GLENDALE — Kendra Owen was shopping at the Glendale Galleria on Wednesday when Alana Gregos, the assistant manager of the LUSH cosmetics store, briefed her on North America's dependence on fossil fuel.
Gregos was one of the more than half-dozen LUSH employees who wore T-shirts, posters and black plastic oil barrels to raise awareness of the Canadian tar sands, an oil operation in Alberta that opponents say wastes energy and produces toxic runoff to neighboring indigenous people and wildlife.
"People have to take a stand," Gregos said.
About 1 billion barrels of oil enter the U.S. from the tar sands, and LUSH's Glendale employees are part of a two-week North American campaign to pressure the Canadian and U.S. governments to move their investments away from the tar sands and into renewable and alternative energy sources, said Hanh Nguyen, a LUSH sales associate.
In malls across the country, LUSH employees wore nothing but a mock oil barrel to get their point across. Veronica Felix-Wills, manager of the Galleria LUSH retailer, said raising awareness was the bare minimum.
Employees distribute pamphlets informing shoppers of the environmental damage being done, not in the Gulf of Mexico, but in northern Canada.
"I tell them, if you want to educate yourself, it's as easy as reading a small pamphlet," Felix-Wills said.
Los Angeles resident Jose Guillermo thought the demonstration was initially about the headline-dominating BP oil spill, he said.
"I didn't know what was happening [in Canada]," he said. "We are killing the Earth. I feel like one day, a massive earthquake or something will happen. We're just abusing the land."
Oil executives said the protest is rooted in misinformation and rhetoric.
"Unfortunately, activities like this protest blur the lines between fact and fiction and add nothing to the serious dialogue occurring among reasonable people seeking solutions to our energy challenges," Dave Collyer, president of the Canadian Assn. of Petroleum Producers, said in a release.
Hassan Amin operates a sunglasses stand near the LUSH store and said that with more promotion, the message could catch on quickly.
"It's good because everyone comes to this mall," he said. "I think other stores should do it as well."