What is tea? Prepare a more sustainable cuppa
A standard cup of tea requires one eighth more water like a cup of coffee, but tea is not an eco-friendly drink. In fact, the carbon footprints of tea and coffee production are almost identical. But the production of tea contributes less to its footprint than the way you drink it. Brewing a truly lasting cup of tea may be impossible, but a little information about your tea choices makes it easier to sell your values. Here’s what you need to know about tea.
UN FAO launched a project in Kenya last year to support carbon neutral tea production. Another initiative, Tea2030 crosses all sectors of tea production. But for now, most of the tea is grown on chemical-intensive farms that contribute to deforestation, erosion and pesticide contamination. Monoculture farms damage soil health and making plants more susceptible to disease, which leads to more intensive use of chemical pesticides and fertilizers. Half of the 62 teas tested by the FDA in a 2015 study contained Residues of pesticides.
Use biological controls instead of fumigants against soil nematodes; site-specific or organic fertilization plans; and the introduction of shade trees in plantations methods to reduce the impact of tea cultivation.
A labor-intensive crop harvested by hand, tea is cultivated around the world with China, India, Kenya and Sri Lanka as countries biggest producers. China produces half of the world’s tea on 15 million small farms where there is little awareness of the dangers of agrochemicals. Two-thirds of Kenyan tea producers are also smallholders with few employees (some of whom may be children). In contrast, three quarters of Indian tea (especially Assam) is still produced on quasi-feudal plantations with a history of human rights violations that impact on women. But everywhere, low wages, exposure to pesticides and harsh working conditions are commonplace.
The vast majority of tea is still bought wholesale by multinational companies. Only Sri Lanka has developed much of the local processing, but this has not led to direct or improved business options conditions for workers.
Processing tea produces a little more half less carbon like growing tea.
Wilting, drying, grading and packaging of tea requires more energy than to produce a kilogram of steel. This is often due to the use of old and inefficient machines powered by diesel generators or even firewood. Market mechanisms such as fair trade that shift profits down the supply chain could improve efficiency.
International programs like the Ethical tea partnership work to improve the lives of tea farmers and their cultivation methods, but are invisible to consumers. Choosing certified teas is the best way for consumers to encourage the sustainable cultivation and processing of tea.
Organic certification ensures that the tea is grown and processed without the use of synthetic chemicals. In 2020, the USDA offers strengthen surveillance and enforcement throughout the supply chain, which could have significant impacts on products like tea. Organic standards do not explicitly protect farmers or regulate the waste produced by farms and processors.
After merging with UTZ in 2018, Rainforest Alliance developed a new system that emphasizes context and progress against standards. His new certification guarantees tea producers a “sustainability differential” payment, prohibits deforestation and encourages sustainable farming techniques.
Fair Trade USA was the US subsidiary of Fairtrade International until 2011. Despite its shortcomings, Fair Trade USA achieved nearly $ 7 million as bonuses to improve tea-growing communities. It prohibits child labor and forced labor, but cannot provide a 100% guarantee.
Fairtrade America became the US subsidiary of Fairtrade International in 2013. It focuses on a handful of food products, including tea. There is significant overlap between the standards of Fairtrade America and those of Fair Trade USA. Fair trade tea producers receive a minimum price that varies depending on the location and method of production as well as a reinvestment bonus in the farm.
The environmental impact of your afternoon tea doesn’t stop with what you choose to buy. The biggest source of carbon emissions six billion cups of tea drunk each day is how do you drink it. Because beef production is so carbon intensive, you can eliminate two-thirds of your tea’s carbon emissions by eliminating milk.
The source of energy to boil the water makes a difference, but the most important is the amount of water you boil. Boil more water than necessary double climate impact.
Perhaps surprisingly, waste disposal is not a major factor in the impact of your tea. It’s always best to reuse tea bags where you can. But be aware that unless specifically labeled for composting, most “paper” tea bags contain up to 30% plastic. To avoid waste, loose leaf tea is best.
Finally, the production of tea, like coffee, not only contributes to climate change, but also threatened by climate change. So don’t stop at the cup – every action you take to reduce your carbon footprint makes the world a better place for tea.
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