Thursday, 10 December 2009

Copenhagen - The Hippie Post

It’s 3AM and my second day here in Copenhagen is just about to finish. In case you have had your head buried in the sand this past month, the world’s leaders, NGOs, religious groups, activists, indigenous peoples and present (and future) climate refugees have gathered to strike a new FAB deal to get us out of the greenhouse mess we have got our planet into. FAB meaning fair, ambitious and (legally) binding. Well, the world’s leaders will have to aim for the FAB deal, the rest of us will aim for the (also fab) grassroots deals, forged with passion, compassion and commitment to ending this habitat destruction non-sense, unique to our species.

Anyway, I have had little sleep but gone through lot of insights, amazing events and a weird array of encounters that give serendipity its good name.

There are three main events on the fringe of the big UN climate change summit. Klima Forum, organised by the Danish government, but with a people’s feel to it; Hopenhagen (gotta love the name) in the main city square and Climate Bottom (another inspired name) in the free town Christiania. The latter is the main hippie joint, where ecovillages, eco-communities, spiritual groups and colourful punters meet to discuss social ecology, education, activism and the new societies.

I’ve been hopping between the Klima Forum and the Christiania meetings, getting conference-stress as there’s just too much to see and not enough time.

I arrived a day earlier with no place to stay and, after a few offers, ended up sleeping in a library! They’ve kitted a large room with about 40 beds, fluffy duvets, soft pillows and a scouts’ feel to it. It’s free and there are only a few of us here, so really a luxury. I feel like I’m in the army, but it’s the rainbow army of eco-soldiers.

It’s difficult to describe the melting pot of feelings that you come across in a day: hope, fear, faith, inspiration, profound sadness, connection, urgency and place. I’ve had tears in my eyes from all of the above emotions brought about by declarations of love, images of the kids in the Maldives and Tuvalu (two islands that have been slowly encroached by the sea and whose population will have to find a new place to live.), a passionate presentation from a Buddhist monk, beautiful people and profound dialogues. When you experience this gamut of emotions and engage on such a personal level with people you’ve never met before, you get a sense of the privilege of being human.

It’s this power of togetherness, of seeing yourself in others, of finding common ground between a marine scientist, a native Brazilian, a Cuban urban gardner and a UK activist, which holds the key to solving this serious planetary crisis. I had never come into such a close contact of the social dimension of climate change.

Here are the highlights so far:

  • Went for a Finnish sauna, built from scratch in four weeks in Christiania, with this incredible Finnish forest being, accompanied by Paulo, Mona – a friend I hadn’t seen in years and Aili;
  • Chatted to a Brazilian senator for the Para state (where part of the Amazon is) about (not) eating meat, brazil-nut nutloaf and keeping communities living in the forest;
  • Got told off by Dutch Buddhist healer for my fear of commitment, even though I had never met her before;
  • Met old Brazilian friends and activists and remembered how much energy Brazilian people can have – singing went well into the night;
  • Had long and interesting chat with sustainable fisheries expert about ocean acidification as well as using fishing quotas trials and errors as useful wisdom for a climate market solution;
  • Met sukhi kundalini yoga teacher from Chile and had amazing private yoga class in the morning at the library;
  • Found out that thick socks and flip-flops keep my feet warmer than boots – so have been seen in pink socks and flip-flops running around the conference;
  • Discovered that using steam cream as a hair balm in the sauna makes the hair incredibly soft;
  • Had great chats with permaculture practicioners from India and Cuba, discovered the Kepper motor, learned about new projects and possibilities.
  • Rekindled my love for Brazilian people and started dreaming about all the possibilities of restoring that corner of the Earth (maybe that's a side effect from being too cold!).

I realised that I know enough about the Science. For me it’s time to develop bonds and the spiritual and the social responsibility that cannot be separated from the numbers, models and graphs. I just hope the politicians on the other side of Copenhagen will find the courage to tune into our music.

To follow... The Geekie Post and The Punk Post.


Escrevo a versão em Português amanhã!


The main stages of my life in the past five years always seem to come accompanied by a new blog. I started one when I moved to the UK the first time, another when I moved back to the crowded island for a second time and now, as I'm about to leave the country (yes, I know, again and yes, maybe I’ll come back, again), I thought I’d just rehash my old blog and hopefully give others a taste of what goes on inside my brain, highlights from my new life until it becomes too mundane to write about.

So if this is your first time here, welcome. If you’ve been here before, then this blog won’t be so much about Lush anymore. It will be a more personal account of my journey into finding a truly low-carbon life out in Portugal and the first steps towards my big vision for the communities of the future. Yes, do expect a higher level of general hippiness, but also a broader level of happiness and the occasional hoppiness – all seen through my usual green-tainted, passion-filled life spectacles.


Já que estou começando uma nova fase da minha vida e já que está fase será em Portugal, resolvi voltar a escrever um blog em português para meus queridos do Brasil. Não escreverei uma tradução do inglês, já que a maioria de vocês conseguem entender o básico. Meu blog anterior foi deletado do servidor! Junto com várias histórias da primeira vez que mudei para a Inglaterra. Uma pena! Agora fecho este ciclo para o início de um outro. Sempre jogo minhas intenções para o Universo e ele me devolve oportunidades. Esta é mais uma dessas surpresas da vida. Ficarei um tempo em Troporiz, uma vila ao norte de Portugal em uma região cheia de rios, cachoeiras e águas quentes. A garota da cidade grande vai tentar viver uma vida simples, perto da Natureza e em um eco-canteiro de uma eco-obra. Aguardem!

Tuesday, 7 October 2008

Green Awards

Speaking of awards... we've also been shortlisted for the Green Awards in their Green Packaging category for Squeaky Green: There's no greener packaging than no packaging! Our entry described how much plastic we're saving by getting people to use our shampoo bars, the benefits of having fewer lorries on the roads and how creativity can help us all be greener.
Awards ceremony is on November 12th! It will be great if we win a packaging category with no packaging! I'll keep you all posted.

Wednesday, 1 October 2008

National Recycling Awards

Just a quick note to say we've been shortlisted for the National Recycling Awards on the "Best High Street Recycler" category for using 100% recycled pots and bottles, as well as collecting the black pots from customers. I think it also helped the fact that we donate lots of bits and bobs, including black pots to Scrap Stores around the country and for having the most amazing staff super dedicated to making sure everything that can be recycled gets recycled. You all rock!
The Awards ceremony is on November 12th, so I'll post here whatever the results are!
Click here for a list of the finalists.

Tuesday, 19 August 2008

The Camp of Hope

As usual, I report events about two weeks after they happen! It's a good thing I'm not a journalist.
I'm sure everyone read on the news about the group of climate activists who hoped to stop the dirty coal-fired power station Kingsnorth in Kent.
But getting those climate activits together is a lot more than just climbing fences, causing mischief or making it into the news for the number of arrests. It is also about hope.
This year, the camp seemed even more thriving than last year. Despite the annoying stop and search by the police - I was searched four times, the early wake up calls - 200 riot police pretending they were about to storm the camp combined with low-flying helicopters and countless others excesses on the uniformed boys part, camp life went on, as peaceful as ever, filling my mind with ideas, shaking my body into action and flooding my heart with hope.
I got two days off work (thanks, Mark) and made my way to a field in the Hoo Peninsula, about 3 miles from Kingsnorth. In this area there are three power stations, a BP oil storage unit, a harbour that makes roads crammed with freight lorries and much more, all in an area of special interest and nature reserves.

The idea of the camp is to leave the area in as good a state as we found it, so we got the sheep out and moved ourselves in, making sure the sheep could safely get back on. It is also a way to demonstrate how we can live a sustainable but fun life and especially how we can live with no leaders - using a fair decision-making process. The way we create the camp is not necessarily the way the people that attend are living their lives, but it is a way to show what is possible and most importantly, to show that we don't lose anything by going for a low carbon lifestyle. As I always say: gathering knowledge, cooking and eating good food, exercising, dancing, sleeping and having sex are all things easily done in a very low carbon way and that can keep you happy for a while. All of those things are available at the camp, except the last one as apparently there was a huge surplus of condoms!

So we pee in a bale of straw and take our poo to be composted. We eat seasonal and varied organic vegan food, even organic vegan cake! We do the dishes together and we set up a grey water treatment system with old bath tubes, hessian sacks and bales of straw. We make decisions by consensus and volunteer to do what's needed. We each do a little bit so that everyone can have everything. We use solar, wind and pedal power to supply us with the energy we need. We even have pedal-powered DJ nights (see picture), where you have to pedal if you want to dance. We share knowledge and we engage in meaningful and coherent discussions. We find the time to worry, but we also find the time to turn that into action. We find out about what everyone else is doing, discuss the science, the solutions, the challenges and the opportunities that these Climate Change times have to offer.

The transformation content of those days is incredible. The sense of urgency, as well. For me, it's a relief to find lots of people on the same wavelength, which also think that we need to to build a sustainable present before we can even think about the future.
It is also a place that exudes hope. It makes you think that maybe there are just about enough people to make the necessary social adjustments to pull us through. When peak oil, credit crunch and climate change come together, it is the drive, the knowledge, the cooperation and the creativity, offered in heaps at the Climate Camp, which will help us climb that huge wall and fall standing on our feet when we get to the other side. Or so I hope.

Saturday, 21 June 2008

Train Mad

Train Mad

Last year, after flying for less-than-noble reasons, I decided I would try a flight-free diet. Not that I was a binge flyer anyway, but after switching to green electricity, taking up cycling, buying organic, fitting energy saving light bulbs, etc, etc, etc a person on the path to a green life cannot ignore the impact of flying. “I fly because it’s cheap” doesn’t really add up when we consider the indirect costs of flying, they are nothing but cheap. So I thought I’d starve myself of flying for as long as I could handle.

I did make it last for over a year; all my personal and business trips were done by bike or public transport. Unfortunately, I had to break my flight fast in April when due to a change of plans, incredibly high last-minute train prices and lack of time, I ended up flying to Amsterdam to speak at a conference. Luckily, I could fly from Southampton airport, a small, easy-to-get-to airport. The design is quite nice, with a roof that allows so much sunlight to pass through that hardly any man-made light was on. Toilets had water saving features, recycling bins abounded and Flybe’s aircraft even had an energy rating! It appears that they have invested in more energy efficient planes and have reduced their consumption when landing and taking off, the bits that waste more energy. The aircraft rating was a bit of a one-off, I think they are the only ones doing it so what do you compare it to? A fridge? They give a rating for energy used in landing and take off, while in the air and fuel efficiency. The overall rating is “B”, well, my fridge is better! They also claim a person emits 72g/km for a short-haul flight. To top it I arrived at sunset after a quite enjoyable flight. I was almost fooled. Thank god the journey back was somewhat bumpy or I might have gotten attached to those metal wings.

Despite that minor indulgence, I decided to be firm and resist the temptation.
So here I am writing in Prague in this lovely vegetarian restaurant-cum-night club (I know!!!) waiting for my thai noodles. I arrived on Tuesday, a journey that went from Poole, to London, Brussels, Berlin and Prague to speak at a Bioplastic Conference. Sounds long, and it is, but it is also a very beautiful way.
This time I didn’t book a bed on the sleeper train so I didn’t fall asleep for very long as I happened to be in the party cabin: French Canadians, Scottishmen, techno and booze – I read a book just in case you’re wondering. It made me feel old!

The route from Berlin to Prague is magical. The train follows the river Elbe nearly all the way and crosses beautiful picturesque towns, rolling hills, lush forests and solar panels, many solar panels, a stunning amount of PVs on roofs. That’s what you get when the government really pushes for micro generation. In Germany, you can get a low interest long-term loan to buy solar panels and then, when you sell surplus electricity to the grid, the energy suppliers are legally required to pay you four times what you would pay to buy electricity from the grid. You can actually make money! Freibur, in the south of Germany, generates as much solar power as the whole of the Great Britain!

Another sweet thing about trains is that they are always full of interesting people. I’ve met an Opera singer from Serbia, a vegetable oil lobbyist from Brussels, a physicist working with one of the biggest super-computers in the world and many more. You actually have time to engage in meaningful conversation over a meal at the restaurant car. Just the idea of a restaurant car is lovely in itself.

But train-life is not always perfect. I lugged my family on a slow night train trip from Paris to Venice… fifteen hours! Six bunks to a cabin! No one could really appreciate it, especially because the party cabin on that wagon was right next door and the walls are paper thin. Sleepers train in the UK win hands down and you get the lovely train host to knock on your door 30min before the station with breakfast, so you have breakie in bed looking at the amazing scenery out of the window! I can’t begin to describe how happy that makes me feel.

Then there are the bridges and tunnels: monuments to great engineers and architects. There’s the lovely bridge between Dundee and Edinburgh, the amazing one between Copenhagen and Malmo and scores more. The tunnel under the English Channel can get you considering that engineering feat for the length of the crossing. I was lapping happily at the alpine scenery last month when the train went into a tunnel. I decided to time it because it seemed quite long. Well, we were in for nearly 20 minutes. Wikipedying later I found out that’s the second largest train tunnel in the world. Magnificent!

To finish this ode to train journeys, I’d like to express my love for the architecture of train stations. Paris Gare de Lyon, Gare du L’est e Gare du Nord are stunning. Dresden’s station intricacy of wrought iron is delightful and St. Pancras smells beautifully new and old at the same time. If you ever have time to while away in St Pancras, get the vegan blueberry muffin from Le Pain Quotidien to eat on the journey.

Next time you go on holiday, make the journey part of the trip and take the train! Just be careful not to get train-mad like me and so fed up that I decided to fly back home tonight!
Book ahead, get lots of info and educate yourself on:


Monday, 14 April 2008

Lovely piece on the Independant

Because you're worth it...
... or so the beauty industry says, in defence of its costly and wasteful packaging. Time to think outside the box?

By Ian Johnston and Susie Mesure
Sunday, 13 April 2008

Their contents promise "miracle" ingredients, extracted from the deep ocean or the heart of a volcano, with the power to bestow "new life" on ageing mortals. Welcome to the hype of the beauty cream world, epitomised by the lavish wrapping swaddling what are essentially moisturising lotions often encased in more than six times their own weight of packaging.

Elaborate pumping systems with multiple washers, springs and moulded plastic parts; thick glass jars hiding like Russian dolls within multiple cardboard boxes; and golden test tubes peeking out of transparent presentation cases – all routinely encase just 50ml of cream, which is less than the contents of a single egg.

Beauty creams have become the latest flashpoint in the environmental campaigners' battle against excess packaging, with UK trading standards officers lining up to prosecute the worst perpetrators. Brands from Crème de la Mer and La Prairie at the top of the luxury spectrum down to the Olays and L'Oréals at the lower end are all feeding a multibillion-pound global industry that is soaring in value, despite concern at the amount of waste clogging up landfill sites.

The cosmetics packaging industry was worth £6.7bn to manufacturers worldwide in 2005 and is tipped to grow by more than 10 per cent to £7.5bn by 2009. Nearly two-thirds of all cosmetics packaging is made from plastic, with around one-fifth made from paper.

Figures from Lush, a soap maker and cosmetics company that shuns packaging, show that packaging often makes up more than 80 per cent of a product's total weight. Mark Constantine, Lush's founder, said: "Packaging is unnecessary, bad for the environment and uneconomic. If you get rid of it, then manufacturers will have more money to spend on the content and you get more product."

Trewin Restorick, director of the environmental campaign group Global Action Plan, said cosmetics were often "excessively packaged to make a very small amount of content look alluring". He called on shoppers to put pressure on the worst offenders, which tend to be the most luxurious brands, by boycotting their products. "Consumers can really start to shift the industry if they move towards companies like Lush and Aveda and away from these overly packaged items," he said.

Trading standards officers said companies were guiltier than ever of over-packaging their products, despite an industry-wide crackdown three years ago. Christine Heemskerk, trading standards officer at Surrey county council, said a new investigation into the industry was "possible", warning that the worst offenders could be prosecuted under existing laws against excess packaging.

The cosmetics industry relies on the "less is more" principle to boost its bottom line, according to marketing experts. "That's an absolutely golden rule. The grander the brand, the less you get. The 'what a lot you get' principle is downmarket. People want to imply this is very, very valuable stuff," said Peter York.

A spokeswoman for the Cosmetic, Toiletry and Perfumery Association (CTPA) defended the industry. "A cosmetic product has a very long life and it has to be in a robust and durable package to maintain it in good order. The packaging for our industry is an absolutely vital component.

Sunday, 13 April 2008

Lush Town - Back to the Ol' Days

There's this new movie out there about a certain Lush Town, where missing products are about to be found!
This idea of retro products: going back to the past to unearth something current desires are asking for could be extended to other aspects of our lives. Here are past habits I wish it would become mainstream again:
* Electric milk floats doing milk rounds and delivering bottles that are used an average of 20 times (at Lush head quarters, we have the privilege of having that service available) and having the option of oat milk;
* Coppicing wood as fuel and building materials. I found lots of ancient tree circles not far from my house in Bournemouth. They indicate ancient woodland from a time when local woodlands were big providers of resources and were regularly coppiced;
* Eating locally and in season, regarding foreign fruit and veg as somewhat of a treat, rather than taking them for granted;
* Going to your local market with a basket and filling it with unpackaged goods, buying less processed food and building relationships with your local merchants;
* Watermills and windmills, what a lovely way of harnessing the power of nature;
* Sustainable building materials like straw, wood, cob, lime, etc building cement-free constructions that last centuries.

Like digging out the formulas for Retro products, this is a good time to look at how the past can show us how to secure future. Everything on the list is still available today, with a pinch or two of modernisation and convenience. Click on the links above for some of the contemporary reincarnations of past trends and take a greener trip down memory lane.

Thursday, 27 March 2008

The Great Big Recycled Family

You really must use liquid shampoo? No luck with solid ones? What about soap? Sure you need a shower gel? Well, in that case let’s make sure we get the packaging right. Our shampoos, conditioners, gels and creams now come snugly packaged in 100% post-consumer recycled pots and bottles.
It all started in November last year, when our Creative Buying Team sourced lovely materials for us, but due to stock levels and lead times, it took a while to make sure that all clear and black bottles, as well as black pots now in shops are the ones made out of the stuff that gets put in recycling bins around the world.
By doing that, we save about 115 tonnes of CO2 (according to WRAP, who helped us work out the figures), or around 20% of our flying emissions. We’re also saving nearly 90 tonnes of virgin plastic or 900 barrels of oil. That plastic can also be recycled again (I’d like to say “and again and again and again”, but plastic, unlike glass, cannot be recycled indefinitely.)
With that we bring our total recycled content to about 90% of all packaging LUSH buy that can be taken home by customers. I worked out that figure by calculating the percentage of recycled material of all the paper, plastic, glass and metal we buy in to wrap our beautiful products. That means that for every one tonne of material we buy, 900kg came from recycled sources. As far as I know, that’s unique in our industry!
This year, I’m expecting we’ll buy over 470 tonnes of recycled material, that’s nearly the same we send to be recycled and much more than we send to landfill (at the factory, that is). There’s a new term for that: Waste Neutral, we are buying at least as much recycled as we’re recycling.
Buying recycled creates a market for recycled material and adds value, turning recycling into a profitable business; therefore, getting more people to join in, invest and help it to evolve.
Also, to make it just that bit easier, we’re asking customers to bring their black pots back in order to get a free fresh facemask. Five pots may get you a flawless complexion and a fit planet.
Pots and bottles are the new members of a growing family: carrier bags, paper bags, aluminium tins, gift wrapping paper, paper ribbons, card boxes, tags, inserts, Lush Times, light-box displays and more. They are our big recycled family, some real trailer trash! Recycled trailer trash, I should say.
Like every respectable family, we have our black sheep. Labels and greaseproof paper are quite rebellious. But in this family, the naughty bunch are the ones that are still virgin. If you can take their virginity away and make them recycled, please let us know and we’ll arrange the dowry.

Sunday, 16 March 2008

This Easter, Celebrate Life!

Even if Easter is not part of your culture, let us take our precious time off to celebrate all living things, the natural cycle of birth, life and death and how our interaction with our environment can foster the former or the latter.
Like every commemorative date, we celebrate by consuming food and drinks, giving presents and congregating with our family and friends.
Just as we take into consideration how we will get somewhere (and come back) and we put some thought to plan the time, transport, route, etc, so should we do the same for all the other things we consume during the festive period (and every other day of the year). Have we thought: about how our food, drink and gifts get to us; how they were made and where they came from; where our money is going to and what we are financing? And ultimately, what happens when we've used it all up?
A nice concept that I like to use to think about consumption is that for everything we buy, we are making little investments in our present and our future. What do we want to invest in?
I want to invest my money in things that won't have a big impact on the our environment, those that will mean we are making small steps to reduce poverty or social problems and those which will translate into respect for humans and animals.
That's how big a statement everything we purchase makes: from that morning latte to choosing your holidays, including your cosmetics.
So have a look at your Easter table and see if it makes you feel proud. See what kind of little investments you're making and if the things you're supporting are in line with your values.
If you happened to walk into a Lush shop this Easter and picked up one of our Easter Eggs, make sure they go to a good home and will be used throughly!
During Easter alone, we create an extra 8,000 tonnes of waste just from Easter Egg packaging!
At Lush, we were careful to use as little packaging as possible for our eggs. None of the contents are individually wrapped and the film is a compostable celullose film that will quickly biodegrade in your home compost or buried under the soil.
The cellulose comes from sustainable sources of wood. The company has also planted a 3,000-tree woodland near their manufacturing unit and have done a thorough life cycle assessment of their product. We like to know where our money is going to.
At Lush we like to help you find out what exactly you're buying, where it comes from and make sure it is appropriate to your needs, so that you really know what the little investments you're making when shopping are truly buying.

Wednesday, 30 January 2008

The Lovely People on the Path

One of the many joys of my job is meeting people who care.
I've just come off the phone having an almost one hour chat, out of office hours, with the guy who runs the place where some of the waste from our factory goes to.
We couldn't remember today how we came to meet, probably some networking in the waste trade.
From the first time I saw him I empathised with him. I can usually tell the good guys from the bad guys (and have at times, chosen the latter at my own risk ☺ ). Well, he runs this recycling tip which started as skip hire for builders and then evolved into general waste and recycling business. His recycling rate for the yard is 90%!
That means that everything that comes to him is sorted, stripped and salvaged... then turned into something else.
My favourite part when he calls is discussing the ins and outs of the trade. He does it in such a lovely way that many sentences are punctuated by "so your waste can have a low carbon footprint", or "we were going to take it to Slough, but just think of the footprint".
For him to recycle his “bad” wood (contaminated with paint, varnish, etc), he has to pay for his good wood to be taken away. He could easily make more money by selling his good wood and landfilling the bad. People who choose to make less money to follow the best environmental route figure very high up my list.
He's looked into solar-powered lights for the outside of the warehouse, but kept being put off by people saying it was prohibitively expensive.
He feels that it's part of his duty as a waste contractor to help the clients reduce their footprint. So he recommends easy ways of compacting waste, in order to for them to have fewer collections.
That's the kind of thing that just brightens my day! People that regardless of their trade in life are doing their best to do their job in an ethical and caring way.
I think it's our duty as a company to support people like that and make sure that the money we pay for services goes to the hands of such inspiring folk.
Just wanted to share that with someone. :-)

Sunday, 13 January 2008

2007 in a Nutshell

So, one more year is finished. As I complain every year that ends, where did time go? I always have this feeling that time passed and we still haven't managed to do all that which is necessary for the sense of urgency that's looming about. But there is also some sense of accomplishment, sense that we had a good year at Lush and that we are on the right track for ensuring a more sustainable business model that respects people, animals and the environment.
I thought I'd list a few highlights of the year and share some of the work we did:

* Naked Campaign:
100 of our lovely members of staff showed some flesh in July to campaign against excessive packaging and to show that there is an alternative. In the shops, we promoted our naked, unpackaged products through promotions and staff awareness.

* Packaging is Rubbish on Channel 4:
Mark Constantine, the big boss, did an excellent program on Channel 4 discussing our addiction to packaging, how packaging costs the environment and how it costs us a lot of money, too. He showed that for the best-selling shower gel brand, packaging costs 2x or 3x more than the raw materials.

* Palm-oil free soap base:
2007 was also year we made a major industry breakthrough, by working alongside the researched at Kay's Soap (in the picture on the left) we launched the first palm-oil free soap base to be done on large scale. In 2007 we launched only one soap with that base, but have now tested it with all other soaps and we hope to roll out in the whole range in the next few months.

* New Packaging:
We introduced some new and exciting packaging like the popcorn for filling our mail order parcels and gift boxes. We also replaced the bubble-wrap we used internally for something a lot more sustainable: crumpled recycled paper from Easypack. We gave a lot more thought to finding more environmentally packaging and looked into new and recycled materials coming to the shops this January.

* Eco-friendly gifts:
We printed our wrapping paper on 100% post-consumer recycled paper using vegetable inks. New paper ribbons were introduced and some of the items like ballistics and bubble bars went in the box naked, avoiding extra bags. We've wrapped our big naked gifts: Easter Eggs and Supersize Lush Pud in compostable cellulose film. The factory where the gifts are made also ran on 100% renewable energy with Ecotricity this Christmas.

* Green Helpers:
Some shops have one Green Heper, some have a team of them: keen and engaged members of staff, who encourage others to be green and ensure that shops are run to good environmental standards. They come up with great ideas from bringing organic soup to other members of staff to campaigning to get other shops recycling. We also met locally at four different eco places around the country to get everyone inspired and connected.

* Compost at the Factory:
In July, after an arduous search for a waste contractor who would take our organic waste, we started a compost scheme in the factory. All of our veg and fruit peel, herbal infusions, unpopped kernels from popping our own popcorn, floor sweepings, waste solid products gets composted. We produce about one tonne of organic waste per week that we are now diverting from landfill. Our organic waste goes to Eco-composting as part of their in-vessel composting operations. We will continue to avoid landfill as much as possible.

* Bio-diesel from chip fat:
The delivery company that transport goods to shops within 250km of our factory bought a kit for making their own bio-diesel from chip fat! They ran trials and used it in the trucks used for Lush. At the moment, there are problems with the manufacturers of the lorries, who claim they will only guarantee vehicles using 5% bio-diesel. We'll join in the fight and put some pressure to ensure this lovely initiative goes ahead as planned.

We have also been actively reducing the amount of air freight we use. Only a tiny percentage of our raw materials is air-freighted. We still have to air-freight very expensive essential oils which cost many thousand pounds a litre, but that is also being looked into and hopefully we will soon have a no air-freight policy!

In 2008, we keep on reducing the footprint of our processes, reducing our waste and showing that sustainability can be colourful, fun and nice-smelling!

Friday, 21 December 2007

Green Christmas by Ruth

I'm dreaming of a Green Christmas season
When all fairy lights are LED for a reason
So that in future we may still have some snow
And the world's sea levels are kept safely low

Celebrate locally, don't travel too far
Visit by train, please don't take a car
To all those around you, giv'em a kiss and a hug
Or low carbon gifts that will make you feel smug

If you want to eat, drink and be merry
Order some local organically grown berries
Don't be haunted by Christmas animal ghosts
Spare the turkey and instead make a healthy nut roast

When it comes to gift-wrapping, do like your gran
Keep all your ribbons and use them again
Use recycled paper or re-use a box
Give naked gifts that create a shock

Re-usable bags are this year's must
Take them with you don't let them gather dust
Gift re-giving is no longer frowned upon
If it's something you don't need
Please pass it on

After the jolly good times have come and gone
Act swiftly at the crack of the dawn
When the kids are all tired and sound asleep
Chop the old tree into your compost heap

Put your decorations somewhere far from the trash
Come next year, swap for you neighbour's old stash
Send all your cards to be recycled and reborn
They will return as loo roll or maybe soft porn

Be good to the planet, buy less and think more
May you have lots of love and what you ask for!

Wednesday, 19 December 2007

Happy Solstice and Merry Christmas

Now it’s a good time for us to remember that Christmas is not just about buying too much, eating too much and drinking too much. Quite the contrary, now it’s the right time to reflect about what impact our consuming has on the world and all the billions of creatures sharing this little planet. So before parting with more money, stop think about how those pounds will contribute to life on Earth.

Green Gifts
For your last minute gifts, buy something that will not cost the Earth. At Lush, you can find some lovely products, full of natural and fresh ingredients. For the shops that are in the South up till Birmingham, products are delivered in lorries running on bio-diesel from waste oil. You can also buy a virtual gift, a charity donation, a tree, write someone a poem, buy art, buy services (massage, for example), etc.

Gift Wrapping
Make your own! Smoothie tetrabricks make fantastic gift-boxes. Re-use wrapping from other gifts your received, put them in a re-usable bag, wrap with magazines, unwanted posters or wrap them in a scarp or a piece of fabric. If you want to avoid the hassle of wrapping your own gifts, Lush wraps our gifts in 100% recycled paper, printed with vegetable inks. Choose the ones with a paper ribbon and buy a It’s a Wrap instead. There’s also Supersized Lush Pud - the box is a giant bath ballistic and the wrapping is compostable.

Christmas Cards
I’d say, send everyone an e-card. But because in the UK, there’s such a huge tradition of card giving, make sure someone benefited from your purchase (charity cards, recycled cards) and in January, recycle them through the Woodland Trust scheme. Also, this has nothing to do with being green, but it’s lovely to actually express your feelings for someone and write something meaningful from the heart instead of just “Merry Christmas”!

Fairy Lights
Gotta be LEDs. Also, always turn them off when you go to bed. Use a timer if needed. In these times of Climate Change, with renewable energy in the UK not being able to meet demand, wasting electricity on fairy lights almost feels criminal.

Christmas Tree
Natural trees from certified sources (FSC) are always better. If you’ve bought a natural tree, then make sure it gets composted after Christmas. Check with your local authority for special post-Christmas collection schemes. If you’ve bought an artificial tree, pack it safely, protected from moisture, label it and store it somewhere you will remember, so you can use it again next year!

Green Decorations
Do it like Lush, make your Christmas decorations out of waste. We even have a lovely Christmas Tree called the The Joy Tree, made out of plastic bottles (see picture above - stolen from the artist's blog). They were made by Inga Hamilton, a fabulous artists that can turn any spent material into beautiful art. Check her website and learn how to make the tree. Go into a Lush shop, just to check our decorations out, they're great.
Use the popcorn from a Lush Gift, cinnamon sticks, dried oranges, natural holly, etc. Make a pomander!

Peaceful Food
Buy local and organic! Christmas is a time to celebrate life, so have lots of living and natural food on your table. There’s still time to get an organic box! Choose Fairtrade items that will ensure someone on the other side of the world can also have a bountiful Christmas. Choose spare a turkey this Christmas and make some lovely nut roast, if you must, get a free range and organic one, even if that means spending a little bit less on presents.

So that’s it… (excuse me, I’ll be bit hippy here, if you can’t take it, please stop reading now).

Have a lovely Christmas, full of happiness and compassion. Celebrate the Solstice, nature and life. I wish we all take the time this Christmas to develop a sense of community, of peace and of urgency in tackling the problems that are causing pain and distress to our fellow beings. May we be wise to recognise that happiness cannot exist here while there’s suffering elsewhere and that our planet’s resources may be limited, but they are enough if we only take our fair share.

Tuesday, 11 December 2007

Green Helpers - The apples of my eyes

Last post I wrote how wonderful it would be to have a set of strong governmental policies coupled with strong individual will. Well, the Green Helpers project is Lush’s way of tapping that potential, passion and drive to make small (and big) changes at local level.
These days, every corner one looks, there will be scores of people concerned about the environment and feeling frustrated about not being able to do enough. If you give these green warriors the incentive (and a badge) to let all of their green passion loose, then you can sit and watch marvellous things unfold.
Every Lush shop (or nearly every shop) has a strong-willed, committed Green Helper. They are responsible for maintaining a good environmental standard in the shop, nagging fellow members of staff and driving change towards a sustainable future.
This project started this year and has been very fruitful. I hope to be able to feature some Green Helpers and what they’ve been involved with in this space.
In October we had four lovely days out and we visited different eco projects around the country. The idea was to get together and exchange information, learn loads and feel very inspired.

We visited the following places (click on names to see pictures)

York Environmental Centre
An environment centre in the city in the middle of a nature reserve that grew where there used to be a landfill site. We looked at some eco-houses near-by, saw the biggest strawbale building in Europe, visited composting toilets, saw solar panels and small wind turbines. We also spent lots of time coming up with new ideas and a green training session. Green Helpers told me everything they've been doing and I was very impressed. From sending questionnaires to all shops in their shopping district to getting everyone recycling, doing small campaigns in their shops, buying lunch in bulk to avoid packaging, etc.

Earthship Brighton

This is a stunning off-grid building that has rainwater collection, is naturally thermally-controlled (walls made out tyres guarantee the heat is absorbed by the thermal mass when it's hot and released when it's cold). We also saw organic and permaculture gardens, a massive array of solar panels and eco building techniques. We also spent time discussing evironmental best practice and an environmental standard for the shops.

Findhorn Eco Village
The Scottish Green Helpers and I went to Findhorn village near Inverness to look at one of the oldest eco-villages in the world. The first family settled there in 1959. The most amazing thing we saw there was something called "Living Machine". There are only twelve of those in the world, so it was a real privilege to be taken on a tour of one. Living Machines are used to treat sewage. The one we saw can handle human waste from 330 people. The water at the end of the process comes out completely clear and safe to European bathing standard levels. They use a variety of plants, bacteria and all sorts of organisms to digest and filter the sewage.

Center for Alternative Technology in Wales

In Wales, we had a look around CAT. They focus on energy, so we had a chance to see wind turbines, hydroelectric power, whole roofs cladded in solar panels. We also learned how wave and tidal power work and saw a super energy efficient house. The site is on an old quarry and it has a rail lift that is powered solely by water. We also had time to do a bit of training, discuss ideas and find out what everyone has been up to. One Green Helper has been making bags out of old aprons for staff to use when going shopping at lunch time!

Monday, 3 December 2007

Is This the First Day of Our Last Days?

This is the first day of the Bali talks, where delegates from 180 countries will meet to pretty much discuss the future of humanity.
It's incredible to think that the lives of billions will depend on the foundations laid in Indonesia for consensus to be reached on a pact to follow the Kyoto protocol. I believe this is probably one of the most crucial moments in our History. If courage, compassion and discernment fail our leaders, then there will be difficult times ahead of us.
The agreements need to strongly bind countries to strict targets, equitable allocation of emissions and a realistic price for carbon. If any of these are watered down or left aside, we're in trouble.
But what if policies and governmental leadership are not enough to take us to a safe level of temperature rise? Can individuals step up and create the necessary change?
I would like to think we can, if only so that there's still the light of hope to guide us through.
If Climate Change has had one positive effect, it is that of exposing our interconnectedness. It has become apparent, more than ever, that whatever we do where we are almost immediately affects the lives of people on the other side of the planet. Our cravings for dirty energy, polluting meat and cheap goods cost the lives of many, the extinction of some and the absolution of none.
Connections that were never made before have become crystal clear. We now know that the palm oil in our food, soaps and fuel will cause the destruction of Southeast Asia's forests and the extinction of the Orang-utan. Most of us have learned that the Amazon is being chopped down so beef cattle can graze and soya can be produced. Then there are all the floods, typhoons and other weather catastrophes filling our papers with human tragedies at an increasing pace only compared to the increased pace of consumption of 4x4s, cheap flights and plasma TVs.
Now what if we can achieve both? Imagine those in power having the wisdom and the vision to create a strong legally-binding base upon which we can exercise all our human values like compassion and respect for life. Am I being too idealistic here? Perhaps.
Here's what I would love to see discussed and agreed on for a future pact:
- strong renewable energy targets;
- incentives for developing countries to stop rainforest destruction;
- equal allocation of emissions, so developed countries will have to use the money and technology they have, while poorer nations can continue to develop and improve life standards;
- a fair and strict carbon trading scheme and personal carbon quotas;
- a ban on new coal power stations that can't capture and store carbon;
- strategies for adaption and for supporting climate refugees.
So, while they talk, instead of waiting, let's act! About 45% of emissions in the UK come from individuals, rather than businesses. I'm sure we have all seen lots of lists of what we can do so I don't think it's necessary for me to mention them here. If you're still not sure what you can do or would like to calculate your carbon footprint:
This Saturday there will be Climate March in London. Make yourself heard!
And let's keep an eye on what goes on in Bali, as it's our future they're talking about.

Monday, 26 November 2007

Lit up Christmas

It is very difficult and disturbing to live in the real (and wasteful) world with energy saving eyes. Your blood boils at every corner and you launch disapproving glances towards every careless human being that leaves the toilet lights on. So imagine how difficult it is for me to walk around town during this festive season.
Every lamp post in the town I live in is covered in incandescent coloured light bulbs (the same one government is talking about phasing out in half a decade), there is a huge Christmas tree in the square covered in non-efficient fairy lights and very bright illuminated decorations hang from every available edge, doorway, lamppost, stall, window, etc.
I have also been trying hopelessly to find where the plugs are, switch things off and sabotage these watt-monsters of Christmas.
But I don't want to be a joy-killer. It's ok to use beautiful low-energy LED lights, consuming a few watts only, which can be put on a timer so they are not on all night. There are also scores of colourful decorations that look lovely with no need for background lighting. If you're one of those people who like to make your house visible from the moon at Christmas or make your neighbours green with envy, then how about some solar powered fairy lights?
Go for no lights or green lights so we can still be able to enjoy some snow in the winter.

Monday, 19 November 2007

Power Down!

Today I'll start a little series of posts on energy and saving it.
Lately everyone has been swamped by lots of energy savings tips, so I'll try to look at the practical side of doing what's necessary in these post-fourth assessment times.
I'm going to start with laptops and chargers.
Playing with my electricity meter, I found out that my Macbook when it's off but still plugged in uses 14W of electricity! Just having the charger plugged in with no computer attached to the other end uses the same amount. That also goes for mobile chargers. After it has fully charged your phone, that little plugged in device will continue to sap watt after watt.
Just picture the scene, you wake up, pull your phone of the end of the charger and jump on your bike to go to work, all happy about how environmentally friendly you are, oblivious to that little vampire you left plugged in that will spend idle hours sucking expensive and polluting power. Outrageous.
That's just silly waste of energy, cutting it out doesn't require skills, funding or much effort, but it requires creating a habit. So when you turn your laptop off at the end of the day, remember to switch the power charger off as well. Same goes for ipod, mobile and battery chargers.
"Switch off at the mains" should become the new energy saving mantra!
Come on, repeat with me:

Wednesday, 31 October 2007

Vegan Offsetting

It is quite easy to feel powerless when we have a huge task ahead of us such as the incredible challenge of minimising the damage from manmade climate change. It’s difficult to believe that we can actually make a difference or that all our efforts do matter.
Other times, we find that we are already doing everything in our power to help or that other more beneficial measures are out of our control, like living in a rented flat with no insulation and no double-glazing.
However, there is one thing that is fairly straight forward, reasonably easy, cheap and that is completely under our control; that is avoiding meat and dairy products.
From a more honest and slightly radical point of view, it is inconceivable that there are still people that care deeply for the environment, but who still eat meat and dairy. Last year I met an ecologist who lives in the Amazon and has worked all his life against deforestation. His message was clear; the forest is being cut for pasture or soya to feed animals. He told me lots of destitute people living in the depths of the rainforest dream of the day they will own a piece of land, raise some cattle and pocket the money from that valuable commodity. Those dreams are only dreamt because there is a demand.
But it’s not just about the deforestation. Cattle is directly responsible for methane emissions, a gas 23 times more potent than CO2. Animals bred for food are responsible for more emissions that the world’s transportation combined. If you take all steps of the process into account: breeding animals, transporting them, slaughtering, refrigerating the flesh/milk, etc; one calorie of meat protein uses ten calories of fossil fuels, releasing more than ten times as much carbon dioxide as one calorie of plant protein.
Tomorrow, November 1st, is World Vegan Day. At Lush, we’ve done an internal campaign where staff signed up to go vegan for a day. Many are going vegan for the whole week and hopefully some will stay like that. About 4% of Lush staff are vegan, ten times more than the national average.
It’s been published, by the University of Chicago, that being vegan saves 1.5 tonnes of carbon dioxide a year (more than giving up your car and the same as three medium-haul flights). So let’s say 500 Lush staff go vegan for one day, that’s roughly 2 tonnes of carbon saved there. If they remained vegan for a year, collectively we would save 750 tonnes of carbon, more than a year’s worth of Lush flights!
So there you go, an easy way of making a contribution to the Planet, to animals, to the forest and to your health!

Tuesday, 30 October 2007

CIWM Awards

Oh, oh, I forgot to say we have been shortlisted for the Chartered Institution of Waste Management awards in the Sustainable Retailer of the Year category. Hilary and I will be going to the ceremony tomorrow. We are competing against ASDA and DSG International (Currys, Dixons, etc). Not very nice guys to compete against, but hopefully we'll win. Fingers crossed. I'll see if I can post a picture of Hilary and I in smart business attire :-) We should get an award for that!