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3/11/2009
Our naturally energized world
Our naturally energized world

AT WELEDA NATURALS, the future reveals itself. In this harmonious place, our environment connects with people, and people connect with modern technology in one flowing ecosystem. Resplendent with trees, flowers, birds, bees and ponds swimming with life, this sustainable landscape shows little sign of tiring today, tomorrow or the next day.

If you fly over the small village of Wetzgau, nestled among the hills of southern Germany, you will see a bird’s-eye view of a balanced biotope. You are overlooking Weleda Naturals. A lush, 50-acre Biodynamic® garden—the largest in Europe—organically flows into greenhouses, ponds, production facilities and a visitor and event center, complete with an organic restaurant. Each part blends with the next to create a dynamic figure-eight shape. This infinity symbol is indicative of the never-ending, interconnected cycle between people and nature, heritage and modernity, that lies at the heart of Weleda.

Bringing the inside out… and in

In the garden, more than 250 medicinal plants are grown biodynamically and cared for by 18 expert, dedicated gardeners. A small house borders one edge of the expansive gardens. Offices, restrooms and a dining room, bustling with hungry people chattering in the early afternoon, fill the interior. Within this comfortable space, the gardeners find rest and reprieve on cool, rainy days and a place of refreshment where they can wash away the dirt when the day is done.

Like all buildings at Weleda Naturals, the house connects to the gardens—both internally and externally. In this case, the gardens serve as a natural wastewater facility. As a result, only biodegradable cleaning detergents are allowed. Once water has been used in the showers, sinks and toilets, it flows through an under-ground decline leading into a basin filled with wood chips. All solid matter and minerals bind to the chips and thus get filtered out of the water. From here, the water flows into a marsh that is contained to avoid run-off (1). Another overflow pond automatically stands ready if water volume becomes too high. The ponds are filled with lush, green reeds, which again filter the water, making it clean enough to drink. It is then drained out from the bottom of the basin and pumped back to the gardener’s house for use, again, as toilet water (2). Any extra water gets put to use in caring for the non-harvested plants such as trees and shrubs throughout the gardens (3). The benefits of this set-up are vast: the system involves no costs, as even the raw materials such as wood chips are harvested in the gardens, and it creates no odor and no waste. It’s an eco-balanced dream come to life.

Bringing the outside in… and out

Rows of plants, bountiful with diversity and blooming with life, cover the garden ground and reach toward the sky. When each plant reaches its peak, the gardeners carefully pick the harvest and deliver it to the production facilities, just a short walk or drive away (4).

Here, as in the gardens, human hands work with nature to make all the production processes possible—all while conserving nature’s invaluable resources. The most essential commodity—next to the raw materials used to make the products—is energy. Sun, a radiant source of power, gives nourishment to the plants as they grow. At the same time, it provides indoor energy generated by solar panels on the roofs of the buildings (5). “We produce part of the energy we use in our production and general operations. The energy from our solar panels is sold to the grid,” explains Bas Schneiders, managing director of Weleda Naturals. “We then buy back our energy, along with other green energy sources from water and wind.

No nuclear energy is purchased or used.” This green power runs the everyday operations, including the production facilities, kitchen and offices.

As these renewable resources get brought inside, the energy recycle continues. The integrated layout between each of the buildings allows the production area to conveniently share its converted energy with the visitor center. For example, in the process of making herbal tinctures, fresh plants are heated and sterilized with steam. The leftover steam is condensed and fed into the floors of the neighboring visitor center, where it provides radiant heat for all the guests who come to experience this natural world (6).

Water, one of the most valuable resources, has also been harnessed in the most resourceful and renewable of ways. Rainwater is collected on the roofs of the buildings and then piped into two cisterns, with a total capacity of nearly 8,000 gallons (7). This rain—direct from nature and the best water source for plants—is then used for the gardens (8). Rain provides 40 percent of the water needed each year for the soil, herbs and flowers that grow on this land, thereby helping to conserve precious drinking water.

Every part contains a whole. The cycle of Weleda Naturals is complete, as is the ecosystem of which it is a part. jb

To learn more or arrange for a visit to Weleda Naturals, go to weleda-naturals.com or e-mail fuehrungen@weleda-naturals.de.