locally sourced ingredients to reusable packaging, Woodsy Botanics is a skincare brand with a strong focus on sustainability. What started as founder Gabrielle's interest in natural medicine has now become a fully-fledged skincare business centred around the core value of protecting the planet for the future.

We sat down with Gabrielle to talk the environment, foraging and what is to come for Woodsy in the New Year.

First things first, tell us about how you started creating your beautiful Woodsy Botanical products?

About six years ago I was studying a Diploma in Natural Medicine and found myself falling in love with herbs and medicinal plants. I loved learning about their therapeutic qualities, looking at their textures and smelling their scents. My love affair transformed into an obsession with all natural ingredients and I loved looking at the benefits of ingredients and thinking about the way these could be factored into my life. An obvious choice for me was in skincare. At the time it was hard to find a quality, organic skincare brand that wasn’t too expensive, so I thought… why not make my own?

I started experimenting with putting my favourite ingredients together and soon learnt that a lot more study was needed to learn how to formulate and learn the more scientific elements of skincare making. With some courses in natural cosmetology I was able to start forming some basic products and testing these with friends and family. As I went along, these formulations became more advanced and I kept finding new and exciting ingredients to incorporate into my products. I think that's one of the things I find so interesting about this industry - there is an endless amount of research to be done on natural plants and materials and it's fun to try and find something new.

I especially love the colours and scents of ingredients in their pure forms so I try to leave this as untainted as possible - it's more of a showcase rather than a disguise. The botanical world is a vibrant world and one where I will always be learning and making improvements in my products and creating new and exciting formulations. This is what keeps it new and fresh for me and forms the love and passion for what I do.

We're all for looking after the planet here at Max, and we know that your products are ethically sourced and sustainable. How important was considering the environment when you were creating your products?

This was the number one factor to be considered when creating Woodsy. I wanted to create a range that was as equally good for your skin as it was for the planet. We live on a planet with so many amazing plants and natural materials that it’s kind of insane how many chemicals we have in skincare products. The first thing I wanted to consider was keeping the packaging environmentally friendly. I decided to put all of my products into beautiful glass that customers can either repurpose, recycle or return.

We have a bottle return programme where you can collect a certain amount of Woodsy jars and bottles and return them to us for a credit off your next order. We sterilise the bottles and reuse them in future orders. I get a lot of joy each time I get to do this. I look at the smaller picture, and think of each individual bottle I'm saving from the landfill and it feels like a big victory.

I am also very careful about where my ingredients are sourced from, ensuring that these come from fair or direct trade sources, using as local as possible, and choosing products that cause no harm on the environment, e.g. no palm oil. I also choose organic - it's better for the skin and a lot better for the planet - without the use of pesticides and chemicals to grow them.

I'm also big on reusing boxes and packaging I receive from other places to send out my orders. My wholesale accounts have become very used to receiving their orders in whatever cardboard box I might have lying around, as this enables me to repurpose packaging. I also choose environmentally friendly options for courier bags and all of my packaging so that the customer can recycle or compost everything that comes in their order.

As someone who is so passionate about sustainability, what are some things you’ve incorporated into your daily routine to help reduce your environmental impact?

I'm trying to become a lot more mindful on our recycling system. I think this is something that a lot of people could do with more education on. There are certain things that just can't be recycled and it's worth looking this up in your local area to see what numbers you can recycle and checking everything you put in there. Also washing out all of the recycling before you put it in the bin.

I'm lucky to live in an area where our food waste is collected separately to general rubbish which is so great and makes such a difference on our weekly rubbish, but I hope to get more into composting systems in the future and further cut down my waste.

At the end of the day it really comes down to trying to be more mindful of what I'm buying and the packaging that it comes in. We can all see little changes popping up in companies and there are definitely some leaders out there making a huge impact with their sustainability practices. By choosing to shop with these businesses you are ensuring that this is setting a precedent for other businesses to follow. We can all make a huge difference with our daily choices and I just always try to think, no step is too small and every choice is creating a healthier and happier planet.

Your products are made from resources foraged from your local environment. What are your favourite spots to look for ingredients?

We are very lucky to have some beautiful plants growing wild here in Aotearoa. Kawakawa is one of the most easily accessible and incredible natural healing plants that can be found nearly everywhere. There are a few forests around in Taranaki where I am based that have huge Kawakawa bushes. There are also goodies like Harakeke, Manuka and Karonda and I will forage small amounts of these so I don't cause any harm to any of the plants by taking too much.

Other plants that I use to infuse my oils are usually grown in the garden, like Lavender and Calendula for example as they can't be wildly foraged from anywhere.

It's a lovely process to forage, taking time to literally smell the flowers, take them home and dry them out, then let them infuse into an oil over a few months to appreciate the healing and nurturing properties of these plants.

You're known for your rose clay mask; can you take us through the process of creating this product?

My rose clay process begins with sourcing the beautiful clays from my supplier. I use an Australian pink clay as we sadly don't have this colour clay in our country and it's just too beautiful to pass up on. This is balanced with a lovely New Zealand bentonite clay.

These two together create a gentle mix suitable for sensitive skin that draws out toxins from the skin, deeply cleanses and exfoliates. I add in some hydrating goodies like coconut and aloe vera and mix in essential oils to give the clay its beautiful scent. It's a matter of getting the ratios right, mixing the ingredients together in a mixer to create a fine powder and packaging this up in the jars.

You're taking a self-care night using only Woodsy Botanics… Which products are you reaching for?

It depends if I'm taking a luxurious bath as some time out, then I'll definitely be using the Coconut + Aloe Milk Soak. This soak makes me feel like an absolute queen. It smells delicious and makes my skin so smooth. I'll also pop on one of the clay face masks. I mix it up with a bit of the toner and leave on my skin for about 20 minutes while soaking, then rub it off in small circles to exfoliate as I wash it off - absolute heaven.

If I'm going for more of some maintenance self-care then you'll find me scrubbing away with the coffee body scrub and rose face scrub. I like to turn off the shower, cover myself head to toe in scrub and leave it for a few minutes to let the caffeine sink in and do its thing. This is great for any cellulite and scarring you might have. It also smells amazing! I'm a huge fan of delicious scents and you'll notice this with the Woodsy range.

Quick Fire Questions:

Where is one place you want to visit this summer?

I'm a huge fan of hiking so am always looking for new tracks to get on so will most likely come up with some plan around this. I also am training for a 21km trail run in Rotorua in February and want to camp at my favourite spot in Opoutere so will plan a little trip around this. We have so many options in this beautiful country and I really believe you can't beat a New Zealand summer.

As someone who is always amongst nature, what is your favourite summer flower?

Oh, what a hard question… I love them all! I guess some favourites are Jasmine - for the scent, which is absolutely divine when you walk past a big patch of it. Also, Kanuka smells incredible, and the lovely little flowers are so beautiful. Some other favourites include Lavender and Calendula for their vibrancy and place in any garden.

This summer you will find me wearing…

Open sandals, big floppy hats and floaty maxi dresses. Oh and lots and lots of linen.