The 5th variety of tea we will be launching is a peach blend featuring teas from China & India. I’ve written about our tea from China so today I will focus on the Korakundah Tea Garden nestled in the hills near the Nilgiri Mountains in S. India. It is one of the most magical places on Earth. I have visited the garden several times over the years & my son volunteered as a teacher at the village school.
The landscapes are breathtaking, but it's also an impressive integration of nature & agriculture. Wild leopards, water buffalo, tigers & snakes roam through the tea bushes, producing some of the highest quality tea in the world. The garden has an impressive hospital & pension system, & a school that enables the children of tea pluckers to become software engineers in a generation.
While our Bethesda, MD office can’t compare to a tea garden in the hills of India, we are striving to create a holistic approach to commerce at Eat the Change. It starts with being honest w/ourselves & our customers about the realities of operating in a consumer economy. We continually dance in the inherent contradiction between consumption (word root “devour/destroy”) & sustainability (word root “nourish/uphold life”). The Just Ice Tea business model, like other bottled beverage brands, relies on single-use containers - far from ideal. The American recycling system is fragmented & disjointed, w/ inconsistent practices across cities. We encourage recycling, but many U.S. municipalities, like Alaska, don’t recycle glass containers. The most effective container approach I saw was in Germany to launch Honest Tea. They could recapture, rinse & reuse over 90% of the glass bottles we sold.
But we still try & lighten our environmental footprint. While we could ship our drinks in the mail, ETC does not want to promote the use of extra packaging & energy consumed to ship glass bottles. So we will not be selling Just Ice Tea through online channels. We can’t stop resellers who buy our tea at retail & ship it, but we won’t promote their services.
This is where brick & mortar retail actually has a lighter environmental footprint. Our retail partners receive bulk deliveries of our products, along with dozens or even hundreds of other products, so there are shipping & packaging efficiencies. We considered selling online & then paying offsets, but I am not a fan of paying offsets to compensate for unnecessary environmental waste. Let’s just avoid creating the heavier footprint in the first place & then we avoid paying guilt money.
A skeptic may argue that if we carry this logic to its full extent, we shouldn’t sell anything. But insisting on perfection before taking action means that things go on as they are. I think of the (bottle cap) proverb, “If we don’t change the direction we are headed, we will end up where we are going.” Our actions & practices will not be perfect, but we will continue the search for environmentally-friendlier packaging, & engage in the economy that exists.