Sustainability Saturdays Volume 1

"We are all connected; to each other biologically. To the earth chemically. To the rest of the universe, atomically." 
-Neil Degrasse Tyson

Maybe its getting louder, or maybe we're finally starting to pay attention. Either way, you know what I'm talking about, don't you? Natural resource depletion, blanched biodiversity, opportunistic exploitation, carcinogens leaking into our air and seeping under our skin. The Earth and her people are getting sick. Its almost enough to overwhelm a girl, to sink her into smallness, relegate her to corner in resolute resignation and perpetual mourning. But what good are our bleeding hearts, if we only rally them in service of sadness? What use it is to stumble around mumbling about the inevitability of our demise, if we don't do anything to prevent it?

Now, I know you're not gonna let me get away with the burnt out dictum: all corporations are evil. That's too easy, isn't it? Offloading our frustration onto faceless companies we hypocritically fuel with our purchasing power, because we're busy and tired and not sure what else to do.

That's the question, isn't it. How do we move towards more environmentally and socially responsible futures for the globe, while still managing our personal day-to-days?

As I was researching ways to bring more sustainable practices to the tea industry, I stumbled across this article, Climate Change Sparks Tension in India's Tea Gardens, which stories this dilemma really poignantly:

Usha Ghatowar smiles wryly when asked about the pay she earns picking leaves at a colonial-era tea garden in Assam.
"Do you think 3,000 rupees are enough when your monthly expenses can be double that?" she mumbles, as she puts on her "jaapi" hat of woven bamboo and palm leaves and takes a sip of tea from a steel mug.
As the women workers around Ghatowar nod in agreement the heavens open - it has started raining heavily in recent days after three largely dry months.
Unrest is brewing among Assam's so-called Tea Tribes, whose forefathers were brought here by British planters from neighbouring Bihar and Odisha more than a century ago, as changing weather patterns upset the economics of the industry.

While I'm not gonna scapegoat faceless corporate greed, I'm also not gonna tell you that more corporate social responsibility is gonna fix this. At some point, you and I need to start owning our choices. At some point, you and I need to get honest about where our food, clothing, cosmetics, technology and energy are coming from. And I mean it when I say I'm counting myself in this amorphous mess, as I type away on my MacBook from the comfort of my suburban rental suite. 

Depressing right? I know you're frustrated. I know you want a better world. I know you want to feel good about what you buy and where it comes from. So here's what I can bring to that. 

I can offer you a more flushed-out story about what is really going on with the tea industry. Piece by piece, post by post. Knowledge is power my friends. If you're here and reading this, I know you're already weary from trying to live better, trying to change the world from your own spheres and soapboxes. So here is what you can count on me to add to your efforts. Sustainability Saturdays is a series devoted to crafting an image of the global tea industry. I want you to be able to visualize the beast, give it shape and name, understand it so you can imagine new ways to get at its underbelly. None of the solutions are simple, and I don't have all the answers on my own, but I can give you some insider's knowledge, and I can provide the framework for re-imagining a new way forward for our favourite beverage. 

Thank you for journeying with me. Thank you for believing in my company to make a fist-sized dent in an incredibly exploitive industry, and investing your time here. 

Know that I am working hard to build a brand which can support environmentally and nutritionally pure tea, while advocating for the importance of reconnecting with our food. 

See you on the message boards in the coming weeks as we move through Sustainability Saturdays! 

With rain-soaked hair and chai filled air,

Vanessa 

Vanessa ChislettComment