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January 25, 2007

All the tea in...

I just received a letter from Equal Exchange, a fair trade company that sells tea, chocolate, and coffee. This is not the first time I have written a letter and gotten a response from a company or gotten it published in the local paper. It took forever to get a response for this one but I was pleased that someone actually did finally get back to me. So in the spirit of grass roots efforts I created a new category, called "letters" to put the results of these efforts under.

I apologize for the delay in my response and I appreciate your feedback regarding our tea packaging.

We are very conscious about our impact on the environment and are continually taking steps to be as friendly as possible.

Unlike our coffee products, our tea products are packed in the country of origin (India, Sri Lanka, and South Africa). The main reason that we pack at source is to keep as much of the value added money with the producer groups or with organizations affiliated with the producer groups. This is important because up to 80% of the price that a consumer pays for tea-bagged teas goes towards the packaging!

One of the downsides of packing at source is that tea-bagged teas are much more vulnerable to moisture and the atmosphere compared to large bulk bags of tea. This makes overseas shipping very difficult. To compensate, we are required to add a few layers of protection to preserve freshness and quality.

In addition, you may have noticed that a couple of years ago we started packing each teabag into a separate envelopes. This was a response to consumer and market demand, especially from cafés and places serving our tea by the cup. We made the decision to add the envelope with the idea that it was a step in creating more channels for fair trade tea.

As we develop our program, we will continue to experiment with sustainable ways to connect consumers with small farmer teas. You might be interested to hear that we will be launching a small line of loose teas in a few weeks. This line will consist of seasonal specialty teas from small farmers packed in reusable and recyclable metal tins.

Please feel free to contact me with any questions, thoughts, ideas, suggestions, etc.

Take care,


p.s. as another member of planet earth, I appreciate and respect the work you are doing in recycling. right on.

Deepak Khandelwal
product manager


From: Miriam Holsinger [mailto:miriamh@eurekarecycling.org]
Sent: Tuesday, October 24, 2006 1:42 PM
To: orders
Subject: sustainable packaging

Dear Equal Exchange Representative,

I am a huge fan of your company and purchase chocolate, hot chocolate, and tea from you regularly at my local co-op. However, recently when I purchased a box of Earl Grey Organic tea I was dismayed to realize that not only is the box wrapped in plastic on the outside, but on the inside all the tea bags, already wrapped in paper, were wrapped in an additional plastic bag. This seems like excess packaging – especially excess plastic. I really appreciate all you have done to help increase social and economic equality but please don’t ignore the environment in your quest to better the world. It is only be combining all three that we will really create a sustainable world. I regularly coordinate zero waste events and plastic is the only thing that prevents our events from being truly zero waste. I understand that you need to find a way to keep the tea fresh but I hope you are looking into alternatives. In the meantime, I’ll try to purchase your tea in bulk in the future to at least minimize the waste on my end.

Thank you for listening, and if you have any questions please call or email.

January 23, 2007


Now that I have finished the reports and realizing how everything ties into everything like a Sudoku puzzle I am on to the next big learning experience. I am so fortunate that my job seems to grow with me!

For the last eight months I have been diving into event recycling, zero waste initatives, and neighborhood cleanups. I've learned the ins, the outs, the details, the big picture stuff and at times it seems like I've hardly come up for air.

However recently all of these pieces came together as I realized that my job isn't about making events, cleanups and waste reduction ideas run smoothly. Instead my job is to create systems that ensure these things happen, whether by my hand or someone else's.

It's all about the systems! I create a system, then I get to try it in the real world, talk about it with my coworkers and other people involved, scrap it or adjust it as necessary and move onto the next trial.

I love this perspective because any time I get lost in the details I zoom out the bigger picture. I am not only taking the journey - I am also mapping the territory so that others can take the journey later. And lord knows, this zero waste stuff sure feels like uncharted territory

January 21, 2007


Perhaps it is because I had no caffeine today,
perhaps it is because it is the middle of January,
perhaps it is because it has been a quiet day with plenty of time for reflection
perhaps it is because I realize I won't have much time for reflection in the upcoming week,
perhaps it is because I could
but I doubt it.

For whatever reason I am a little down today. It happens sometimes. I find if I coast with it I'll eventually get bored and move onto other moods.

So it goes.

January 18, 2007

One of the world's top PET recyclers

Take Three Guesses

Who does the title above refer to? No peeking ahead!

Not a particular recycling firm. I'm talking countries here!

Nope. Wrong! Not the US! Not some European country.

To read the answer check out this blog.

January 11, 2007


Ode to Caffeine

Now that I sit at a desk all day, I am such a tea junkie. I wish my cup would last all day because two makes be a bit jittery and upsets my focus. However, sipping on that first cup each day is like watching the sun rise and appreciating the miracle of life. My mood slowly lifts (I am not a morning person) and the ideas start flowing. My optimism increases until I am downright peppy. Along with the optimism comes joy and good will towards all. I try not to drink the stuff every day (or at least switch between black and green) because I notice if I become accustomed to the caffeine it loses its sparkle. Thus I must suffer one or two days a week in order to experience this joy in a cup. How ironic. I feel like such a junkie.

January 04, 2007


Quote of the day:

If it can’t be reduced, reused, repaired, rebuilt, refurbished, refinished, resold, recycled or composted, then it should be restricted, redesigned or removed from production.

The whole article can be found here.

January 02, 2007


I've been sitting my friend's canary for over week now. Apollo has affected my musical habits because he has such clear tastes. Lately all I listen to is Joanna Newsom (a crazy harpist chick) and the Incredible String Band (bizarre British hippy band) because these are clearly his favorites. When I turn the music up he'll happily chirp along. I think it is the wandering style of the music with lovely flute accompaniments and wandering string rhythms that appeal to him. He really doesn't care much for rock and roll or any of those simple beats - though he does chirp in if I whistle him a very simple tune (like one line of a nursery rhyme repeatedly). He also really likes the Ella Fitzgerald and Louis Armstrong album.

My guinea pig does not notice music so much though she does appreciate MPR (I know this because she's more likely to wander around exploring with this radio station in the background). I think she finds the dulcet tones comforting. She isn't sure what to make of the canary either but she enjoys the seeds he drops around the cage. Manna from heaven is always a delicious thing.

January 01, 2007


I celebrated the holiday last night. Although I enjoyed an excuse to hang out with friends and I am a fan of marking the passage of time, I am don't like the whole countdown thing. It just makes the "New Year" seem that much more arbitrary and small. Frankly, I need a bit more time to digest things.

I much prefer to have a couple days before the holiday to clean, reflect, and tie up loose ends from the year before. Then it makes sense after the year has changed to go visit all your friends and wish each other well.

So far the reflection has been far to shallow. The only resolution I've come up with is to bring more plants into my life (and keep them alive).

May your New Year be delightful and joyous!