Plastic Free July is a standout on my calendar, but I’ve decided that one month of awareness simply doesn’t cut it if we’re really going to make any kind of impact on our plastic ridden world. I caught up with the crew at Clean Coast Collective last month to talk about the challenges and triumphs of reducing the amount of single use plastic Mayde Tea uses. Reducing pollution is a topic close to my heart, so I couldn’t help but share my little article with you…
For tea lovers like us, it sounds like a pretty dreamy job to be crafting up tea all day – how did you end up with your own tea company?
It definitely is! It all started like that, recipe testing and sampling almost all day long, and slowly blending and packaging teas one by one until it became much more than that! Days are now filled with lots of emails, organising accounts and all of those other fun back-end necessities!
So it all started while I was mid-way through studying naturopathy three years ago. I was discovering and experimenting with the magic that is herbal medicine. I was using herbal medicines at the time to help many of my own ailments like anxiety and digestive issues – and I got such wonderful results. I wanted to be able to share this with people, as soon as I could so I figured that organic naturopathic teas would be the most gentle and effective way to utilise natures’ resources, and share it as freely as possible! I actually didn’t really plan on starting a business, it just happened after people were asking to buy the herbal mixes I had made for myself. I’m so glad it started out the way it did, it’s been such a fun journey, without any expectations of where the business should be or needs to go.
We’ve heard you talk a bit on social media about cutting plastics out of your company – why was this something that you were interested in?
Waste, its environmental impact; and finding ways to improve it is definitely something I’ve always felt passionate about. I’ve always at the least avoided plastic packaging where possible, and made sure I’m disposing of waste thoughtfully at home. It’s only since starting my business and watching it grow that I’ve been taking the time to research ways to really make a difference and to try and bring attention to how much of a problem packaging waste is. It’s opened my eyes up to how much plastic is used in packaging, even for a small business like mine, and I think it’s really important that people are aware of the changes they can make to help improve the problem.
Something that I’ve been researching is takeaway coffee cups and their impact on the environment – especially because I know my teas are being sold in cafes in these. I think there needs to be more attention brought to the fact they’re not as environmentally friendly as they’re marketed to be – they’re piling up in landfill because they actually have a plastic lining that prevents them from being biodegradable. I know it’s inevitable, takeaway coffee cups are a convenient option for takeaway, but I’ve had some Mayde Tea flasks made to encourage people to use these for their takeaway teas and coffees they buy and hopefully reduce the amount of coffee cups used.
Can you tell us what sort of changes you’ve made to reduce plastics at Mayde Tea?
My bulk supplies are almost always packaged in plastic. This is of course required for health standards to prevent contamination of herbs. There are other options though, so I have been conversing with my suppliers and enquiring about how open they are to sending my orders with no (or if not possible, less) plastic. In some cases they switched the plastic to a thick and durable paper bag which is so great!
I’m definitely no environmental scientist, but I did a bit of research and put a lot of thought into the creation of my products to lessen the mark I leave on the natural environment while running this business – all without getting too carried away and feeling guilt for the things I couldn’t change.
All of my products have always been made with recyclable packaging. The entire packaging of the retail boxes is paper/cardboard and has a small wooden spoon and wooden peg inside; and the tea jars are made of glass. Glass is made of resources more plentiful and less environmentally damaging than to make plastic or metal tins – of which most other tea companies use. Aluminium for example, accounts for more than 90% of the environmental footprint so I’ve stayed clear of using that. Glass also does not degrade during the recycling process, which means it can be recycled over and over. They also look pretty enough to reuse as a vase or for storage of some sort around the house.
Did you come across any obstacles in the process?
Absolutely, having a business which falls in the ‘food’ category means I have to comply with all health and safety standards. So this means that using plastic is inevitable to some degree.
While conversing with suppliers about my wish to lessen plastic, some refused to do anything, and one of them continued to send me orders such as 10kg of the same herb in ten 1kg plastic bags! This was pretty frustrating, and their lack of compassion forced me to find a different supplier (who turns out to be incredible so that was a blessing!). With other suppliers I have been ordering an even bigger bulk of everything so it can be packaged in one giant bag rather than lots of little ones (every little bit counts!). I’m okay with it being impossible to run my business with zero plastic, and I’m so happy with how much of a difference I was able to make.
Do you have any advice for other companies wanting to reduce plastics in their own businesses?
I think to not feel overwhelmed with trying to make changes toward being plastic-free. In a perfect world there would be none, but plastic serves its purpose, so swapping it out for more environmentally friendly options when possible is all you need to aim for. It’s such a rewarding feeling, just don’t do what I did and get too deep with researching statistics and trends in how much of a problem plastic is, it might make you a little upset 😉
Lastly, it’s still pretty chilly here in Byron Bay – what tea should we be drinking to get us energised on these cold winter mornings?
Any hot drink is heavenly on these cold mornings! My morning ritual is always an earl grey tea with my brekkie, no matter the weather. But I think a huge pot of chai with a touch of honey is my favourite tea in winter, it’s so comforting and delicious; and the spices in chai are so warming in their energetics I’d suggest it to be the most warming for winter.
I hope this inspires you to be more conscious of the way you consume plastic! I’d love to hear if you have any tips or suggestions about reducing your impact so please leave a comment below…