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!