Young, dynamic and driven, Anele Msweli is passionate about the environment and natural, holistic living. Her non-toxic eco-lux home care brand, Mare & Itis, is a testament to this.
While living in China, KZN-born Anele decided to make her own cleaning products. “I was struggling to find products that didn’t aggravate my hair and skin. I couldn’t always read the ingredients. I realised there were a lot of banned chemicals being used. So, I did some research and started making my own.”
What started as a little ‘home-project’ is now a growing business and brand stocked by major online stores (like Faithful to Nature and Yuppiechef), as well as on her own website and in some health stores.
An Earth Sciences major, Anele’s fascination with the earth and its geography started very young. “I was always a little different,” she laughs. “I listened to hard rock and heavy metal and was raised by a single mom. I buried myself in books and was a high academic achiever.”
Anele studied Geology at Rhodes University, majoring in Geography and Environmental Sciences. “I’ve always been passionate about the environment.”
At Rhodes, Anele made friends with people from around the world, which opened her eyes up to different cultures and ideas. After getting her degree she returned to KZN and, a few years later, used her savings to go on a solo trip to Turkey. Inspired by people she met on her travels, Anele applied for a teaching job overseas and moved to China in 2016.
“I spent two years teaching English in Harbin (the Northern most city in China), before moving to Tianjin near Beijing. There I spent another two years teaching at a Montessori school, where I was promoted to English coordinator. It was hard work and long hours, but I loved it. When I came home for a wedding in February 2020 I got stuck here because of lockdown and haven’t been able to get back.”
Although her dream was (and still is) to have her own boutique store in China, Anele has embraced being back in South Africa and poured her life’s savings into launching Mare & Itis Shoppe. “Mare and Itis is inspired by everything natural. We are non-toxic and eco-conscious and use plant-based ingredients with none of the baddies.”
The wide range includes body oils, lotions, handwash, sanitizer, insect repellent, essential oils and even yoga mat and kitchen cleaners. She uses glass for her products and avoids single-use plastic.
“I have consciously-sourced everything that goes into these products. I’m a real one-man-band (and I even hand write a love note with every delivery), but everything I make is authentic. There are so many false claims from ‘natural’ brands out there and a lot of misinformation. I’ve read the journals (not just on Google) and everything I do is based on science.”
3 SMALL CHANGES YOU CAN MAKE TODAY:
1. Plant based doesn’t always mean it’s great for the environment. It’s best to do your research on the particular type of plants. For example, the cork tree is about to be listed as endangered. The demand for this amazing plant has grown and it takes 8 years for the tree to be ready to harvest. That’s just an example.
2. Audit your lifestyle every couple of months. Make gradual changes, because if you decide to go in guns blazing and change everything at the same time, it’ll be overwhelming and not sustainable. For example, in the first month switch to reusable face/toner pads. Then, in the second month switch to carrying a reusable cup/bottle for coffee and water, etc.
3. Read labels and ingredients carefully so you don’t become a victim of greenwashing. Try to understand the chemicals in different products as well. It’s very important to have a preservative in products, especially water-based products where fungi, mould and bacteria can thrive. Preservative-free is probably not ideal when items have to sit on a shelf. There have been stories of large brands having to recall their skin care range because of mould.