(Originally published on March 19, 2010)
My husband Kumy and I have owned and run Gilden Tree for over 20 years and it's been an amazing experience.
When we started in 1990, we were among the very first "green" companies in our field. The early 90s were what I call the "granola" days. The eco-movement was in its infancy and grew out of a longing for a simpler, more communally-connected, and nature-based lifestyle.
It wasn't hard to spot the "natural" products back then: they were often brown, often very "simply" packaged and you had to accept a certain amount of compromise in the way a product worked, because hey - it was all natural!
We started with a terra-cotta pumice stone I'd found in Pakistan. I loved how it worked, I loved that it never wore out and that it was a traditional, hand-crafted tool. (Every Foot Scrubber is still hand-crafted, by the way.)
(In the beginning, we packed 10 Foot Scrubbers in a reusable fruit basket stuffed with excelsior (shredded wood) and then shipped each basket in a box of air-popped popcorn!)
Our next offerings were Natural Cotton terry robes, and then velour robes, made from defoliant-free cotton, in a process that was as chemical-free as possible.
An early customer in Omaha, a shopkeeper in our Old Market district said something that had a profound influence on us.
He said, "I sell a lot of those velour robes because they're beautiful, comfortable and look really great on people. I know that they're made in a very environmentally responsible manner, but I'm so glad that you haven't compromised on quality or appearance."
We were surprised to realize that he was right. We just hadn't thought of it that way.
Going forward we decided that our commitment to environmental and social responsibility would remain the foundation of our company, but that every product must also look great and work well. This was kind of revolutionary at the time, but has since become the norm.
We even created what we called the DNA for our products. Every product we created or introduced must honor these principles:
- Be Simple - things you use every day should have good, clean design and simple, time-honored ingredients proven effective over time. We all deserve these everyday luxuries, and yet products should be easy to use and care for.
- Be Serious - products are made to be used, to have a real effect and to offer a true benefit. The world doesn't need another "fluff" product, and we won't sell one.
- Be Human - products are designed to appeal to all the senses, and to make a connection between the maker and the user. Our products should surprise and delight the people who use them.
- Be Genuine/Celebrate what it is - don't hide a terra-cotta product away in a box - celebrate the material: let people see it, touch it and smell it. Use good quality and let it show.
- Be Crafted - we use only the highest quality materials, and every product product is clearly thought through. We'd rather charge a little higher price for an excellent, concentrated product than compromise on quality.
- Be Natural/Organic - use materials and ingredients that come from the earth, not a lab. Strive for "wholeness" in ingredients, recognizing that "trace" ingredients may also offer benefits. Use as many Certified Organic Ingredients as possible.
- Be Unisex - in scents, design, packaging and products, we stay away from the flowery and frilly, choosing instead to offer products and scents that appeal to both sexes.
We were and are slow to jump on bandwagons. We still believe that we had the right idea in the first place, and we that the many people who contact us each week think so too.
Try something for yourself. Try a Foot Scrubber, or Nourishing Foot Cream. Maybe take the plunge and order a waffle weave towel. I know you'll love it and you'll be glad you did.
President and Co-Founder