Friday, April 22, 2011

Earth Day and Tea

Happy Earth Day!  (And happy birthday to Esme!)

Photo taken by Voyager I, 1977

Today, as we sip our tea, let's think about its impact on the earth (and the people who pick and process the leaf).  Tea is not currently grown in any substantial volume in the US.  Simply by purchasing and consuming tea, we are responsible for understanding how that choice impacts our ecosystem.  Tea is flown a long way to get to us (lots of carbon emissions), yet we pay very little for it.  I ask myself - is the price too cheap?  Are we truly paying for the real cost of the production, including the impact to the environment?  I try to buy tea from reputable sources that use sustainable practices and treat tea workers fairly.  This means I pay more for tea.  Yet it's still a very affordable luxury.   

Do you know where your tea comes from?  About the farming practices used to produce it?  About the farm's relationship with the people that tend the leaf?  It can be a fun way to dive more deeply into the world of tea.


Esmerelda said...

Thanks for the birthday wishes! We had an amazing t-storm last night.

Anonymous said...

Yes, I like this thoughtful post.

Teafan said...

Thanks for this post! Earth day is a time to think of the joy of earth and the peril it is in.

Alex Zorach said...

I think it's important to think about these issues, and especially important to think about solutions and positive things that we can do to make a difference.


All in all, however, tea is not the most environmentally-intensive item that most people consume, and probably not close.

The weight of tea leaf is so low, relative to the amount it produces, that shipping costs are pretty low. Compare to bottled anything, even bottled water. Water is very heavy and the packaging and shipping costs, even if domestic, are very high...and people drink so much water.

In the end, I think it's more important to support good tax incentives than it is to make responsible decisions. You observed that we aren't necessarily paying for the real cost of production.

My proposed solution is to restructure our tax system, replacing income tax (which taxes productivity) with consumption-based taxes such as a fossil fuel tax or carbon tax. I have a page on taxes in which I explain this more.

If you make responsible decisions, it affects only your own impact, and possibly those you affect by leading by example. But if we enact a change in our tax system, the free market will result in sweeping positive changes throughout society, just as a result of people shopping around for lower prices. I think this is a better solution in the end, the idea of a small group of eco-conscious consumers seeking higher-priced goods to "save the environment" seems a weak effort that, IMHO, is probably not going to do enough quickly enough. Changing our tax system could do this.

Tea Sets for Sale said...

It is so important to remember how we treat our earth it's the only one we have. I think everyday should be earth day. I do however see many changes in our habits in the last decade with recycling. I love the children's tea sets that are made from recycled milk cartons and the idea of taking old and worn silver tea sets or sets that are missing pieces and creating a whole new set by refining it down.

buy rift account said...

WoW! Great post. . We all should think about this matter.=0