it can be paralyzing to think of the damage our daily actions do to mother earth, and instead of motivating us to change, it can numb us into inaction. in order to move forward, taking one small step at a time is the best way to make real, lasting change. i find sites like one small change and sustainable baby steps to be very inspiring, sparking ideas of tiny little positive changes i can make, that when added up over days, weeks, months, years, actually make a dent in my impact on mother earth.
my latest change towards reducing my footprint involves transitioning away from drinking packaged tea. babiest of baby steps, to be sure! i have always kept some loose leaf tea on hand, but i didn’t have the right equipment to make this kind of cup of tea as enjoyable as one made with a teabag. i also have favorite tea flavors not sold in the leaf, such as tazo passion, which i drank every morning with breakfast. that meant at least one teabag (filter paper, string, paper tab, metal staple) went into the compost every day, and one plastic-coated paper wrapper went into the landfill every day… and having reduced my purchasing of disposable packaging in other areas so much, the tea bag packaging actually stood out to me.
i started by branching out on tea varieties. i got some loose leaf organic rooibos and honey bush teas, and also wild crafted several types of tea leaves by drying nettle leaf, thimbleberry and skullcap, and my own garden provided small amounts of lavender, mint, lemon balm and chamomile.
then i added to my equipment collection a little screeny-ball thingie that opens on a spring handle (here’s a picture because i have no idea what they’re called!) i also sewed some small reusable cloth tea bags from cheesecloth (butter muslin is a good weight/weave). the bags work better for some of the smaller-ground leaves like honeybush and lemongrass.
while i was at the serger, i also made a coffee filter out of the cheesecloth, and began using that instead of the unbleached paper ones. while i had been composting the grounds and filters, it still felt too disposable for my liking, and it will be a cost savings, albeit a small one. (small changes add up…)
finally, i tackled the task making my own blend of passion tea (i think i’ll call it “inspiration” :)). it was actually a process that took a few months of tinkering. i had been saving citrus peels since last winter, when i decided i was only going to buy organic clementines and not conventional ones- steep price hike, but i knew i could feel better about the tripled cost if i was using the whole fruit, including peel. often i throw a teaspoon of the dried, ground peel into berry muffins, or other baked yummy things, but we weren’t going through it very quickly. i gave it a try as tea, adding in various other ingredients (citrus peel and chamomile is amazingly tasty!) and then i realized that orange peel is a major ingredient in tazo’s passion.
the ingredients in passion are “hibiscus flowers, natural tropical flavors, citric acid, licorice root, orange peel, cinnamon, rose hips, lemongrass, and fruit juice extract (color)”. i dropped the “natural” flavors and colors (doh! those are almost always code for something less than desirable for our bodies) and my blend looks more like this: clementine peel, rose hips, hibiscus flowers, lemongrass, licorice root, cinnamon, and citric acid. i’ve also thrown in some nettle and thimbleberry leaves for added nutrition- it’s a high vitamin C beverage, so why not absorb some iron while we’re at it? (iron and vitamin C go hand in hand.) i kept the citric acid, but reduced it to a minor character- it does give it that tangy zing, so i felt it was worthwhile. the hibiscus flowers are delicious and colorful (they make it red, so that part of the passion experience is still there) but they are also far from a local ingredient, so i reduced their prevalence and deferred to the rose hips that can be obtained locally (and some of mine were ones i’d dried myself). we have lemongrass growing in the living room, so that moved up the list- if you can buy it fresh from your local asian market, you can try soaking the stalk and then sticking it in some soil- we had incredible success with this method. licorice and cinnamon are flavors i appreciate in tea in only very small quantities, so i went light on them. our food coop has every single one of these ingredients in bulk, so i was able to supplement what i hadn’t grown/peeled/dried myself. the cost comes way down, as i’ve made it in quart jar quantities for about the same or lower cost than a box of 20 tea bags. one cup takes about 2 teaspoons, so one quart holds enough tea for 96 cups!
what’s your favorite tea? can you make it a zero landfill cup? some of my favorite simple mixes are:
chamomile and clementine peel
chamomile and lavender flowers
rooibos and lavender flowers
nettle leaf and spearmint leaf
spearmint leaf all by itself 🙂
earth mama’s post today resonated so much for me, and the permaculture link within her post is where i snagged the “permaculture cup of tea” image- such a timely find, as a last minute illustration for my tea ramble- go and see the “industrial cup of tea” version for comparison, a great visual intro if you’ve been wondering “what the heck is permaculture anyway?”