EARTH DAY Inspiration for Tea Businesses Around the Globe

(Photo by: fotoproff / BigStock.com)

What can your tea brand do to support the planet, sustainability and Earth Day?

Here are just a few ideas and out-of-the-box suggestions (and there is so much more to do beyond these tips) to inspire your business and to help encourage customers to do their part.

1. Consider Sustainable Packaging

The U.S. alone consumes 500 million straws daily – generating almost 80 million tons of packaging waste a year – with the beverage/food industry contributing a large portion of this, according to Evanesce Packaging Solutions, a sustainable packaging company. And that’s just the tip of the iceberg when you consider all the types of packaging that are used across the industry.

As a tea business, you can consider your contribution to packaging waste and understand the options available.

One helpful tool comes from The Sustainable Packaging Coalition (SPC).

SPC published a new guide in 2021 called “Understanding the Role of Compostable Packaging in North America,” to help companies understand where and how compostable packaging can fit into their sustainable packaging portfolio.

The new guide offers considerations for appropriate use cases, insights into composting infrastructure and municipal collection programs, and perspectives on composter and consumer engagement.

SPC says compostable packaging is increasingly part of global sustainable packaging commitments, but its full potential has not yet been realized.

When used in the right applications, compostable packaging can create a simplified consumer dining experience, a cleaner recycling stream, and serve as a solution for non-recyclable packaging. More broadly, compostable packaging can be part of healthy biological loops in the circular economy, diverting food waste from landfills, and contributing to compost that helps soil serve as a carbon sink.

The new SPC guide helps brands prevent problems down the road by evaluating which applications are the best fit for compostable packaging. It offers a checklist for compost-ability and guidance for which packaging shouldn’t be designed to be compostable. 

The SPC guide can be viewed here.

2. Encourage Customers to Recycle

This Earth Day, Republic Services is releasing pandemic recycling data that shows significant increases in the recycling of cardboard boxes, aluminum cans and plastic and glass bottles over the last year, reflecting a shift in consumer behavior to more at-home consumption. All of these high-demand materials can be put back into the circular economy through proper recycling methods.

“The pandemic's effects were clearly seen in home recycling bins,” says Pete Keller, vice president of recycling and sustainability at Republic Services. “We know that Americans are willing to recycle and are becoming more aware of their impact on the environment, so it’s vital that we continue to help consumers understand what can and cannot be recycled this Earth Day and beyond.”

Since the beginning of the pandemic, online shopping has risen to new heights – and those cardboard boxes have shown up in recycling bins, with a 63 percent increase in residential cardboard in some markets. In addition, households have been consuming more food and beverages at home, resulting in significant increases in recycled aluminum (17 percent), glass (13 percent) and plastic bottles (7 percent).

Recycling is a simple way that everyone can be more sustainable in their daily lives, and it's important to encourage your tea customers to recycle. Visit RecyclingSimplified.com for recycling tips, videos and other materials, as well as recycling curriculum for educators.

3. Investigate and Use Sustainable Herbs and Botanicals for Your Tea Blends

The nonprofit Sustainable Herbs Program (SHP) offers The SHP Sustainability & Regenerative Practices Toolkit, an informative online collection of practical resources and best practices for the herb and botanical industry (and those that utilize herbs and botanicals).

The toolkit is useful for businesses of any size that want to become more socially and environmentally responsible in this area. SHP also created a video that explains the purpose and content of new toolkit.

The 14-section, 52-page SHP Toolkit is part of an extensive set of educational videos, articles, newsletters and blog posts offered for free by SHP to educate and inspire members of the global medicinal plant industry and community. This valuable collection of resources details information on operating according to values and guidelines that enhance sustainability and regeneration in managing supply chains and value networks for botanical raw materials, extracts, and essential oils.

The toolkit supports SHP’s goals to inspire further increases in the quality of botanical ingredients and sustainable and ethical sourcing, and to enhance the quality of life of people working in botanical ingredient value networks. The SHP Toolkit also serves as a roadmap for companies to create greater overall transparency in telling the story of how herbal teas, dietary supplements, natural cosmetics, and other botanical products reach consumers.

The SHP Toolkit was written by SHP Director Ann Armbrecht, PhD, with input and assistance from experts from the 17-member SHP Advisory Group and the American Botanical Council (ABC), the nonprofit science organization that manages and funds SHP.

“The SHP Toolkit is a significant contribution to the movement toward sustainable and regenerative practices in the global herb and medicinal plant industry,” said Mark Blumenthal, founder and executive director of the American Botanical Council. “While many people in herb companies, and elsewhere, are interested in becoming more sustainable, they are often unsure where and how to begin. This toolkit provides them with more than enough resources to do so.”

4. Showcase Your Company’s Strong Commitment to Sustainability Through Visuals

After an unprecedented year of challenges, iStock research has shown that Americans increasingly expect businesses to communicate with greater empathy, both in terms of a brand's language as well as its visuals. Earth Day presents a timely opportunity for brands to put empathy into practice, by intentionally choosing visuals which reflect the sustainability and environmental concerns of today's consumer.

Simply put, sustainability is a major force in decision-making, with 7 in 10 Americans expecting businesses to be environmentally aware in their visual communications, a fact revealed by iStock's Visual GPS research.

“Our research shows that we're entering an exciting new era for sustainability, one in which we're focusing on how best to address climate change and also create a more sustainable future," said Rebecca Rom-Frank, creative researcher, iStock.

To support businesses of all sizes, iStock created guidelines outlining best practices when selecting sustainability photos, videos and illustrations – whether a business is seeking to convey the steps they are taking towards setting and achieving sustainable goals or seeking to better connect with customers by showing how people make sustainable choices in their own lives.

You can view the iStock sustainability visuals guidelines here.

5. Collaborate with Other Companies for Earth Day, as a Way to Demonstrate Your Commitment

For next year’s Earth Day, consider ways you can make a difference and partner with non-profits or like-minded companies to create initiatives or new, exciting product lines.

For example, to celebrate this 51st Earth Day, upcycled food company Renewal Mill and regenerative organic snack brand Moonshot brought together 10 sustainable food companies to offer the tastiest, most innovative, plant-based products in a single snack box.

The “Ultimate Earth Day Snack Box” heavily features brands using upcycled ingredients (fighting food waste), regenerative organic ingredients (improving soil health, animal welfare, social fairness), and carbon sequestering ingredients (reducing nitrogen and ocean acidification). Also, 7 of the 10 brands are also female-founded.

One of the items in the box is Mango Iced Tea by Wize Coffee Leaf.

The box retails for $67 on Renewal Mill’s website, as well as on sustainable marketplace Zippy Pantry and on select participants’ websites. In addition, a total of 5 percent of proceeds from the box will be donated to 350.org, an environmental organization building a global, grassroots movement to end the age of fossil fuels and build a world of community-led renewable energy for all.

“Recognized as the largest secular observance in the world, Earth Day is the perfect opportunity to use delicious food as a tool to educate consumers on the important link between the food system and climate change,” said Claire Schelmme, CEO of Renewal Mill. “We can all snack our way to measurable impact.”

6. Use Tea to Feed Your Garden or Houseplants and Encourage Customers to Do the Same

Teaspressa tea, which offers all natural, organic tea, suggests that consumers use tea to feed their gardens and houseplants.

Teaspressa notes: “Tea is a fantastic source of nutrients for your plants. They're particularly great for acid-loving plants, like tomatoes and roses, but any plant will be happy to have some tea leaves in its soil. How to do it: To feed your garden with tea, sprinkle the used leaves around the base of the plant and gently scratch it into the soil.”