Wednesday, May 7, 2008

LUSH: The buzz

A few weeks months ago, on a post about LUSH cosmetics, a poster challenged me.

I love your blog and check often although I am unsure why you praise LUSH so much. Yes they promote Green Living and use recycled materials etc. However they also use SLS, Parabens and other chemical ingredients that are harmful to humans and the environment in most all their products. In my opinion they belong with all the other Green washing companies out there.

I promised to tell the tale of why I believe in LUSH. Here it is.

LUSH is a handmade cosmetics company founded 12 years ago in Poole, England (where ecochick lived in a past life, lovely little town). LUSH is still owned and controlled by the same people who founded it, and is one of the few large independent cosmetic companies still left. With Body Shop owned by l'Oreal and Burt's Bees owned by Clorox, LUSH is rare in still being fully owned by its original founders and creators, allowing it to maintain its own direction rather than being controlled by a large corporate brand.

The majority of LUSH products have little or no packaging. (This is the main reason why you can smell a LUSH shop half a block away - the soap shelf at Shoppers Drug Mart would smell the same if their products were unwrapped!) For the packaging that they do have, much of it is recycled, recyclable or otherwise environmentally friendly - for example, the bags used for things like bath bombs are not plastic but rather a product called Nature Flex, biodegradeable wood pulp harvested from managed forests - and they're compostable!

LUSH also actually talks - and listens - to their customers. They have a very active forum where users of LUSH products tell each other like it is, warts and all - and also celebrate when LUSH comes up with a new, greener alternative. LUSH also shows its social responsibility on it sleeve with products such as Guantanamo Garden Bath Bombs.

These are all big pluses on LUSH's green cred. The downside is, yes, several LUSH products include SLS and parabens and other compounds that are less than desirable (although many products are free of questionable compounds). However, unlike many manufacturers, LUSH lists all of the ingredients in every product in big signs right on the product, right in the store. So the consumer can easily and quickly say, there are things in here that I want to avoid, and refuse to buy that product. I think the day is long past when the consumer can have faith in the fact that just because something is on the shelf, "it must be safe". Consumers need to educate themselves and speak with their wallets, by simply not choosing to purchase products based solely on the word of a company's marketing department.

However, LUSH is listening, listening to consumers both speaking with their voice and their wallets: some of their new lines now replace SLS with coconut derived, less drying sodium coco-sulfate, derived from coconut oil; other lines contain nearly no non-natural components whatsoever.

In the end? I'll admit it. I like LUSH. I want to believe in LUSH. Is LUSH perfect? No way. Are they greenwashers? I don't think so. I believe them when they say they are trying to be natural and non-corporate; and I believe that many of the initiatives they have already undertaken have made, and are continuing to make, a difference. And I have no issue with telling my readers that LUSH is a greener alternative than many mainstream products out there.

And, god. That store smells the best out of any store, ever, in the history of smelly stores.

What do you think? What are your experiences with LUSH?


oobinsnaffa said...

It's a toss-up, you know? No company is ever 100% perfect, you have to pick and choose what's most important. Personally, I love Lush, and would love them even more if they can get rid of parabens and SLS. Their products are at least a step in the right direction.

asrais said...

Beth at Fake Plastic Fish has reports of Lush's mail order products being heavily wrapped in plastic.

I also wonder how they get it to the stores. Sure they send it home with you in paper but is it shipped to stores in paper also?

ecochick said...

@asrais - thanks for pointing that out and thank you SO much for the link, new blog for the blogroll!

Yes, packaging for shipping is always a concern. I would definitely suggest to anyone that they research how a company packages their mail order items - in the case of LUSH I would suggest asking about it in their forums as they do seem to be monitoring them.