PLANET ARK’S David and Adriana Dalgarno have notched up 25 years in Fremantle, helping change the world one product at a time.
Formerly working in finance, it was the birth of their sons that sparked the couple’s interest in all thing environmental.
“But some people still think we’re hippies,” Mr Dalgarno — who as far as we know has never had dreadlocks — says with a smile.
The shop opened in 1991 as the Cleanhouse Effect, a play on “The Greenhouse Effect”, the original term for global warming which later became climate change.
It joined the well-trusted Planet Ark family a few years later (a move that’s paid off, with Planet Ark since going global).
Back then we all put our faith in Drano and Mr Muscle and various other cleaners. Sustainability and chemical-free products were looked at askance, as something a bit quirky but probably not as good as the “real” stuff.
But the Dalgarnos could see the future, and knew it needed to be better if there was to be one worth living.
Looking after their customers’ health (as well as the planet’s) has worked: the couple is now riding a second and third generation wave.
“It’s funny when you get someone who says they used to come in with their parents, now coming in because of their kids.”
In keeping with their own ethos, and that of Planet Ark, all products are tested to ensure they live up to manufacturers’ claims.
“Some shops sell stuff I have seen and tested and wouldn’t sell,” Mr Dalgarno says.
From chemical-free cleaning products, soap, shampoo and conditioner by the litre or in bottles, to sunscreen, cosmetics and essential oils, to reusable nappies for the pool, in adult and baby sizes, the range on offer at the shop is mind-boggling.
There are environmentally-friendly paints and vanishes, a thinner you can sniff without it blowing off your head, and an oven cleaner so gentle you can wash your hands with it.
“You won’t find any petrochemical-based goods…which means a lot of common goods found in the supermarkets, chemist and beauty shops are banned.”
Mr Dalgarno can wax lyrical for hours about a range of German cleaning cloths and mops designed to get rid of dirt with just water, and a unique German-made heart-shaped toilet brush guaranteed to get to the tricky bits.
When more is demanded there’s carb soda in bulk, and over-proof vinegar that’s both a gentle cleaner and a ruthless weedkiller. Suffering itchy skin, eczema or psoriasis? Check out the shower fitting that filters out skin-drying chlorine.
One of the biggest changes over the years has been the loss of small manufacturers, especially in Australia, as big supermarkets and hardware stores buy from cheaper, but less regulated, countries such as China, Mr Dalgarno says.
The impact on his shop is minimal, but he feels for the local companies.
“We had one with 62 staff…close down because they were no longer able to supply a hardware chain.”
by JENNY D’ANGER
37 Cantonment St, Fremantle