Second outing: How un-green is my luxury shopping?

Following Jorn Barger’s tip no. 10, my interpretation of it, I am giving a second outing here to one of my earliest posts on this blog.

The post was written in April 2007, when I lived in Edinburgh. The monstrous question of luxury shopping being un-green rears its ugly head again. It is after all Christmas time and gift-shopping time. Unlike others, who can brave the crowds, I do my shopping on Amazon and a couple of other online retailers, mostly shipping the presents directly to the recipients. However the sheer amount of packaging that surrounds the rare presents that first come to me to be handed over in person astounds me. For 2 books, 2 wall-calendars and 2 paint kits, Amazon sent me a box which was about 12″ high and 18″ wide, and was mostly full of bubble wrap. I am now using it to store up my paper recycling!

What do your experiences show?

Those of you, who, like me, seek a dose of frivolity and gossip once in a while, will have noticed the brouhaha surrounding the launch of Anya Hindmarch’s newest product, a cotton tote proclaiming “I am not a plastic bag“. Anya Hindmarch designs those fabulous purple velvet bags for British Airways First Class and is an all-round creative bag designer lady.

The said cotton tote was launched with much hype to target the Absfab crowd but made its way to the eBay-vendors who subsequently sold the bag for 100s of pounds. Apparently the bag is available for £5 at Sainsbury’s from this week, another green step from Sainsbury’s (more on which in a later post) and another chance to look sheepish, if you are an early adopter of fashion trends…

However if you also spend some time buying mass-luxury or true luxury brands, you will have noticed how much packaging comes with every such shopping expedition.

And have you tried telling the salespeople that you do not need the packaging and you will rather carry it in your Anya Hindmarch ‘not a plastic bag’ bag or any other bag you may have? They positively get frothing at the mouths. After all, what about the free brand promotion that we give them, by carrying those bags around as we go about the rest of our Saturday chores?

Here is the packaging payload with two of the premium British brands that I spent money on recently:

* One candle at Jo Malone: Wrapped in at least 3 sheets of black tissue paper, then placed inside a corrugated box with black letters imprinted on cream, then tied with a black ribbon with a neat bow, then put in a carry bag about 12 inches high, then more tissue is added to ‘protect’ the shopping. Ooh!

* One top at LK Bennett: Wrapped in 2 large white tissue paper sheets, stuck together with 2 adhesive stickers, then popped in a large white bag with the brand name in black on it, and then just to make sure you don’t accidentally drop your shopping from the depths of the bag, another sticker across the top.

The heartening bit? Almost all big bags are now recyclable paper, except the shiny bits of intertwined ropes that make up the handles of these bags.

The bad bit? I live in a soi-disant Conservation Area and my local council does not pick recycling from my door step. I must therefore load it all in a car and take it to the nearest recycling banks, about 1.4 miles away. What a waste..

Why can’t we appreciate some fine things in life, without being lumbered with all this packaging? Is this the only way their brand managers spell premium? Tons of packaging? Why not learn from Apple? My iPod came in a box about 5″X5″X1/2″ in dimension. Admittedly it is now so passé to have an iPod that it is no longer premium, but full marks for sleek and desirable packaging.

It may not be easy being green, especially when you are buying a tad premium, but Anya Hindmarch – and Apple – may have taken the first designer step towards helping some way towards making it greener.