At some point in your life you’ve probably enjoyed a nice hot cup of tea, but you may enjoy it even more knowing that it was created with sustainability in mind. There are many different steps involved in creating a sustainable cup of tea, from the way the tea leaves are grown to the way you heat the water to brew your tea. By the end of this article, you’ll know exactly what to look for when choosing a sustainable tea company and in making the most sustainable cup of tea.
Impact of Fertilizer on Tea
Now there are five main actions that the tea company can take and one main action that you can take. First up is the fertilizer needed to grow tea. The impact of fertilizer is not just from its use at the farm, but also in the energy required to manufacture it and ship it to the farm. Organic farms can significantly cut down on the impact of fertilizers because organic fertilizers are often the byproduct of other agricultural and farming practices. For example, a tea farm can take manure that already exists from a nearby farm. This means no manufacturing or long distance shipping is needed to get the fertilizer to the farm. Using organic fertilizer is one of the biggest things that a tea company can do to lower their impact. In fact, by using organic fertilizer, instead of conventional fertilizers, the impact of each kilogram of tea produced is lowered by about 6.3 kilograms of CO2. This makes it the second biggest thing that a tea company could do to lower their impact in terms of climate.
Impact of Picking Tea Leaves
Next, tea leaves can either be picked by hand or by machine. The impact of picking tea by machine is really not all that, high even if the machine runs on diesel because they can pick so many tea leaves at once. Out of the top five things that a tea company can do to lower their impact, picking tea leaves by hand instead of by machine is number five, only lowering the impact reduced of one kilogram of tea by 0.14 kilograms of CO2, which is much less than the impact of switching to organic fertilizer.
Impact of Tea Processing and Renewable Energy
Tea leaves are then sent to a facility, usually located nearby, where they’re processed and packaged. This brings us to the third thing that a tea company could do to lower their impact, which is to switch their manufacturing facilities to run on renewable energy. Switching the manufacturing facilities to run on renewables could lower the impact of producing one kilogram of tea by about 1.7 kilograms of CO2. This means buying organic tea is more impactful than buying tea manufactured with renewable energy.
After processing, tea is packaged, and while packaging is often thought of as one of the biggest impactors of a product, in this case it really isn’t all that big of an impact. My only real recommendation when it comes to packaging is to just be careful when it comes to plastic.
Impact of Shipping Tea
This next impact is the big one. Avoiding intercontinental flight and using ocean shipping instead is one of the biggest things that a tea company could do to lower their impact. The impact of intercontinental flight is somewhere around 9.5 kilograms of CO2 for every kilogram of tea, whereas intercontinental shipping is just 0.5 kilograms of CO2. Avoiding intercontinental flight is so impactful that it’s more impactful than all of the other steps combined. Now this doesn’t mean that you can’t purchase tea from all around the world, rather if you do purchase tea from a company that is far away, that they use ocean shipping instead of intercontinental flight. Of course if you can buy local tea ,local is always better.
One thing that could be really confusing is which tea company do you choose when you have to make a trade-off between all these different options. For example, should I buy tea locally if that means it’s non-organic, or should I purchase tea that has to be flown in if that means that it’s organic and made with renewables. To help out with all this, check out our app. There you’ll also find organic tea farms around the world.
Heating Water: Gas Tea Kettle Vs Electric Tea Kettle
One of the last things that you could do to make sure that your cup of tea is as sustainable as possible is actually one of the biggest impacts of making tea. Heating water to make tea requires a lot of energy. I won’t go into much detail here, but if you want to learn more about this check my article on water heating. In short an electric kettle is almost always going to use less energy than a gas stovetop kit. Also, certain kettles can help you save even more energy by heating water to lower temperatures. Since many teas don’t need boiling water this is a great way to save energy. So just try and use an electric kettle if possible. Also try and remember to measure out the amount of water you need first so you don’t heat more water than you need.
The disposal of tea leaves and of tea packaging really isn’t all that high compared to the other actions that you can take to lower the impact of your tea. However, if it is possible for you to compost the tea leaves when you’re done with them I definitely recommend that and if you could buy tea with packaging that is recyclable that would be great as well.
So to recap, as a consumer you have the power to choose which tea company you’re going to purchase from. If you want to purchase the most sustainable tea look for something that avoids intercontinental flight, is grown with organic fertilizer, and if possible manufactured with renewable energy. Also try and reduce the impact of water heating by only heating the amount of water you need and only heating it to the temperature you need.