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Friends make thyme for cleaner, greener life

Joni and Charlie Pritchett, Jen Williams and Kris Shaffer all knew each other as students at Science Hill High School. A decade later, they are closer than ever, brought together by a natural, common purpose.
“We didn’t know it back in high school, but as adults we all became very ‘green,’ ” says Joni Pritchett. “We recycle, follow vegan diets. We’re concerned about the environment.” 
They also shared an interest in cleaning with natural products.
“The four of us had each tried about every earth-friendly cleaner available in the store, and we weren’t satisfied with any of them,” Pritchett said. “They were ‘natural’ but they still had long ingredient lists with complicated chemical names and we wanted something simpler.”
The friends had all been experimenting with making their own household cleaners and each had some recipe ideas as well as the knowledge that making household cleaners wasn’t hard, just time consuming. They decided to perfect their recipes, make larger batches and go public. 
Earth Thyme debuted at the Jonesborough Farmers Market last year with four products, including cleaners and air fresheners. The company now sells eight products online at and at the Natural Foods Market in Johnson City.
When looking for the right package for their product, their green creativity again came in to play. At the time, green glass was not recyclable in Johnson City, so they wondered if they could use a post-consumer green glass to sell their product.
“We found out that we could sterilize the bottles and then fit them with a new spray attachment,” Pritchett says. “They work great. We also offer a discount if you bring the bottle back.” 
As the name suggests, a main ingredient in all their products is thyme, much of which they harvest from their personal gardens. When their own gardens are done, they use thyme from local farmers markets.
“Thyme has a long history of use as a medicinal plant to ward off sickness. It has been used as an antiseptic for thousands of years in Roman, Greek and Indian medicine,” Pritchett says. “More recent research has found that there is a volatile oil in thyme called Thymol that acts as an antiseptic and disinfectant.”
In addition to thyme, key ingredients in the products include vinegar, fruits, herbs and essential oils. 
“White vinegar is a common household cleaning agent. It can dissolve mineral deposits from glass, coffee makers and other smooth surfaces. Vinegar has been reputed to have strong antibacterial properties,” Pritchett says. “Citrus is also acidic and provides antibacterial and antiseptic properties.” 
The friends make the products in their workshop inside Joni and Charlie’s garage. To ensure top quality, they make one product at one time.
“So we would do all glass cleaners first and then multi-surface cleaners and so on,” Pritchett says. “When we all work together on the same product, we get them done much faster and more efficiently than if we were all working on separate products.”
The hardest part of being in business together is coordinating schedules around their other jobs to find time to work together, Pritchett says.
“But once we’re together and products are being made, we’re laughing, joking and it doesn’t really feel like work,” Pritchett says. “It is something we all really enjoy and are passionate about.”