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!

Wash your Hands Green with Orangutan-friendly Soap

I very often get emails asking whether we use Palm Oil in our products from people kindly sharing their concerns about the deforestation in Indonesia and Malaysia and the ensuing consequences to local wildlife and to global climate. Even though cosmetics are responsible for just 7% of the world’s production of Palm Oil, this is another one of those thorny issues where everything we can do to help, no matter how little it seems in the grand scheme of things, is important and should be encouraged.

We do use palm oil in our products, but we do not take this matter lightly. We have spent the past two years researching the subject as thoroughly as we possibly could. We also visited the very forests that are in the line of the devastation and we saw endless miles of palm plantation covering most arable land in Indonesia and Malaysia. Even the threatened orang-utans received our visit and in 10 years’ time there may be none left to visit. What we saw shocked us and gave us a first-hand experience of the scale of the destruction. What we couldn’t see, however, were the less obvious, but even more catastrophic effects of rainforest clearance on the world’s climate. If losing one species, like the orang-utans, makes everyone cringe, what about losing 1,000,000 species by 2050 due to climate chaos, land use change and destruction of habitats?

While all of that hellish adventure was happening on-site, behind the scenes, in the labs of Harry Potter (Wesley, our R&D wizard) and in every soap manufacturer in the UK, another kind of struggle was going on. How can we make a commercial soap base without using Palm Oil? We tried making our soap base with various mixes of oils, but it proved too difficult for large-scale manufacturing. The next option was to work alongside companies already making a vegetable soap base and propose to them the challenge of making a palm-oil-free one. One of the manufacturers rose up to the challenge and came up with a saponified mixture of rapeseed oil, sunflower oil and coconut oil.

So our first soap using that base was born, we decided to name it Greenwash as homage to all those people out there who think planting a tree will actually offset the emissions from their weekend away flying to Sicilly, or to our government, who’s nearly drowning in a sea of oil and nuclear lobby, chained to the iron ball of economic growth.

We are testing the new base with all of our existing soap formulae and hope to phase out the current base within the next year. So yes, our products still have palm oil, but we are working hard to make sure we keep those levels to a sustainable minimum. Besides that, through our Charity Pot, we have also given financial help to the Sumatran Orang-utan Society, working locally to save our close cousins from extinction.
As I said at the beginning, cosmetics only account for 7% of total palm oil consumption, but is found in 1 in every 10 food products. These are other things we can do to reduce our palm oil consumption:

*Eat less processed foods;
*Avoid hydrogenated fats;
*Pressure manufacturers to take action.

I’m not even going to touch the Agrofuel (a more suitable name for biofuel) issues heres
, hopefully another time. The most thorough document I’ve read on Agrofuels is here, not suitable for bedtime reading. If after reading you then need some hope for the future, try this

Monday, 22 October 2007

Corn is Pop

When rethinking our parcels, Jill, one of our Mail Order gurus, had this idea of using popcorn to fill the boxes and make sure our products would arrive safely in the hands of our customers.
After some research, we had a bespoke popcorn machine made for us that could produce 32 kg of popcorn per hour or 2,127 kg per week! And would we need all of that when we decided to use it to fill our gift boxes, as well!
Popcorn goes into our parcels and most of our gifts as a replacement for the shredded paper we used. The paper used (and still present in some gifts) was end-of-the-reel and fairly local, so not much environmental damage there; however, popcorn is 60% lighter than the shreddie, it protects the products a lot better and it much more fun than just boring shredded paper.
The other clear advantage of popcorn is that we are transporting unpopped kernels, which are concentrated and compact. Popcorn vendors make their money by buying per weight and selling by volume. My guesstimate is that about 1 litres of kernels will be transformed into 35 litres (0.035 cubic metres) of packing material (I later googled it and found that popcorn have an expansion rate of 36-44 to 1). To make these numbers more practical, I’ll use my lorry metaphor again. If we were transporting say polystyrene packing material (those puffy things), we would need 35 lorries on road carrying the same volume as would potentially be in 1 lorry of kernels, after being popped. Still following?
What’s more, last year we bought roughly 70 tonnes of shredded paper to fill of our gifts and parcels. To get the same volume in popcorn, we would need only half that tonnage in kernels. That also means our parcels are about 10% lighter.
Putting our products in popcorn also meant that we could reduce the number of plastic bags used to wrap individual items. Products like ballistics and bubble bars are happy to sit naked in the popcorn. Sticky products like massage bars and some of the soaps still have to go in bag, but we are working on changing that, as well. We felt we could reduce the number of bags used by half, which should mean at least 2 million plastic bags saved, possibly more.
Popping the corn is an energy-intensive business, but so is making polystyrene puffs or the now commonly found biodegradable starch version. The latter goes through an extrusion process using very high temperatures and high pressure. Turning a tree into paper is also energy intensive, but that is done far from our eyes, so it’s not as immediately obvious as the popcorn. The good thing about popping it in our factory is that we have control over our electricity supplier, which is something difficult to have over up and down our supply chain. As of January 08, when our current contract finishes, we will move that building to a green supplier and should then have wind-powered popcorn.
After you’ve used you box contents, popcorn makes a lovely addition to anyone’s compost. I personally wouldn’t recommend eating it, unless you like eating soap, as it absorbs some of the Lush scents and you get slightly fragrant popcorn.
If you don’t have a compost heap, it’s time to start one. Go to Compost Now for some advice or if you don’t have a garden, friendly microorganisms can help turn your food into lovely liquid fertilizer. Try these websites and get some kitchen digesters this Christmas: Living Soil, The Green Shop. Oh, don’t forget nagging your council for them to set up a food waste collection scheme! If you’ve got kids or need some relaxing time, use your imagination and make some pop(corn) art.

Friday, 28 September 2007

Filling Station of the Future

Just to keep me going on the transport issue, I was shown a glimpse of the future in Vienna. I saw in real life what I had only read about and dreamt of. The Zero Carbon Britain report mentions a future where transportation is electric, electricity is renewable, hence mobility is CO2-free and there it was, accidentally stumbled upon while I was walking around the city.
About 18 sq.m of PV cells, mounted on a platform moving on two axis to make most of the available sunlight, very much like sunflowers. The captured energy is transformed into electricity and store in a large battery (I think we are still a couple of years away from small ones), which is used to charge up 20 electric motorbikes overnight. These babes do 0 – 80 km/h in 6.8 seconds and with the stored power of the sun can go 100km before they need another drink of gold.
At the present, the stand was a demonstration only. You could take the bike for a test-drive or ride with one of the available pilots. Unfortunately, I got there too late and couldn’t do either.
I was told they will go for sale next year and bikes will be a hefty €9,000. But hey, want inexpensive zero-carbon transport? Then go for foot and pedal power!

To find out more:

Sunday, 23 September 2007

Bike Valet in Cambridge

Today I received the wonderful news that the Bike Valet service went really well in Cambridge. The city is well-known for its student population and consequently is quite bike-friendly.
The manager Dawn told me customers were very impressed with the service! They also re-used some of the A-boards and made signs which were paraded around town.
They even pimped a customer's wheelchair! Cambridge's Green Helper Kalvin puts his heart into every task and has been doing some great work. They are even thinking of doing a re-run of the bike valet service! Hope other shops had a good day, as well!
Here is their day in pictures:

Friday, 21 September 2007

The smell of a traffic-free world

I've been meaning to write about trasnport for a while, since the lovely days spent at Climate Camp. But, as usual, my natural procrastinating tendency keeps putting it off until a pile of events threatens to bury me under and I feel the slightly forceful inspiration to go over a theme. This seems to happen all too often.
The said pile of transported-related events started at the Camp and stacked up to a 28-hour train journey to Budapest. These lines were hand-written on a night train (and typed at a hotel in Budapest) somewhere half way between Koln and Vienna.
At some point between these two events, I got knocked off my bike by a car and at Lush, we started a two-week public transport campaign to coincide with the launch of the new enviro commuter's must-have: Go Green solid perfume and body spray. The cherry on the icing was the not-so-sweet presentation, in London, of IPCC's working group 2 findings and their contribution to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change Fourth Assessment Report.
I'll break these events into individual posts for the sake of clarity and so people can read what interests them only.
In case you this is the only post you read, I'll go into the advertising bit first.

To celebrate the launch of the new fragrance and reward customers that choose pedal power over cars, we're giving a £1 discount on Go Green fragrance if you show us your bike (helmet might convince the sales assistant) or valid public transport ticket/oyster card. But better than the discount is our bike valet service this Saturday, September 22nd.

Go Green

Take your bike to the shop and have it pampered and looked after while you shop. Wouldn't it be fabulous if we, cyclists, got that kind of treatment everywhere? Extra services apart, Go Green is a superb fragrance. It gives you a refreshing and uplifting feeling for when you get off that sweaty, packed train or head for a meeting after pedaling miles.
It was inspired by Rebecca Lush, a long-standing and influential transport activist, who runs Road Block (now part of Campaign for Better Transport - former Transport 2000). They give support to groups against road expansion and lobby for the improvement of public transport services.
Transport is not a very sexy topic to talk about, especially because everyone loves their car and are not too keen to give it up. Through Charity Pot, we have been brave and funded quite a few groups against road and airport expansion. Cars and planes, to me, are the emblem of individual convenience at the expense of society.
What's more, private cars are responsible for 13% of UK's carbon emissions and, just like air travel, are a source rapidly growing and being heavily overlooked. To make matters worse, 25% of car journeys are under two miles, a distance easily covered by skates, skateboards, bikes, rickshaws, feet, bus, tram, stilts, space hoppers, etc. We don't really need 1.5 tonnes of steel, plastic and rubber with 200 horsepower to cover two miles. Imagine two hundred horses on the streets every time every one of us went to buy bread in the corner shop! (This logic works for visual purposes only...)

Wednesday, 29 August 2007

First Things First

This is the very first post of what I hope will be an informative, fun and forest-green blog.
In this first post I thought I would write a bit about myself, what I do and the kind of things I hope to share with Lush fans around the world.
Lush, as you probably know, is a serious hardcore ethical company dressed up like a hippy drag queen, which is probably very close to what I am. No, I’m not a drag queen.
I try to combine work, partying, yoga with sleepless hours spent worrying about the state of the planet and how we can get out of the mess we’ve created. Definitely not an easy life.
At Lush, I have a pretty cool job. It is probably the job I’ve always wanted to have, so I hope I don’t screw it up too soon!
I am the company’s Inspirational Environmental Officer – which means that I bring my environmental knowledge to Lush and try to inspire everyone here to take a really active role in making sure that all our environmental measures are followed with enthusiasm and pride!
This job allows me to combine some of my greatest passions in life, and do I have a lot of that! The idea behind creating this space was that I wanted a place to discuss my incongruence, vent my frustration and voice my (strong) opinions outside the walls of Lush, with lots of freedom to say what I want and hopefully not get in trouble for it.
Also, I want to use this space to give frequent updates on the projects I’m working on or have worked on for Lush, so everyone can get a picture of where we’re heading and what've done. I want to discuss current environmental issues and the daily challenges we all have when trying to green ourselves up a bit.
But let’s deviate from the tempting path of this ego trip… this space is really open for anyone. If you have a good idea (it doesn’t have to be that good) for an article, something you’ve seen somewhere that you would like to tell us about, feel free to send me material and I’ll try and get it posted. I expect lots of contribution from Lush fans and the random reader that might bump into this blog while roaming around the net.
Lastly, I’m from Brazil, English is not my first language and it can be hard to truly express oneself in a foreign language. I do appreciate comments on my lack of clarity, sanity or excess of vanity, although the latter has more to do with the rising Capricorn than with the Brazilian blood.

Tuesday, 21 August 2007

(No) Waste

Lush was founded on the basis of less waste (and preservatives), re-use and recycling principles. From the early day’s ideas of pouring soaps into pipes, using rain water in shampoos, washing, drying and re-using moulds until they broke, to today’s practices of using vodka bottles from Ocean Salt to make the holes in Happy Soap, bringing recycling back from the shops and making products that require no packaging, we’ve been quite good at guaranteeing our place in environmental heaven.

We base our decisions on the following principles:

1. Create awareness
2. Eliminate the creation of waste
3. Reduce the resources used
4. Re-use as much as possible
5. Recycle whatever we can and constantly improve our practices
6. Dispose sensibly
7. Close the loop

That looks lovely on paper (or on your screen), but what have we really been up to lately?
Well, the management of our waste is always a work in progress. We try to implement projects, find out whether they work and then improve as needed.
Check the blog often for new updates on what’s going on.

Why isn’t it cool to use PLA “compostable” bottles?

Polylactic Acid is made by Nature Works, a Cargill subsidiary that patented this corn-based plastic. All PLA raw material comes from the US, where a lot of the corn is genetically modified and no separation of GM and non-GM crops is required in the PLA manufacturing. Even though in tests the GM DNA can’t be recognised in the actual plastic, GM crops are still being planted, harvested and processed into this new material. Also, Cargill are very big in lobbying for GM acceptance in the world and have a long history of animal testing.
Because GM food has been widely regarded by the consumer as unfit, the big players in the biotechnology industry are trying to push their expensive GM seeds onto other “sustainable” uses like corn plastic or biofuels.

It would be wonderful to have truly sustainable materials from renewable sources that could substitute plastic, but turning to GM crops is not the solution.
I also personally believe phrases like “NatureWorks® PLA does not contain genetically modified material, nor does its production require any genetically modified raw material,” found on NatureWorks’ website, can be misleading.

The idea of making polymers out of renewable materials is lovely and I will happily support PLA when it becomes GM-free.

Want to find out more?

Corpwatch’s 2002 article predicting PLA was going to be “greenwash”

Monday, 20 August 2007

Mighty Shampoo Bar

The finest example of how some creativity, mixed with good intentions and a lot of hard-work can come together to produce an original piece of eco-art is Lush's patented shampoo bar.

Just one 55g bar is equivalent to three 250ml bottles of liquid shampoo*. The bar is compressed and then, to travel to our shops, is packed in a recycled cardboard box, with a couple of small sheets of greaseproof paper and a small bit of bubble wrap. There are forty bars per box.

In the shop, the bar is displayed completely unpackaged and can be taken home just like that, in a recycled paper bag or in a re-usable tin. So you can have zero waste, if you choose so, instead of three plastic bottles.

Last year Lush sold about one million shampoo bars and saved three million plastic bottles from being manufactured, transported and disposed of. But we're not just saving on plastic. Because the bars are more concentrated, lighter and lot less bulky, you need fifteen lorries to transport enough liquid shampoo to get the equivalent number of washes as that in one lorry full of shampoo bars. When we choose use concentrated, solid products we help reduce the number of lorries on the road and associated carbon emissions.

The bars are also made in a very low energy way: the raw materials are mixed by hand and each bar is pressed individually.

We can use the same idea for everything else we buy. Buying vegetables loose, re-using bags, buying concentrated washing powder, handmade products and trying to reduce the amount of packaged goods we consume can generate immediate benefits for the environment and don't require much effort, governmental lobbying or advanced science.

Edited on August 31st to specify the quantity of shampoo equivalent to the bars (Thanks Sarah). *The usage depends on how well you take care of you shampoo bar! Mine tend to last months.

Movie: Green TV at Lush's Green Fayre on August 2nd, 2007

Go Naked!

The most eco-friendly packaging in the world is NO packaging and there isn't a better example of taking this to extreme levels than our creative and innovative solid product range.

A big part of the cost of everything we buy is packaging. Packaging is also responsible for about a quarter of an average family's rubbish and that number is on the rise. It only takes a quick trip to the supermarket to see that everything is being packaged these days. Lush, as usual, chooses to move in a different direction: where products must be packaged we ensure we use only minimal packaging. But our main love is to invent and sell products that need NO packaging whatsoever, and these make up about 60% of the current range we offer!

We also prefer to spend our money on buying the best possible ingredients and essential oils and making sure you're money is used to pay for beautiful products, not excessive packaging.
Solid products, by definition, have no or low water content. Because water is the medium bacteria choose to grow, a waterless product can do without any preservatives. So Lush’s naked products are unpackaged, unpreserved and unbeatable.

When you take a bath ballistic or a massage bar home, they might come wrapped in some greaseproof paper or in a light and simple paper bag. But you can choose to just get them as they are and go naked!

Photo: Ruth and Sean during our Packaging is Rubbish campaign - London, July 12th 2007

How can you just go naked in the middle of the shop?

- Ask the sales assistant not to wrap, bag or label the products you are buying; check the ingredients lists online instead;
- Buy (or get for free) one of our tins, put your products in them and bring the tins back to be refilled next time;
- Bring your own reusable bags or just let the products roam freely in the carrier bag.