The letter-writing continues. After mentioning Lush solid shampoo and deodorant bars in my post two weeks ago, I received several comments from readers who had mail ordered Lush products hoping to avoid plastic packaging, only to find that the products that are sold “naked” in the store are packaged in all kinds of plastic when shipped through the mail.
So I wrote to Lush. I’m not going to reprint my actual email because I’m embarrassed to admit that it wasn’t very nice. I must have been in a crappy mood when I wrote it, and rereading it tonight, I realize it’s pretty confrontational, which is not the best approach when we want someone to make a change for us. Flies and honey and all that. Nevertheless, the response I got back was very polite. And while I still don’t agree with all their packaging choices, I’m happy that they’ve obviously thought about the issue a lot and are working to get better.
Here’s the full response from Lush. Take from it what you will. If you want them to make changes faster, email Amanda (firstname.lastname@example.org) and let her know. And don’t forget that packaging is not the only issue with Lush products. Many of them also contain irritating synthetics like SLS. In my letter, I only addressed packaging concerns. Also, please read my note below regarding the “biodegradable plastic” that Amanda mentions.
Wed, 2 Apr 2008 20:11:36 -0700
From: “Amanda Dhalla” (email@example.com)
To: Beth Terry
Thank you so much for your email and for highlighting an issue near and dear to our hearts.
I’m sure you understand that to ensure that our fragile products arrive at customers’ homes in good condition we must use wrapping materials to protect them against damage. Some of our packages travel many miles and must be able to withstand lots of bumps as both Canada and the US are vast countries.
Over the last few years, we have made many positive changes in the types of materials that we use for packaging. For example:
We use cardboard boxes made from recycled materials and wood excelsior (wood shavings) to protect our products during shipment. Wood excelsior is 100% biodegradable and completely safe.
We use TDPA™ biodegradable plastic bags to protect our bath bombs during shipment. Our bags start degrading after 18 months while regular plastic bags take about 25 years to break down.
[Beth's note: TDPA™ biodegradable plastic bags are similar to the D2W bags that I wrote about in January. They are petroleum-based bags with a chemical (heavy metal) additive which helps them break down. They bring with them many of the same problems of conventional plastics. The only difference is that they will break down under the right conditions.
Also, I don't know where she gets the idea that traditional plastic bags take 25 years to break down. As far as we know, they break down into smaller and smaller plastic particles, but the actual polymers don't break down.]
Our packing tape is recyclable, tamperproof, tamper-evident, and is stronger per square inch than polypropylene.
Our gifts are wrapped with recycled paper and protected using biofoam/envirofill packing peanuts, which are 100% biodegradable.
From this month, we’re rolling out a new clear plastic bottle made with 100% post-consumer recycled (PCR) for our shampoos, conditioners and shower gels, and by this fall all of our black pots will be made with 100% post-consumer recycled plastic too.
This is not to say that we don’t have lots of room for improvement as we do still package some of our products in regular plastic before shipping. However, we are continuing to source more environmentally friendly alternatives such as biodegradable bags and containers to replace the plastic. As you can understand, this process does take some time, but we hope to have moved away from regular plastic completely by the end of 2008.
If you have any suggestions for alternative packaging that you feel would help LUSH Direct (online and phones) in our efforts to become more environmentally friendly, we would be extremely interested in hearing more about them.
Thanks once again for your open and honest feedback, and for keeping us honest.
Web Operations Manager – LUSH Canada
I also notice that Amanda works for the Canadian branch of the company, so I don’t know if the packaging policies she mentions are the same in the U.S. But really, how environmentally-friendly is it to mail-order personal care products and spend the associated fuel when you can get them locally? Read my March 24 post as well as the comments for alternatives to Lush solid shampoo bars and deodorants. The baking soda is still doing the trick for me!