Lush Showcase 2018 - how Lush are upholding permaculture ethics in 2018

by Emmy Jenkins

A carrot mosaic at Hulme Community Garden Centre, venue for the national permaculture convergence 2018Toward the end of a fun-packed Permaculture Convergence 2018, participants split off to explore permaculture across Manchester. While some toured local projects, a group of us headed over to check out the Lush Showcase 2018, to see how they were delivering the message of sustainability.

After a jovial conversation with the very friendly doorman, we walk into a vast space and are greeted by a spectacular display that touches every sense in your body.

The visceral experience hits you instantly, as the aromas of wildflowers and honey and coconut fizz up your nose. A singer performs cheerly for an audience picnicking on what can only be described as a park inside. Real trees and real grass surround a giant slide, as bath bombs whizz and pop through tunnels overhead. It’s mania!

The Lush Showcase 2018 is an event held for the staff and associates (and public if they so wish) of Lush – that smelly soap company you pass on the high street. Famously known for their encouragement of sustainability, the Lush Showcase 2018 is a celebration of all the sustainable and indeed regenerative things that Lush gets up to.

Looby Macnamara, Permaculture Association member and Permaculture Magazine author speaking at the Lush Showcase 2018As permaculture advocates, we’re closely aligned with Lush. In fact, Lush are involved in a whole bunch of permie activities, and therefore the company often invites Andy Goldring, Permaculture Association CEO, and members to speak and be part of their creative discussions.

When we look deeper into Lush itself, we can see tangibly how they fall in line with the ethics of permaculture. Dedicated to sustainability, Lush have the sLush Fund that helps projects all over the world that are involved in regeneration in one form or another.

For example, one of the projects that benefits from the funds is the Ghana Permculture Institute. The institute uses sustainable methods to produce moringa, which is subsequently used as one of the key ingredients in Lush’s Charity Pot product. The centre also produces mushrooms, runs a tree nursery, and works with the development of microfinance systems. The fund has also helped other projects such as the Nabulu Women’s Aloe Group, who share education among their community while sharing cottage industry in their arid landscape.

The Charity Pot lotion itself has raised over £4.3 million so far, while offering £100 - £10,000 to grassroots projects all over the world. A great way to kickstart projects from the bottom-up, it would appear that Lush shares many of our sentiments as an organisation.

So, what about on the ground?
Exploring the cacophony that was exploding around us, we saw face massages, hair styling, facial cleansing, make-up demonstrations, book readings, and much, much more. Overwhelmed by the sights and smells, we found ourselves upon a little trail of explanatory boards that showcased Lush’s commitment to permaculture.

We couldn’t help ourselves – grabbing one of the employees (I think her name was Maisie!), we dove right in with a bombardment of questions. She was not only bubbly and engaging, but also extremely knowledgeable and insightful on all the topics we discussed. For example, questioning her on the environmental impacts of all the glitter, she was right back at us explaining that the mica powder used as glitter is biodegradable and non-harmful to the earth.

On a deeper level, she explained that she would love to traverse from being a shop assistant to becoming one of the thinkers in the sustainability department for Lush. Their ethical endeavor to preserve nature had been the draw for her to work for them. When we asked her how she came to be working on the permaculture section, she said that her manager had recommended her, knowing her interest.

What I took away from the Lush Showcase this year was that not only was the company looking to uphold the earth care ethic of permaculture – with their biodegradable glitter and all-natural eyeshadow – they were also trying to create a people care revolution from within their own staff.

By providing a day of fun and education, Lush were literally showcasing their ability to create a sustainable and cooperative community. By engaging their staff in a meaningful way from the bottom-up, Lush are attempting to create a cohesive work environment where everyone feels valued, rewarded, and appreciated for their work and passion – and the surplus is given to those who need it (sLush Fund and Charity Pot, and the Spring Prize).

From the delicious food carts to the gleaming free bath bomb, I really enjoyed the day. Lush managed to capture their essence well, giving me a chance to experience all they stand for – from the quiet and encapsulating bookstore speakers to the raucous and playful build-your-own kitchen, Lush managed to showcase how we can engage in, enjoy, and be proud of our capacity for regeneration in 2018.