Louise and I always love exploring the west coast of Canada, so when Lush reached out and invited us both on a “Zero Waste” weekend to Whistler, we could hardly contain our excitement. We’d already come across their conservationist efforts with their campaign to stop trophy bear hunting and were keen to find out more about their other initiatives (as well as explore a bit more of Whistler).
The general theme of the weekend was to discuss the important environmental issues that we’re facing as a planet, while simultaneously exploring some of the beautiful natural treasures that we risk losing if things don’t change. If you’ve read some of our past posts (like our post on melting glaciers), you’ll know that our beautiful environment is something we treasure very deeply, and naturally we were keen to get involved in any way possible.
Here’s a run down of our amazing trip, and some of the things we learnt along the way:
So the first part of this trip involved learning a little about Lush in their Vancouver headquarters/factory.
To be honest, I was a little worried that we were going to be force-fed a lot of cool aid, but Lush’s attitude was actually incredibly relaxed. It seemed like the only agenda was to educate us a little about the environment and to teach us about the way they do things at Lush. To be honest, I was kind of curious to see if they could practice what they preached so I was keen to dive right in.
When we arrived, we were given a short presentation about the different products Lush made, as well as where the various products were sourced from. It was actually pretty interesting to hear about all the products from the horse’s mouth and understand the creative processes that went into a lot of their most popular products.
The Factory Tour
After the talk, we all donned some incredible aprons and entered the soap factory.
Honestly, this was the part I was most excited about seeing, not least because we were promised a chance to make our own soaps! I was also kind of curious to see if it really was going to be an all access pass or if we were going to be suspiciously ushered past shady looking restricted areas.
Clearly I’ve seen one too many movies, because we really left no stone unturned. Unless there was a secret second building out back, I’m pretty sure we saw it all. And yes, in case you were wondering, it really is a kind of soapy Willy Wonka factory. There are vats of incredible smelling concoctions around every corner, and enormous machines for mixing, moulding and injecting the various soaps.
Here’s an example of a special thermal jacket lush designed to save energy!
Soon we found ourselves in the handmade soap area, and it was time to get our hands dirty (or not…! ). Today we would be making their “Rub rub rub” natural body scrub, made from a combination of illipe and cupuaçu butters, sea salt and a couple of edible flowers.
On the theme of environmental waste, all the soaps were made from natural produce (seriously, there was a whole fridge of random fresh vegetables and fruits), and all noxious chemicals were notably absent (and there were definitely no microbeads)
Upon hearing the news that the flowers were edible, I immediately thrust a couple in my mouth.
..Probably jumped the gun there a little because the flowers were about as salty as a cup of fresh sea water. 10/10 would not recommend eating.
The bars turned out great though, and I’d highly recommend making your own soap if you ever get the chance. It’s very cathartic and ya smell great at the end of it.
So, once we’d seen all the various products, it was on to the more contentious of the environmental issues – the packaging..
One of Lush’s mantras is to try and create as little waste as possible with their products.
Doesn’t everyone try to do that though? Well yes maybe, but you’d be hard pressed to find anyone that takes it as seriously as Lush.
First of all, most of their products are sold ‘naked’. That means little or no packaging at all, and certainly no plastic wrapped soap.
No, if you visit one of their stores you’ll find that you can fill a paper bag with naked bars of soap and you’ll never have to touch any plastic (top tip – make a note of which soap you pick up because it’s really hard to figure out later).
On that note, have you ever stopped to think that a huge proportion of the plastic we use is created simply to be thrown away? Just think about it; think of any product you bought recently and try to remember if it came wrapped in plastic. Chances are that it was and the first thing you did was throw it away. Isn’t that Insane??! For us and Lush, that’s a huge issue, and that’s why the naked line is so fantastic.
Secondly, any products that do need to be sold in a container (like their facial scrubs) are sold in ‘black charity pots’. These black pots are fully recyclable and partially made from reclaimed ocean plastic. As an incentive for customers to reuse their black pots, they offer customers a free pot for every 5 returned!
Not only are the black pots themselves a great initiative, but if you buy the “charity pot”, 100% of the proceeds go to one of the many sustainability companies that Lush funds with its “Sustainable Lush Fund (SLush fund :D). These are companies that are working to make the world a better place, and Lush so far has given over $18M to various causes through these charitable pots.The companies we heard from over the weekend (such as Ocean Legacy) are all companies funded by this fund.
As if that wasn’t enough, all lush bottles and pots are made from 100% post-consumer plastics (meaning they’re not actually adding to the world’s plastic problem), all packing peanuts are biodegradable, and all mail order ‘plastic’ wrappers are compostable. You can find out more about Lush packaging here.
Final thoughts on the ‘Lush operation’
It feels strange to be gushing so much about an enormous cosmetics company, but it was clear that Lush goes to enormous lengths to limit its environmental impact, and that makes us pretty happy. To be honest, prior to our trip I had Lush lumped in with every other cosmetics brand, but now you’ll probably have to pry their soap from my cold, beautifully clean, dead hands.
So yeah, all in all a pretty positive experience I would say!
Off to the Mountains
So as our tour drew to a close, we grabbed as many bars of soap as our arms could carry and dove into the car for the next leg of our journey… Our weekend of adventures in Whistler.
Sea to Sky:
In case you haven’t done it yourself, the drive from Vancouver to Whistler is one of the most incredible drives in the world. The road winds along the coast on the Sea to Sky highway, and passes through some of the most incredibly wild and rugged mountainscapes. It’s also home to the famous Brandywine Falls, and Squamish, a rock climbing mecca.
Eventually we arrived at our villa for the weekend, and were super excited to find it complete with a hottub and private vegan chef (Masterchef contestant, Travis Petersen, otherwise known as the Nomad cook!).
The reason we were being treated to vegan food for the weekend was because Lush wanted to highlight how amazing food can be even without meat; particularly as meat production is so incredibly bad for the environment.
Did you know that getting just ONE 200g beef burger to your table uses the equivalent of around 100 showers (or 3,000 litres of water). Livestock also produce more greenhouses than all of the world’s transportation combined (51%). Don’t believe me? Read this!
Up until that point, I’d always been fairly skeptical of vegan food. I’m a terrible cook and all my vegan dishes generally turned out as slop. As a result, I struggled to imagine life without meat was worth living. I can now admit that after having tried Travis’s food, I’ve been so completely utterly wrong on that subject. It turns out that the fault was 100% with the chef (me), and not the food.
Travis made us vegan quesadillas, curries, salad rolls and more, and each time we found ourselves staring at each other in disbelief. Who knew vegan food could be so incredible!?!
Zero Waste Weekend:
So the other reason food was so important on the trip was because we were trying to have a ‘zero waste’ weekend. ‘Zero waste’ meaning that, over the course of the weekend, our aim was to try and leave literally zero waste (be that food packaging, chewing gum, whatever). Any waste had to be emptied into the waste bins and was saved to reassess at the end of our stay.
The experience was kind of bittersweet. Sweet because we substantially reduced our waste over the weekend with just a little conscientiousness, and bitter because we realized just how much waste we’re all personally responsible for. Even getting peckish and buying a chocolate bar on the way meant making unnecessary waste and it was kind of incredible to see how much we were accidentally accumulating.
Most of our discussions actually centred around this subject, and the idea that each of us reducing our plastic consumption could make a big, big difference. The key takeaway for me really was that you don’t have to be 100% perfect, because even a small reduction multiplied over several years will make a significant difference.
How can we make a difference?
Here are some quick ideas that can make a big long term difference:
- Refuse drinking straws
- Refuse plastic cutlery
- Use your own reusable grocery bags/tote
- Don’t individually bag your fruit and veg at the grocery store
All very simple things to implement with huge potential benefits if we all make a commitment to change.
As I mentioned earlier, the reason our trip took place in Whistler is because it’s one of the most stunning places on earth and Lush wanted to show us some of the incredible things we could be losing if we don’t change our ways.
On the first day, our group went whitewater rafting down the Sqaumish River. The beautiful cool mountain water was a refreshing reminder of what might change if global warming isn’t brought under control. With receding glaciers and rising global temperatures, who knows how long the water will keep flowing from the mountains. As intended, it was a stark reminder of the risks we face (it was also awesome..highly recommend).
Day two’s adventure was a beautiful walk to Cheakamus Lake. It was a 16km walk through the lush (no pun intended) northern rainforest to one of Whistler’s most beautiful vistas. With Travis’s incredible homemade energy balls, the hike was a breeze, but again we were reminded of some of the beautiful scenes we risk with climate change.
Another important aspect to the weekend was an acknowledgement of the native culture in the Whistler area. The Squamish Nation has populated these areas for thousands of years, and our industrialization threatens their way of life even more than our own.
A member of the Squamish Nation visited our cabin and performed some beautiful music for us. It was fantastic to be able to learn more about their rich culture, and if you’re ever visiting Whistler, make sure you check out the Squamish Lil’wat Cultural Centre to learn more.
The final aspect of our visit was a chance to sit down with some of the businesses funded by the SLush Fund, and hear about how they’re tackling a number of different environmental challenges.
Perhaps the most interesting discussion of all was about Food waste. But we’re not talking about the waste you and I make each day; we’re talking about industrial scale waste that companies and businesses make each day.
Insane Food Waste
There were a few tales from the trenches that made me realize that the problem is far bigger than you can possibly imagine.
For example – did you know that bananas that are sold in grocery stores need to be within a certain size range? If they’re too big or too small they get tossed away. That’s right, bananas don’t grow in the perfect way you find them in the grocery store. The ones you see are carefully curated and the rest go straight to landfill. Literally plucked from the plant and thrown straight on the dump. Isn’t that INSANE?!?
Another example – a shipping container full of avocados was thrown straight into landfill because they had the wrong coloured stickers on them. WHAT!?! Unfortunately big corporations have no way of dealing with diversions from their protocols, so mistakes always end up in landfill. And this wasn’t an isolated incident. It happens all the time.
Another example – Farmers that overproduce on their crops are forced to throw away the surplus so that the grocery store prices aren’t affected. Limit the supply, keep the prices high. It should be criminal, but somehow these big companies get away with it because the public doesn’t have a clue.
Working to change bad habits
One Vancouver company was working hard to redistribute all these waste products, but finding a home for industrial scale waste is a huge issue. Our discussions certainly raised some interesting questions for us, and we were so grateful to be included in the conversation. Our lives have dramatically changed with our new awareness, and we’re keen to spread the message to anyone that will listen!
If by some miracle you’ve got this far, I encourage you to look into some of the massive environmental issues we face and make some tiny adjustments to your life. If we all make a commitment to change then the overall effect could be unbelievable.
Thanks so much to Lush for sending us on such an inspiring and life changing trip, we honestly learnt such a great deal and feel like our lives have been very positively affected as a result.
To clarify, Lush took us on an epic trip to Whistler, but there were no strings and they asked for nothing in return (not even this blog post!). Everything in this post is written emphatically from our own unbiased perspective.