For the longest time, I had only associated Lush with bath bombs. Expensive bath bombs. And admittedly I wasn’t much of a bath taker so other than a couple of meanderings around a Lush store during a visit to the malls, the store didn’t interest me much.
However, since embarking on my low waste living journey, I’ve taken a bit more notice of Lush. I knew they were cruelty-free which is something that is super important to me and I knew that a lot of their products (like the bath bombs) were package-free. So I had to wonder what else they had to offer in terms of their ethical and sustainable practices.
As with every brand that claims to be sustainable or ethical, I enter in with a bit of skepticism. After all, popular brands like H&M are notorious for their greenwashing practices and so naturally any brand you can find at a mall raises my suspicions.
How sustainable is Lush, really?
The in-store experience:
Lush is more than just the pretty colours and wonderful smelling soaps. There’s so much to read and discover in their stores. First, the staff has always been incredibly nice and helpful every time I’ve stepped into a store. That doesn’t say anything about the brand’s ethics and sustainability but I do think it says something when employees are passionate about what they’re selling.
There are a lot of “buzz-words” as I like to call them around the store. Things like “ethical” “ethically sourced” “hand-made” “cruelty-free” and so on. But a lot of brands like to use these words with little evidence to back them up. So on the surface, it seems too good to be true.
Let’s break it down, claim by claim and see if Lush is really all it’s chalked up to be.
All of Lush’s cosmetics are made by hand. All of the products you’ll find in their North American stores are handmade in Vancouver and Toronto. (Except the perfumes.) If you’re at all familiar with Lush then you may have also noticed the little stickers on their products with the name and portrait of the person who made the product.
I think this is a really cool idea. Some of my favourite ethical clothing brands do something similar in which they sew the name of the seamstress into the article of clothing. I think this is important to stop normalizing things that are mass-produced in factories by nameless and faceless workers.
Sourcing ingredient is something the average consumer doesn’t think about. But there’s a whole chain of supply in which an item or ingredient in this case needs to travel in order to make it onto the shelf. And there are people all along that chain that can easily be exploited.
Lush seemingly prides itself on ethical sourcing. They claim that when they realized some of their ingredients weren’t as great at they thought they made a great effort to seek out something better by putting together a team that specializes in ethical sourcing and looking for the best, raw, natural and ethical ingredients.
They also buy their ingredients directly from the source rather than using a middle man to “supplier”. Doing this allows them to support farmers and their communities and have a better understanding of how things are sourced, what goes into them and their ethical practices.
Fighting animal testing
Lush is known to be a little radical when it comes to fighting against animal testing. Now don’t get me wrong, animal testing is a barbaric act and I will not support any brands or companies that still practice it. But Lush has always been an advocate for the voiceless and I love that.
Lush has never tested on animals and only buys their materials from companies that aren’t involved in or work with companies that use any sort of animal testing.
Fair trade practices go hand in hand with ethical sourcing. Fair trade ensures a stable buying price from producers who in turn agree to implement environmentally friendly practices, fair working conditions and investing in their communities.
When Lush works with small-scale farmers and producers they’re able to build a fair and transparent relationship growing fair trade ingredients and supporting their communities.
I got to hand it to Lush for being a trailblazer in the sustainable packaging realm. They’re always offered a selection of package-free products from bath bombs to soap bars. Now more than ever they’re offering more package-free options like shampoo and conditioner bars, soap, solid lotions, and more!
What products that do need packaging are now made from 100% recycled plastic as opposed to the PVC they used to use. This makes their plastic packaging recyclable. While recycling isn’t the most sustainable and has issues in and of itself, I got to hand it to Lush to doing what they can. Which is more than most companies who use un-recyclable materials.
Lush has also made their plastic packaging 13% thinner since 2016 saving roughly 13,000 lbs of plastic.
I would also like to note that packaging and plastic are not the end-all-be-all of sustainability. Lush’s other sustainable practices far outweigh the negatives of plastic packaging. From their sourcing, fair trade practices and anti-animal testing, Lush does so much more than most traditional retail brands. And best yet, they’re committed to always improving.
They also have a recycling program for products that come in the little black plastic pots. Return 5 empty ones to your local Lush and receive a free face mask! The pots will be sent back to their recycler to be made into new pots in an effort to create a closed-loop. Their other packaged product containers like spray bottles, sample pots and makeup tubes can be returned as well to be recycled.
My top sustainable picks:
1. Shampoo and conditioner bars
Shampoo and conditioner bars were one of my first zero-waste swaps and continue to be one of my favourites. Seriously, once you go bar, you don’t go back. While Lush does have liquid shampoo and conditioners, (in recyclable packaging) naked is the way to go if you’re looking to reduce your waste.
They have multiple options for their shampoo bars but I believe they only have one option for a conditioner bar. While disappointing this isn’t shocking. A lot of sustainable brands focus mainly on shampoo bars over conditioner bars. I will say though, this is the first brand I’ve seen carry and conditioner baar that is bigger than the shampoo bar. I’m looking forward to seeing how long it lasts because using when I’m using a shampoo and conditioner bar from the same brand the conditioner bar is always gone sooner.
They also have reusable metal tins you can use for storing them when travelling!
2. Facial soaps/oils/cleansers
Another naked product! There’s nothing worse (in my opinion) than a bathroom cupboard full of plastic bottles for this and that. You could completely eliminate the packaging in your skincare routine by using these facial bars!
3. Toothpaste and mouthwash tabs
My first thought when seeing this product was “they’re packaged in plastic”. All of the other toothpaste and mouth wash tabs I’ve seen so far have come in glass or compostable packaging. So my first instinct was to call greenwashing. However, as I mentioned before, the packaging is not the epitome of sustainability. Their plastic packaging is recyclable, but the main contributor to sustainability in this product is the lack of water.
Toothpaste that comes in tubes (some with mouthwash and shampoo and conditioner) is almost entirely made up of water. This not only contributes to water waste but also creates a larger carbon footprint not only to create the product but to transfer the product as well. So I believe it’s still a valid low-waste swap over a plastic tube of toothpaste or bottle of mouthwash.
4. Naked body lotion/massage bars
I love Lush’s charity pot lotions. They’re lotions that come in plastic black pots and each individual pot donates 100% of the proceeds to different charities and foundations. But did you know they now make the charity pots in a solid form with no packaging? A few of their other lotions also come package-free in solid form.
The massage bars are also amazing and basically like a lotion bar that you see in the shower. Plus the added beads and texture feel like an amazing “massage”.
Did you know Lush has package-free deodorant? I certainly didn’t. They have two different options that basically look like soap bars but you apply them under your arms! I absolutely love this and think it’s a wonderful step towards the future of “package-free”.
6. Bar soap
Of course, I had to add bar soap to the list. Bar soap has been around for a long time since before packaged body washes and soaps came around. This is such an easy yet powerful swap to completely eliminate packaging! Plus there’s no shortage of fun and seasonal options to bring you joy!
So how sustainable is Lush, really? My vote is that Lush is pretty dang sustainable. Of course, there is always room for improvement which is clear because Lush has continuously refined and improved on their products, sourcing and packaging over the years. And I think it’s so important to support brands who are making actual, attainable moves towards sustainability to show that we care about what they’re doing.
Supporting brands who have no intention of making changes shows that we’re ok with their ethical practices.
I think Lush is also a great option because it’s more widely accessible. A lot of people, especially those too young to have a credit card, often don’t have access to sustainable swaps because they’re not super common in physical stores. Since Lush has a lot of locations across the world, the chances of being able to find one near you is more likely.
Thank you for reading and caring about sustainable companies. Please don’t forget to share this post and follow me on Instagram for daily low waste living inspiration!