The other day I went into Lush to buy a tub of body scrub. I may have mentioned this before, but Lush (and other stores of its type) have this effect on me that I don’t enjoy at all. They make me lightheaded and dizzy with all of the different perfumes and scents in the atmosphere.  Sometimes, even passing by the store makes me reach for my inhaler.  However, I needed something, so I braved it.  I specifically knew what I was going in for, so I took a deep breath and went in, releasing small amounts of breath slowly as I searched for the product I was after.  Two breaths later, product in hand, I approached the counter.

An extremely jolly lady with hair that you couldn’t look directly at without UV protection greeted me:

“Good afternoon Madam, did you find what you were looking for today?”

“Yes, thank you” I replied, trying to conserve my breath.

She busied herself scanning the tub.

“Would you like a bag Madam?”

“Yes please,” I said, indicating that I had nowhere to put it.  I was without a handbag, and so not looking forward to carrying the tub home as if it was a warm beverage.

The fluorescent lady disappeared under the counter for a few seconds and came up with a bag that was almost exactly the same size as the tub.

The tub.

The tub.

The tub in the 'bag'.

The tub in the ‘bag’.

“There you go Madam, please hang on for your receipt.”

I was stunned.  I mean, I get it.  Plastic bags are bad for the environment. Saying that you would like a bag in shops nowadays is tantamount to saying that you don’t care that there are children and animals suffering in the world. I know.  I really do.

Usually, I have a couple of those foldaway bags in my handbag.  But this time I didn’t.  So I asked for a bag.

Now.  Maybe I have this all wrong.  Maybe the bags are to conceal the identity of the body scrub.  Or to preserve the natural beauty of the plastic tub.  Or just because having a bag that small is cute and advertises your shop.  Maybe Lush products are particularly shy.

Whatever their reason for actually producing bags the size of playing cards, my reason for asking for a bag was because I needed a more convenient way to carry the item.  So just for starters, handles would have been good (Are they bad for the environment?).  Because let us assume that I wasn’t only going to buy a tub of body scrub.  Let us assume I was also out to buy biltong from the Savannah deli (I cannot get enough of the stuff) and maybe some night nurse tablets.  Also, I might have been to a gallery and had a couple of programmes on my person.  I might have also wanted a sandwich from M&S or something.

So there I would have been, with an armful of  5 different items all in paper bags about the same shape and size as the items, with no handles. I mean I am hesitating at the use of the word bag here.  What that was was an envelope or maybe a sleeping bag.  A blanket?  I appreciate that sometimes you go out and buy a chapstick from somewhere and they give you a bag that would fit a superking size duvet in it and that too is annoying.  And if I had bought a lipstick, or lip balm, then I would have just slipped it into my pocket.  But the tub was too big to fit into my pocket.  It doesn’t make me the Wicked Witch of the West for crying out loud.

All this went through my mind as I stared at the bag she had given me.  I even opened my mouth to say that the bag was hardly handy since I had told her I had nowhere to put the damn thing.  I suppose I could have even asked for a bag with handles, but the truth is, I was losing consciousness at that point from the fumes and holding my breath. I grabbed the bag and my receipts and rushed out of the shop.

I was gasping in breaths of clean Liverpool Street Station air and clutching the tub as I made my way down to the Savannah Deli.  Fortunately, they gave me a carrier bag. With handles! And they didn’t even ask me if I needed one. They didn’t assume that I club baby seals in my down time, or laugh and eat popcorn during OXFAM adverts on TV.  They just gave me a bag.

I know Lush’s thing is that they are natural and environmentally friendly.  They take care to use recycled and biodegradable packaging where possible.  (Their website refers to “carrier bags”.  I object to the terminology)  I assume that’s why they do a roaring trade, and so many people visit their store.  Hell I won’t get my body scrub from anywhere else.  I love the stuff.  But perhaps, when you are trying to work out the smallest possible size and least practical bag which is best for the environment, you should also consider that whilst you probably saved tonnes of CO2 on the ‘bag’ for my scrub, you then handed me 2 foot long receipts for a transaction of less than £10.

Ooh, I just had a thought: had I had a stapler, I could have fashioned handles from the receipts.  How do we feel about staples? I just checked.  It’s a no go.  Did you know you can buy eco-friendly staple-free staplers?  Maybe Lush could offer them for us to use instore.

If I had a vote, I would vote for less receipt, more handles.  Just saying.