World Environment Day is celebrated every year on 5th June and has been since 1974. Its purpose is to engage governments, businesses and citizens to think about positive change for global ecosystems.
How does this relate to us at PekoeTea? The tea plant (Camellia sinensis) is very sensitive to climate change. A warming planet with hotter temperatures, drought and extreme weather can result in lower yields and poor quality leaves. We witnessed some of the effects of climate change first hand back in 2016 on our visit to Darjeeling. We noticed that there were tea bushes on fire on the hillside and asked if this was intentional because they were old or diseased plants. Sadly we were informed the bushes had spontaneously combusted because they had dried out due to lack of rain fall.
As a business we are aware that every time we bring in a shipment of tea, boil a kettle and even run our computers we have a carbon footprint. However lots of people around the world rely on tea to earn a living and survive, so we need to find a balance. Trying to find ways to make our business more sustainable is a constant struggle at PekoeTea but here are some of the issues we face and how we are trying to tackle them.
We want our customers to enjoy the luxury experience of drinking our tea so we want it to arrive beautifully packaged and fresh. But we also need to make sure we're not damaging the planet, which will ultimately damage the tea that we all love. We are aware that we are responsible for producing plastic waste as not all of our packing is plastic free. This is something we are committed to changing. Last year we removed all our small sized refill pouches from sale and replaced them with a recyclable cardboard box and NatureFlex™ inner film but we are still working on a more sustainable solution for our large pouches.
For a very long time we refused to sell tea bags. Jon was anti-tea bag for a long time because of the industry claims being made about the cornstarch derivative Poly Lactic Acid (PLA) used in making "plastic free" teabags. Ideally we would always use loose leaf tea but with our busy lives this isn't always practical. As a business we also need to be able to meet consumer demand to survive. Our tea bags are made with non-GMO biodegradable PLA because this is the lease worst option available to the tea industry at present. There is no ideal solution.
Last year we replaced our diesel delivery van with a fully electric van. With Edinburgh becoming more and more congested with polluting vehicles, we wanted to ensure that our deliveries were emission free.
Our commitments for the future
We believe in the concept of a fully sustainable circular economy. Our tea caddies are made from aluminium which is infinitely recyclable and we currently have a deposit scheme where you can return your old caddies to our shop. When you drop these back to us we re-sell the aluminium to a reprocessor to be reused ensuring that our caddies never go to landfill. Going forward we will donate all the proceeds to environmental regeneration projects. We are also committed to donating 1% of our sales to support the environment.
Ultimately there is only so much a small business can do - we have finite resources. This is why highlighting World Environment Day is so important. By talking about it we can draw attention to a global problem, which hopefully leads to legislative change that can make a real difference going forward. For example when the Scottish Government introduced a plastic bag tax, it led to a drop in 80% of the number of plastic bags being handed out in Scotland's shops.
Our hope is that by making small changes we can be part of #generationrestoration after the tough year the world has had in 2020 we all need something positive to look forward to in the future.