Packaging That Fights Climate Change


Whether you’re jet-setting off to luxurious beaches in the Maldives or backpacking through the snow-capped mountains of the Andes, there’s one part of your trip that will likely remain the same: the impulse purchasing of mini travel products in the days (or hours) running up to your trip.


But these convenient and disposable mini plastic bottles filled with shower gel, shampoo and conditioner are having a drastic effect on the planet and contributing to the ever-growing mounds of plastic waste. The cosmetics industry has a responsibility to provide solutions, not add to the problem, and industry leaders need to be at the forefront of the change. We need to make it easier for consumers to make more environmentally conscious decisions. We need to revolutionise the way that products are packaged and distributed, leading from the front to prove that green really is the new black.


Lush have always championed a minimal packaging approach. In fact, 70% of products require no packaging at all, and approximately half can be taken home naked. Using creative solutions to make a positive impact on the planet, the first-ever solid shampoo bar is packed with powerful natural ingredients and essential oils, with each bar providing between 80 – 100 washes. Shampoo bars provide the added bonus that they won’t leak, making them the perfect travel companion. Customers must be allowed to travel worry-free in the knowledge that they’ve made sustainable, conscious decisions. Over the last five years, shampoo bars have saved around 30 million plastic bottles from landfill, proving that one small change in routine really can lead to positive impact.

But as we edge closer to environmental disaster, brands need to take a holistic approach to sustainability, carefully considering packaging and distribution, rather than making one quick-win modification to a product to tick the ‘environmentally friendly’ box. And of course, the shampoo bars still need to be transported. Helping bars to stay dry and be transported easily, Cork Pots are the carrier your shampoo bar has been dreaming about for years. Cork naturally wicks away moisture and drains easily, meaning a shampoo bar is even more enjoyable to use and lasts longer too. As a natural and non-timber forest product, Lush’s Cork Pots are made from the inner layer under the bark of the cork oak tree (Quercus suber), sourced from the Alentejo region of southern Portugal. Traditionally used to make wine corks, the material is anti-bacterial, fire-retardant, water-resistant, flexible and strong; and at the end of its life, can be returned to the earth to nourish the soil without leaving any toxic residue.


Harvested from a living tree, it also has an exceptional ability to sequester carbon, helping to mitigate the effects of climate change. Each Cork Pot sequesters over 33 times its weight in carbon dioxide, ultimately reducing carbon in the atmosphere.

100% natural, reusable and biodegradable, the Cork Pot boasts many positive attributes, but the most exciting of them all is that it is the first carbon positive piece of packaging.

Lush also recognise the carbon impact that shipping these products can create, endeavouring to reduce this output by using a traditional sailing boat to deliver the Cork Pots on a four-week journey from Portugal to Poole, Dorset.


“When we first started working with cork, we knew the material was very capable of sequestering greenhouse gases from the atmosphere, but we found that each Cork Pot was actually removing more CO2 than it was emitting over its lifecycle. Each 35g Cork Pot is sequestering over a kilo of CO2e” – Simon Brewer and Ben Davis, Environmental Impact Team at Lush


And it isn’t just the material’s ability to remove carbon from the atmosphere that makes it ideal. Cork oaks are often grown in dry environments to prevent desertification and provide habitat for a number of endangered animals. The initiative created an income stream for farmers and helped birds and other wildlife flourish.

However, in recent decades the cork forests have been threatened as their owners have taken to cultivating the soil under the cork oaks in the mistaken belief that this makes them grow faster.


So, finding intelligent ways to work with nature and re-educate locals on how to sustainably manage the land is the self-appointed role of environmental group Eco Interventions. One of the group’s most important offerings is providing lower rates to landowners than ploughing companies to clear their ground of flammable brush. This is a win-win scenario: Eco Interventions makes the most of the opportunity for re-education while also replanting native species, while landowners enjoy healthier soil and trees for a cheaper price.


The original intention of the project was to design a piece of packaging which, every time it is purchased, directly supports the wider regeneration of cork oak forests in Portugal. Key findings from the study revealed that over 20,000 native trees were planted in the first year of the Cork Pot production.

“The Cork Pot project is the culmination of 2 years of work and collaboration with Eco Interventions, an organisation dedicated to assisting farmers and landowners in sustainable management of their land and the rewilding of large areas of Forest Farmland. […] Nature will be its recycling centre and it’s the direction we need to be going in for recycling generally” – Nick Gumery, Creative Buyer for Packaging at Lush


As a society, we need to be making more environmentally conscious decisions. While many of us may be good at exercising an eco-friendly approach whilst in the comfort of our own homes, this needs to translate into the decisions we make pre-trip and during our travels to eradicate the convenience purchases of single-use plastic cosmetics. There are many challenges ahead, but it is up to the industry to find natural material solutions for all our packaging needs.


Nick Gumery continues, “Lush Cork Pots are truly ‘regenerative’ pieces of reusable packaging which are biodegradable at end of life, and we see this as the future for all packaging. But business won’t change if it’s solely done charitably. At Lush, we are interested in its impact but want to show, as an ethical business, it can still make a profit.”


Here’s hoping the rest of the industry follows suit.

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