Each week at the Sustainable Shopper, Stylist talks to the people focused on creating a more conscious shopping space for all. This time, Ruth Andrade – regenerative impact coordination and communication at Lush – talks to fashion editor Harriet Davey about how the British brand is leading the way in the world of conscious cosmetics.
Making bath time more fun since 1989 by creating the first bath bomb, Lush has since become the Brit brand making waves in the cosmetics industry. Putting the environment first goes hand-in-hand with Lush’s fresh, handmade products. From the raw ingredients and energy needed to create them to the packaging – or lack of excessive packaging – and recycling methods, the cruelty-free brand is leading the way when it comes to conscious cosmetics. With a brand new concept store having just opened on London’s Oxford Street, you can head to the conveyor belt to see (and of course smell) the latest bath bombs, get some flowers on your way out and even have a spa treatment in-store using the brand’s latest products.
Lush has also recently launched a plastic packaging returns scheme enabling customers to bring back their empties to be recycled and get rewarded for doing so. You will get a 50p deposit back to spend in the shop that day, so what better way to make sure your beauty empties are being properly recycled?
Here, the Sustainable Shopper talks to a member of the ‘earthcare’ team at Lush who focus on making the beauty products and brand in general as eco-friendly as possible. Ruth Andrade tells us what she would wish for when it comes to change in the cosmetics industry and how going vegan as a lifestyle choice is the way forward.
What is your earliest memory of sustainability?
Ruth: This is an interesting question – the other day I was showing my niece some of the songs that I loved when I was a child, then a pre-teen. A lot of the lyrics mentioned caring about the planet and I suppose that influenced me. I remember from a very young age being worried about homelessness, the ozone layer and animals going extinct.
When it came to cosmetics, my favourite thing was to make perfumes. My sister and I would harvest rose petals and mint, mince them and then use some of my mum’s cleaning alcohol to make perfume in reused glass bottles with a cork lid. Fast forward over three decades, and my favourite perfume is Grassroots by Lush; a geranium, rosewood and vanilla charity perfume with a cork lid that is carbon positive.
Is there such a thing as truly sustainable beauty?
Let’s start by defining what truly sustainable would mean. For me, it means that our whole economy and culture would stay within the nine planetary boundaries. Another way of putting it is in terms of the Earth Overshoot Day, the day in the year by which our demand for resources and ecological services have already exceeded the earth’s capacity to regenerate.
Currently we are all borrowing from the future and operating beyond the boundaries of our ecosystems. I think we are too far gone to be sustainable, we now need to preserve, restore and regenerate to have a deliberate positive impact on the planet.
Investment pieces vs throw away beauty: how do you get customers to care?
By meeting people’s needs for self-care while speaking to that part in all of us that wants to care, to have integrity and coherence in our actions. Products have to be good and effective but they also have to be good for our souls and our hearts to add meaning to our lives. I think we can transform consumers into agents of change by offering the possibility of making better choices for communities, animals and the planet. It’s all about making it easy for people to care.
Who is your favourite sustainability influencer? And why?
I am much more into food influencers than anything else. I am an avid forager and fermenter so most of my Instagram feed is about that. I recommend @pascalbaudar and @blackforager for people interested in connecting to their local environment by finding mushrooms, clays, aromatic plants, spices, fibre and seeds that are super useful. On the beauty front, I like @veganbeautygirl. She makes vegan swaps in one’s beauty routine super easy to do with accessible options at Lush and your local drugstore.
What changes would you like to see happen in the cosmetics industry?
Firstly, I wish we could remove the label ‘fighting animal testing’ from our products, because it is something we no longer have to fight. Then I would also like to see a widespread use of plant materials from agroforestry and regenerative agriculture, putting an end to deforestation due to palm and soy used in many raw materials and paper used in packaging.
Speaking of packaging, we need a shift to circular packaging which will need industry-wide collaboration, especially if we are to make reuse and refill cost-effective. If I had wishes from a genie, this is what they would be.
Three sustainable shopping hacks
1. Make gradual zero waste changes: get a shampoo bar and conditioner, refill your cleaning products at your local zero waste store, use soap instead of shower gel or washing up liquid.
2. Go vegan beyond just your diet: choose vegan cosmetics, cleaning products, clothes, shoes and so on. Animal agriculture is one of the leading drivers of deforestation and climate change.
3. Support brands that are changing the status quo: whether a small, local Black-owned cosmetics business or a global fresh handmade cosmetic brand like Lush, there are many business models already proving that it is possible to have a healthy relationship with customers, suppliers and the planet. Use your money to make a change.
Sustainable Shopper edit by Ruth:
Lush shampoo bar
Popular as a way to reduce single-use plastic, in 2019 we sold 6.6 million shampoo bars saving over 19 million shampoo bottles from going to landfill.
Lush cork shampoo bar pot
The cork pot sequesters 1.2kg of CO2 per pot by helping to restore cork oak forests in Portugal.
My favourite perfume. It’s made from essential oils and 100% of the proceeds (minus VAT) goes to grassroots charities to support animal protection, human rights and environmental protection.
Natural Wisdom oil
This has been a skin saver for me after two months in the sun. Super light, easily absorbed oil, full of antioxidants and vitamins A and E. It’s made from a waste product, raspberry seeds, and is fantastic for my morning face yoga routine.
Haeckles algae plump
Haeckles is such a cool brand. Its algae plump contains algae grown in their own farm.
Guppyfriend washing bag
Not a cosmetic, but everyone should have one of these. Wash your synthetic clothes inside a Guppy bag to stop (on average) 700,000 tiny micro fibres going into our waters.
Images: courtesy of Ruth/ Lush and brands featured