Moving away from Lush products – Lush responsible for building on Greenbelt land in Poole, Dorset

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There are many reasons to move away from Lush products, most commonly you will read about their continued use of Sodium Laurel Sulphate (SLS), glitter and other unnecessary ingredients in their products. I have another (little known) reason to add to the list! So read on, dear readers….

Lush is an easily accessible place to start going zero waste, since they are available online and on the high street. I’d been a little bit annoyed about Lush’s fairly regular price hikes of late – their shampoo and conditioner bars can go about £1-£2 per year. At least they have since I started using them. That’s a significant increase to bear, especially when you have very long and thick hair, like me! It’s also been annoying to buy their metal containers, only for them to change the shape of their products yet again.

Most recently, they changed the formulation of one of their soap bars- yet didn’t feel the need to advertise the fact. It literally burnt the skin on my face! I did get a full refund, but all of this combined with the fact that around here – Lush are responsible for building their factories on greenbelt land.

I live in the same town where Lush creates all their products and where they were founded. I was proud to support a local company, but the more you get to learn about them – the more you learn that they hardly employ any local people. The majority of their workforce are Eastern European and they bring them over to work here, claiming that they are better workers or more reliable. However, local people who have worked for them will tell you it’s more down to their poor working conditions. Their founder – Mr Constantine, demanded recently that Poole Council (now BCP Council) allow him to build another factory locally, or he would move virtually the whole operation to Eastern Europe. Let’s put this into context – Lush makes up around 50% of the Nuffield Industrial Estate in Poole – a significant loss if they were to go!

So, not only are they getting their new factory on former green belt land within the Borough, part of the deal was that also a number of homes were built on this farmland too. Thus resulting in even more concreting over, loss of wildlife habitats on our precious heathland, increased traffic on our roads and so on. You can read more about all of this, should it interest you in the Poole Local Plan. All of this is to say, that was the nail in the coffin of my support of this local company. They proclaim so loudly to support the environment, sea birds habitats and so on – but for all their so-called ethics, it seems they will very much pick and choose to suit themselves. Apparently the quality of life of local people, local air quality, local wildlife – they are just not their concern, but their profits are. So, I am taking my business elsewhere.

I’m pleased to say that a quick internet search turned up a Yorkshire Company called Friendly Soap. They have a certification from the Ethical Consumer Organisation. Their prices are beyond reasonable – less than a third of what Lush charges and their P&P was lower too. No SLS, no triclosan, no plastic, no parabens and cruelty free. A wonderful smelling package bursting with the scent of rosemary, lavender, orange and lime has just landed on my doorstep. I look forward to reporting back 🙂

More Musings on the Story of Stuff – Branding & Marketing

As I said yesterday, I’m currently reading this book:

Today, in the chapter on distribution I struck upon something horrifying. I guess I sort of knew this already, but seeing it in black and white is even more shocking. I’m sure we all know that most companies out there don’t actually make the stuff they sell, but they buy it in and have unknown manufacturers make it for them. We’ve seen this so much in the clothing industry where brands like H&M and Primark have clothes made up in India and take no responsibility for the working practices of those in their supply chain. This is all part of these companies plans to cut costs, basically by abdicating responsibility.

This efficiency driven, cost-cutting is pervasive. Companies don’t make the stuff they sell, they simply brand it. Apple don’t make computers, but they sure as heck have created a brand that people crave. H&M don’t make clothes, Nike doesn’t make trainers. They all simply buy the garments and items from producers, or the parts to assemble them and often not even from the same factory, but from multiple producers. It’s quite possible that one factory churns out the exact same product for multiple retailers.

So really, let’s face it – it’s often not the item we are buying, but we’ve been sold on the brand. The founder of Nike even admitted that the company once saw themselves as production oriented, but that they now understand their most important function is to market the product. So guess where they put all their money? Advertising. And often this advertising isn’t even for a specific product, it’s all about the image they want to associate with their brand. Nike aren’t selling your trainers, they are selling you a fashion statement that in this climate will probably be outdated in a mere 2 weeks!

The Rough Guide To Ethical Living

Today I want to recommend to you a book I discovered recently in a charity shop; The Rough Guide to Ethical Living. This book covers climate change, sweatshops, fair-trade, ethical investment, organic food, finances and more. Pretty much every issue you could face in life.

You know, life can sometimes seem like a moral minefield – particularly when you start to pay attention to ethics, zero waste, fair trade or green principles. It’s so hard to know which products or companies we should support and those we would be better avoiding. Also, there are so many claims out there today, despite advertising standards some can be dubious. I sometimes feel overwhelmed by it all.

If you would like some help to decide which ethical claims can you can trust then the Rough Guide to Ethical Living cuts through the ‘greenwash’ to answer your questions. This guide literally looks at all the problems and ethical options. It’s a relatively compact tome, but it covers all the main issues. Where there is more information available, it points you to relevant, trustworthy websites where you can find out more.

It’s particularly aimed at UK readers and recommends websites, books and magazines. It also includes tips on reducing your carbon footprint at home and on the road. I would consider this book to be an essential handbook for responsible consumers and it’s very easy to read. It’s definitely one that I plan to keep on my bookshelf for reference.

According to the blurb, there are a couple of other Rough Guides out there; The Rough Guide to Ethical Shopping and The Rough Guide to Climate Change. I’m going to add these to my reading list!

Are you paying too much for your energy?

I think we all know that these days, we’ve got to make the effort to shop around to get the best deal. Often, there’s no point staying loyal to a provider – be it for insurance, energy, phone, broadband or anything else! I don’t know how many of you watched The Martin Lewis Money Show on ITV, but it should be on your must watch list. You can catch up via that link. I can personally credit Martin Lewis and his site MoneySavingExpert (MSE) with everything I’ve learned about saving money and making money since 2012. Again, I highly recommend you make some time to read all his advice. There is a lot of go through and I try to condense some of it onto my blog, but everyone is different and what works for me, may not work for you. However, everyone can benefit from checking whether or not they are overpaying for their household energy.

As MSE is impartial and a major consumer champion, they are not trying to sell your anything. Unlike going through a regular comparison site, who will take a cut – I believe MSE does not. So you should join and check out their Cheap Energy Club to see if you would benefit from switching. Most people on the TV programme were saving around £250 a year!

I have just done it and I am glad to say that my household is on the cheapest deal for us – a 1-year fix with The Cooperative Energy. We’ve actually been with them for 4 years now and they’ve consistently offered us good value and good service. They never try to sell us things we don’t need, they are very clear about how much we are spending and even contacted us to tell us we could get a better deal! I love being with a more ethical company and they are pioneering some great green initiatives too. I believe that a lot of the smaller companies are much better for their customer service. So why don’t you get checking and post back with how much you’ve managed to save?

Lush

Today I want to write about a local, ethical and sustainable business called Lush. Chances are, you’ve probably heard of them already- I think they’re best known for the bath bombs and the amazing smells that emanate from their stores!

Ever since I read Bea Johnson’s Book about a year ago, I have been looking for Zero Waste toiletries. Lush immediately sprang to mind, as I knew a tiny bit about them- in the recesses of my mind, probably because they are local. I’ll admit that I wasn’t that keen on them- I found the smell in their stores completely over-powering and even walking too close, when passing by was too much for me! I’d even been given the odd bar of soap and not liked the smell, so sold it on eBay.

However, things were different this time- I wasn’t looking just to purchase toiletries- I was looking for a more ethical, zero waste purchase. They are in-fact pretty unique, as most organic toiletries are still packaged in plastic. As shampoo and conditioner were the things I was about to run out of, I tried their solid shampoo and conditioner bars. They were fab, completely unpackaged, free of silicones and very convenient- as they last much longer than bottles. We have never looked back, even though we’re paying slightly more for our toiletries. I now have total peace of mind that we’re doing our bit for the environment and are supporting a local business, thus also keeping our carbon footprint as low as possible. They are actually made about 3 miles from my house- although I have to drive over twice as far to get to a store!

I recently placed my 1st online order as they had a sale and I wanted to share this with you, as a great example of a sustainable company working towards zero waste.

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A recycled cardboard box arrived, sealed with paper tape. The first thing that hits you is the gorgeous smell coming from the box- unfortunately I can’t convey this over the web!

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Inside was a copy of my order and ingredients lists for all the products I had ordered, all printed two-sided on recycled paper. I felt this was a little unnecessary for me personally, as I am perfectly capable of going online to check these things. I am going to contact them and ask if they could provide an option to opt out of paper communications in your order.

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Your order comes packaged in what looks like polystyrene chips, but they are in-fact Eco Chips! They are completely biodegradable and one of their assistants recently gave me a demo in-store, where they dissolve completely in water. They are made from potato starch and also biodegrade quickly in soil. I will be keeping mine for re-use, in one of my many eBay parcels. I will make sure I make a note to tell their future recipient about them.

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This was my order- all safely stowed underneath. As you can see, most of the products I ordered are solid and come completely unpackaged. In the top right are solid conditioner bars, but because I ordered so many (I stocked up at 1/2 price!) that little cardboard box contains 8 more. Disappointingly, it is sealed with plastic tape- another thing I will be contacting them to ask about!

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So here are all my goodies in their unpacked glory. I have got my first unpackaged Lush soap to try- it’s the rectangular one in the middle and is marzipan fragranced. Above this is a yellow, citrus ‘massage bar’- this is actually a solid body lotion. The bright pink and green items are solid conditioners, as you can see it’s stamped on them. I’ve got the pink one to try because at 1/2 price it’s a good opportunity to do so- as Lush recommend. This is also why I bought the gift set.

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The Winter Garden gift set is a giant metal bauble and is packed inside with Eco Chips to protect the contents. I will re-use this to make a gift for someone in the future.

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Inside, a tub of hand cream, a rose jam shower gel and an Elder and Bergamot solid soap. Lush pots are made from 100% recycled black plastic (polypropylene) which is far more easily recycled. They have also changed their labels from paper to plastic, so that they can all be recycled together. Lush seek to make their  plastic recycling activities closed loop, in turn creating zero waste and so customers are encouraged to return empty, washed pots to their store. They offer an incentive of a free face mask for every 5 full-sized pots returned. This initiative is mentioned on a sticker on the side of their pots. They also moved production from China to a factory in Poole, 1 mile away from their own- so their carbon footprint has been massively reduced too. this in-turn is further supporting the local economy. There is also a mini brochure containing details of most of their products available in store. Again, I would prefer not to have this but I understand they might want to promote their products to people who wouldn’t normally purchase them and don’t know about their ethics.

This little lot cost me around £50 in the sale, including delivery which was a really good deal. Lush only have a sale once a year and it only contains short-dated products and Christmas gift sets. This is because they believe that they are charging a fair price all year round, for their ethically sourced, handmade and zero waste products. I find it really helps me when I’m shopping, as I’m not tempted to buy things that I don’t need and I’m not (normally) tempted to stock up. As their items are made using minimal preservatives, they are best used fresh. But solid items do have a longer shelf-life, since they don’t have as much water in them. If you go in-store, they will package your solid items in a recycled paper bag or  you can buy metal tins to fit them which you can then re-use. I also take my paper bags back each time and re-use them until they fall apart.

Overall, I feel enormously proud to be supporting this local company. They have been around for over 20 years- let’s hope they are here for many, many more!