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.