When you curl up with a hot cup of tea (especially on a cold winter day), you’re probably focused on the warmth of the cup and beverage, the taste and smell of your chosen blend, and the boost your immune system receives. The environmental impact of your cuppa may be far down on the list of priorities when you’re enjoying these moments. But, as the World Wildlife Fund notes, conventional tea production often has negative effects on biodiversity and soil fertility, and can even affect human health because of pesticide runoff from plantations. And those are just the first stages of the lifecycle: once materials and energy for shipping, packaging, and even preparing tea are figured in, you could be looking at a relatively high ecological footprint.
However, you don’t have to give up your tea to lighten that footprint; rather, you can make every cup “green” tea with a few simple choices:
Purchase organic teas
When you drink organic teas, you expose yourself (as well as agricultural workers and communities surrounding tea plantations) to less pesticides, and improve the quality of your tea experience. Pesticides often alter the taste of food and tea is no exception. Organic teas are often more robust and earthy in flavor.
Purchase loose-leaf teas
Tea company Celestial Seasonings claims it avoids sending 3.5 million pounds of waste to the landfill each year by eliminating the wrapping, string, and paper tabs found on most tea bags. But why stop there: you can also eliminate the bag itself by using loose-leaf tea with a tea infuser.
Purchase certified teas
Ensure that the tea you purchase contributes to the overall well-being of its producers and the global economy. Fair Trade and Ethical Tea Partnership labels indicate that tea is produced under environmentally sustainable and socially just conditions.
Only heat the water you’ll use
Electric kettles are the most energy-efficient choice for heating your tea water. The key, though, is to only heat what you’ll use. According to the Guardian, Brits “could save enough electricity in a year to run nearly half of all the street lighting in the country” if they stopped boiling more water than they used in their kettles. Don’t have an electric kettle? A microwave is still more efficient than the stove top…though some swear you sacrifice flavor by zapping your water.
Don’t pitch those leaves
Whether bagged or loose, tea leaves can go into your compost bin, or directly on your plants. If you’re not a plant or garden person, though, there are still things you can do with those left-over tea leaves and bags.
Bring your travel mug to the tea house
If you prefer to get your tea at a tea or coffee house, bring a travel mug with you: you’ll avoid the waste of a paper cup, and may even receive a discount.
Know of other ways to lighten the footprint of your cuppa? Share them with us…