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.