In our daily routine, we have some habits that are small pleasures in life. Capable of influencing our mood, our energy and providing us with comfort. How many of us can't live without a nice morning coffe? On rainy and cold winter days, the feeling of comfort we get when drinking a cup of tea or infusion between the blankets is undeniable.
Of course, all our habits have an associated environmental impact that can be minimized by choosing a certified product with less packaging.
We do not have to stop consuming coffee, tea and infusions. We just have to rethink how we do it.
And don't forget that whenever we buy something, it's a vote of support and confidence in that brand and its values.
The impact of tea production
The tea production industry is an economic force that affects millions of people, assuming particular importance in countries such as India, China, Kenya, Indonesia, Sri Lanka and Malawi.
Unfortunately, it has an environmental impact to be taken into account.
The tea plant requires specific environmental and climate conditions for its favorable growth. These ideal locations are often in remote areas and biodiversity refuges. Cultivating in monoculture systems and intensively, makes these plants vulnerable to pests and encourages the use of pesticides and herbicides, worsening the loss of biodiversity, erosion and soil degradation.
The steps involved in tea production (Withering, drying, classifying and packaging) also make its production energetically demanding. To give you an idea, 1 kg of tea requires 4 to 18 kWh compared to 6.3 kWh to produce 1 kg of steel.
The machinery used is often old, resulting in low energy efficiency. The drying process is the one that requires the most energy and often uses firewood from native forests. Being another cause of deforestation
In tea's environmental bill, we have: loss of biodiversity, use of herbicides and pesticides, soil degradation and deforestation. Finally, we also have to import and transport the product from the most varied corners of the world until it reaches the final consumer.
Socially, many of these workers continue to not have the fairest working conditions. At the base of the production chain, their salaries are, in most cases, dependent on the kilos of leaves they collect daily and they always receive a small and tiny slice of the profits from the tea business.
Tea vs Infusion
Does an infusion have the same environmental bill as tea?
Infusions have some advantages.
The plants that constitute them can be produced and consumed in much smaller geographic areas/locally. Many of the plants used in infusions are indigenous (e.g. rosemary), or easy to grow (lúcia lima) and can even be used naturally to control pests in the garden and in regenerative agricultural production systems.
We reduce the carbon footprint associated with transport and it is a way of supporting and valuing small producers, the local economy and our natural heritage.
Sustainability Issues in the Tea Sector A Comparative Analysis of Six Leading Producing Countries, Sanne van der Wal, June 2008