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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.

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