A company appropriately called Lush Cosmetics is funding an anti-fracking campaign in the UK, all the while blithely ignoring the fact its products are hydrocarbon based. Its US operations also help the Rockefeller family fund 350.org.
Our good friend Nick Grealy of No Hot Air has a phenomenally good story regarding the funding of fractivist activity in the UK by a company that prides itself on being attached to every imaginable cause but markets products made from the stuff it lambasts others for producing – petroleum based products. The company is Lush Fresh Handmade Cosmetics and it is primarily a UK operation, but has 145 stores in the US, including at least 74 in oil and/or gas producing states.
Lush is one of those hyper-trendy outfits that preaches at you every second about how ethical it is. No doubt it’s a great marketing tool for reaching customers endeared to this condescending message, but that old line about capitalists being all too willing to sell their hangman the rope with which to hang them comes to mind, doesn’t it?
Anyway, Nick and and a fellow by the name of James Elston from Palladian Energy have put together some great material illustrating the uber-hypocrisy that accompanies what Lush is doing in the UK by being the principal funder of a group know as Frack Off, which is fighting shale gas development in Balcombe. Here are some of the best parts of their combined put-down of the petrol using petrol opponents:
Nick Grealy’s Observations on Lush
The hypocrisy of Lush is two fold. Firstly, the key ingredients of all cosmetics, Lush, Body Shop, L’Oreal and Co-op brands alike, are made with precursor chemicals that can only be made from hydrocarbons. Go to the excellent Lush pages of what’s in their products and discover these statements (found here and here):
We’re proud of every single ingredient we use in our products, and we list them in quantitative order on every pot, bottle, sign, web page and in the LUSH Times.
Acrylates are chemical compounds proven to be safe for cosmetic use. They have slightly different functions depending on their composition, but they are predominately used in gel-based products.
And, they are impossible to make in any commercial quantity without using either natural gas or oil, or even sometimes coal. As Dow Chemical used to say, Modern Life is Chemistry, including the part of Modern Life that prefers not to know and would rather pretend that be it energy or avocados, we can get along just fine without gas or oil being produced under someone’s back yard. True local sourcing for Lush would be sustainable based natural gas or oil in their back yard. But they displace the raw material to someone else’s backyards. We won’t find Lush stores in the Nigerian Delta for example. Similarly, no one wants to get gas or oil from the Amazon or the Arctic, but refusing to access it locally will ensure that habitats, (and peoples) will die so that you live in a sweet smelling world.
Secondly, many of the same chemicals used in cosmetics are used in frack fluid, a subject on which James Elston has written more in depth below.
The questions are:
- Who are the bigger hypocrites: The natural gas industry or Lush?
- If the chemicals used in Lush cosmetics are smeared all over your body, what’s the big problem with the same one being two miles below the earth?
James Elston’s Observations on Lush
Just when the quality of the debate on fracking was seeming to become more rational in the UK we are facing Desolategate, the Balcombe Media Jamboree and now unquestioning corporate backing and website hosting of FrackOff by Lush the cheery High Street cosmetics retailer. It is Lush’s misguided and mildly suicidal bandwagon chasing in a world where all the good causes must seem taken that I wish to address.
Lush is a very successful High Street cosmetics retailer selling bathbombs, “natural” soaps and many other nice smellies. The bathbombs (see example to right) fizz CO2 attractively, the wide range of soaps fill many a bathroom with pleasant smelling ooze and packaging with interesting names. However, all these products are made of a combination of industrial chemicals and ingredients refined from plants. So Lush is selling vast quantities of chemicals that are often in effect wasted as they dissolve in our baths or showers and enter the water cycle in the sewerage system. Ahh, you say, but these cosmetic chemicals are nothing like those used in frack fluid!
Well, I utilized the list of commonly used frack chemicals available here where there are 41 unique entries. I then compared this with this helpful website brought to us by The Stiftung zur Förderung der Hautgesundheit (Institute for the Advancement of Skin Health) in Germany. According to this website, some 29 of those 41 chemicals are widely used in cosmetics (71%). I suspect that several of the remainder are too but are not covered by those efficient Germans. Several of these are used in food and medicines.
LUSH may only use some of these chemicals, but I believe the scale of the waste in LUSH’s product manufacture, treatment and disposal cycle and particularly their usage to be massive and worthy of closer investigation. CO2 emissions to manufacture (handmade for goodness sake?) and distribute and the biological oxygen demand (BOD) and resultant energy and chemical usage in water treatment may be considerable.
Perhaps Lush’s customers who may be easily sold on FrackOff’s fatuous propaganda should question whether just using small amounts of basic soap, basic liquid bubble bath and other simple cosmetics from supermarkets may not be better for the environment. Equally more efficacious products from companies that use actual science and R&D like P&G, Unilever, Reckitt Benkiser may make greater sense for the environment.
So, having established that Lush’s products end up as waste water pollutants, however transient their effects, let us consider the composition and fate of frack fluid. Frack fluid is composed of ca 91% water, ca 8% proppant (sand or ceramic) and up to 1% chemicals. Full disclosure of these chemicals is now common and will be required in the UK. So, on a percentage basis, only small amounts of these chemicals are used and over 70% of these chemicals are commonly found in cosmetics.
When the frack fluid is injected thousands of meters underground it is injected into shale beds or other impermeable sandstones/limestones that are in effect sealed systems. These beds are often overpressured relative to the rocks above and below due to the oil and gas having been cooked up like a pressure cooker. This further underlines that clays and other sealing rocks close these systems.
As much as 70% of this fluid remains in these formations after fracturing. The frack fluid produced back when the well is cleaning up is stored and treated to exacting standards prior to recycling, reinjection or disposal. Many operators are aiming for 100% recycling of frack flowback in the US. It certainly doesn’t disappear straight into the municipal water systems like those Lush bathbombs.
Perhaps those Oxbridge graduates at Lush should spare a thought for all those rural generational well paid jobs for non graduates that shale gas and tight oil exploration and development creates that may be pushed into the future by their and Frack Off’s childish campaign. I struggle to believe that Anita Roddick would have made such a silly choice of campaign, but then the rainforests issue is taken….
Lush’s “charity partners” in its “ethical campaign” (a campaign laced with self-righteousness) include 350.org (the Rockefeller family funded anti-fossil fuel initiative to assuage their guilt at having made so much money in oil), as if that group needed any help. Such is the way modern-day elitists operate, buying over-priced feel-good products to funnel a little money to the wealthiest of the wealthiest lushes (pun intended) to fight the source of their wealth, hoping it will spare them any duty to do anything meaningful. Meanwhile, fracking provides real people real jobs and real energy using proven practices that are both safe and responsible. If only we could spread that responsibility around…