Canadians drink nine billion cups of tea a year and ninety-four percent of tea drinkers use the tea bag method. The first tea bag developed was in 1908 when a New Yorker named Thomas Sullivan folded samples of tea leaves into bags for restaurants. When he learned that the restaurant staff used the bags while soaking the leaves to avoid the messiness he realized a new marketing opportunity.
Now over a hundred years later, the local grocery store has a huge selection of different choices of tea varieties and companies that make it all happen! As a newly conscious shopper, I realize how difficult it can be to make an educated choice when there is so much to pick from. There are multiple aspects of environmentalism that comes up even when picking a box of tea.
My objective to find a tea company that didn’t individually pack each tea bag. Companies don’t label the presence of additional packaging within the box. Therefore, I decided to go with a product that mentioned the tea bag was biodegradable paper fiber. The sealed boxes don’t offer a way to check first so after I paid I quickly tore open the box to find that it did contain single-use freshness packaging!
Tea bags won’t biodegrade even if they’re composted because they’re made from a mixture of polypropylene (plastic) and paper fiber. The reason for the plastic is to help strengthen the bag preventing it from falling apart.`People don`t question the product because the look and feel are like paper and it`s not immediately apparent that this is another single-use product.
I want to make ethical decisions a little clearer while you’re browsing this section of the grocery store. I compiled a list of some popular brands and their support for social and environmental causes around the world.
Twinings tea aims to help half a million people by 2020 by driving positive outcomes for farmers, including women’s rights, housing, and working conditions and decent pay. The Rooibos and Cinnamon tea hold the highest percentage of certified sustainable standards. Twining teas use foil sachets and non-biodegradable tea bags.
Choice tea company is a Washington based company that use unbleached, natural fiber, staple-free tea bags, and 100% recycled paperboard printed with plant-based ink. They purchase renewable energy certificates to offset 100% of the emissions from the facility’s electricity usage. They are the first tea crafters in the United States to produce organic, Fair Trade Certified, and Non-GMO Project Verified teas.
Celestial tea uses non-biodegradable tea bags and does not use foil sachets. The Celestial Seasonings company donates their time and money to a variety of foundations that serve causes such as Cancer, Colorado-based charities that focus on human health services, family advocacy, and support for the honey bee colonies across the U.S.A.
Tega Tea uses non-biodegradable tea bags and foil sachets however their online store provides loose leaf options. It’s a local Vancouver company that pays a premium for its ingredients in order to support Fairtrade Certified suppliers. This company pays an additional 50 cents more for every kilogram of fairtrade tea that they sell annually. Those funds go to supporting Fairtrade Canada and growing the Fairtrade Initiative.
Clipper Teas originates in the UK and they’ve produced an unbleached, non-GMO, plastic-free tea bag. They’ve worked in the fairtrade movement since 1994 and are the worlds largest fairtrade brand.
Stash Tea company has worked with the Surfrider Foundation to sponsor a volunteer beach cleanup and they use foil sachets and non-biodegradable tea bags.
Numi tea company offers a biodegradable tea bag with their tea products and ninety-three percent of their teas are fair trade products. They’ve helped 10,500 people in farming communities giving them regular access to clean, safe drinking water. The company`s head office is in Oakland, California and there they’ve funded a gardening, arts, and social studies program for low-income K-6 children in public schools. They also fund educational opportunities to orphans and war victims in Iraq.
What do I do?
I’ve found that using loose tea has one-tenth the carbon footprint than bags of tea. It’s the manufacturing of the string, polypropylene bag itself, sachet, and box that makes the biggest impact on CO2 levels. Tea is grown thousands of miles from Canada and getting it from farm to table makes it a culprit in the environmental issues the world faces today. It’s important that we know that small decisions we make each day can make a large impact.
Since Canadians drink nine billion cups of tea a year and ninety-four percent of tea drinkers use the tea bag method. We should be wary of who we support. These are the facts: Firstly, to make one cup of tea at home it can create a carbon footprint between 20 and 340 grams of CO2 per cup. The varying number depends on how much water is used in the boiling and if the tea is made with milk. Secondly, the little freshness packages inside that box? It’s a single-use product. Lastly, the tea bag sachets are not biodegradable or recyclable. The contents inside do but the packaging is left in the compost heap for years!
It’s the small decisions we make in a day that can impact our planet the most! The decision to find an ethical tea company to support is significant. Tea is grown thousands of miles away from Canada. Getting tea from farm to table makes it a culprit in the environmental issues the world faces today.
I hope this article helps you make conscious decisions easier while visiting the tea section in the grocery store.