You don’t need to be aware of Ashley Berrysmith’s entrepreneurial and eco credentials (more on those later) to realise he’s serious about building a better environment one block at a time. Within seconds of being welcomed into his office, amiable Ashley proudly guide’s our gaze to the collection of flowers and beehives (from Bees Up Top, featured in Verve August) that add a lovely splash of colour to the carpark outside.
“One of our customers got a rescue beehive and we planted that whole garden out there to replace the concrete,” he beams. “We got the award winning designer, Xanthe White, in to make sure it flowers all year round and Jess [Baker, Bees Up Top boss] says it’s one of the healthiest hives she has. It all fits in nicely with the philosophy of what we’re trying to achieve here.”
Verve is visiting Ashley to find out more about the incredible Good Cube, a range of vegan-friendly conditioning-shampoo blocks that feel, look and smell sumptuous enough to eat—and little wonder as they’re crafted with some of Aotearoa’s finest botanicals such as the kawakawa and harakeke plant, mixed with high-grade orange, lemon and coconut oils. And, vitally, there is not an ounce of soap or synthetic fragrance in sight.
“Plants have been so underutilised,” says Ashley. “We’re constantly learning more about their magic. There has to be efficacy in what I do, there’s no point in just using plants because it’s trendy. Good Cubes are based on science—I have a degree in horticulture—and it’s something that I have been mulling over for decades.”
Ashley was raised in “alternative” Titirangi, an idyllic childhood “surrounded by native bush and a menagerie, with maybe one visitor a year as it was the back of beyond!” His mum was the secretary of the local herb society, and so the family “grew up around health and wellbeing”.
“I also grew up as a bushman and the whole concept of ‘plant power’ has always driven me.”
Ashley cites the head teacher at his intermediate school as significant influence on his plant-based worldview, too.
“He was a tall, strapping, energetic guy, and he became a real mentor to me,” says Ashley. “He was the president of the vegetarian society and I went along when I was only around 11 and was the youngest there by probably 30 or 40 years! I had always been a real meat eater, raiding the fridge at midnight for a slice of corned beef, but their passion really got to me, and I just went, excuse the pun, cold turkey, from that to zero.”
Ashley’s passion for plant power fuelled all future life choices, long before it was fashionable to embark on such ethical paths. Beginning in the 1980s, he founded a series of eco-businesses such as NZ Freshcuts (now Snapfresh) that launched iconic—and award-winning—Kiwi salad brands like Sproutman and Krispkut (now Taylor Farms). Ashley also established the Berrysmith Foundation (now Just So Karaka Eco Park project) to “create a legacy of health and wellbeing for our people and the planet” by way of restoring waterways, wetlands and native bush, and encouraging sustainable food production projects. In 2008 he won the Ernst & Young NZ Entrepreneur of The Year award and competed for the world title in Monte Carlo. Six years later, Ashley’s foundation launched Meat-Free Monday in New Zealand.
Ashley’s instincts to give-back—and clean-up—continue with Good Cube.
“For every sale we donate 33 cents to Sustainable Coastlines,” he says. “We went to them and asked what it costs to remove a litre of plastic from a beach.”
On top of that, each conditioning-shampoo bar is good for at least 100 washes, meaning it saves a staggering eight standard bottles from your bathroom—and it can even treble-up as a body wash, too (kiss good-bye to bathroom clutter!) While many soaps and shampoos have a pH of between eight and 12, the Good Cubes come in at under 6.5, more in keeping with the natural balance of our hair and skin.
“The ingredients and extracts are highly concentrated, very expensive, and all with their own individual properties,” says Ashley. “Even the combined conditioner is concentrated, and really does work, not like the old days of the two-in-one Pantene!”
The cubes don’t just outperform the products in the plastic bottles, but even their fellow shampoo bars as well. While others use a ‘melt and pour’ manufacturing method that traps air and leaves them prone to melting on the bathroom shelves, the Good Cube is forged under intense pressure, squeezing the plants and essential oils and all their nutrients into a dense, compacted, air-free block that’s far harder to break down. Ashley calls it “Squished Plant Power”, in fact, you can expect Good Cubes to last two to three times longer than other bars on the market.
Ashley says it’s time to make stand and “raise the bar and ditch the plastic”.
“We need to make it easier for people to make everyday choices that support a post-plastics world,” he adds. “The cube not only lasts longer, but every time it’s used, it takes care of our skin, our hair and our planet. We can all do our bit to make better choices, and collectively, that adds up to a lot.”
WHY YOU SHOULD CONVERT TO THE CUBE
Clean up your bathroom and the oceans—each cube is good for four bottles of shampoo and four bottles of conditioner, while each purchase removes a further litre of plastic from our beaches and oceans.
Save bathroom space and money, with each Good Cube good for over 100 washes.
Support a local business as well as Kiwi botanists.
All packaging is compostable.
A more natural pH means healthier hair and skin—remember it’s not just shampoo and conditioner, it can be used as a bodywash as well.
Harakeke & Shea Butter: Good for dry and damaged hair thanks to its bergamot, geranium and chia oil content that conditions and nourishes.
Kawakawa & Coconut Oil: This incredible smelling cube also sports spicy mandarin, orange and chia oil, ideal for maintaining normal hair.
Horopito & White Willow Bark: This poetically named cube is the ideal potion for oily hair, backed by fragrant lemon myrtle.
Kumarahou & Spirulina: This one’s known as ‘the multi-tasker’, enriched with vetiver and cedarwood, it’s so smooth it can even be used as a shaving bar, as well as body wash, shampoo and conditioner.
Ashley really has thought of everything, also available is a storage bag so you can hang the cube in the shower, and an exfoliator and bar saver pouch ready to receive the last “pesky pieces”. Both are crafted from knitted hemp.