Doing things in harmony with nature has always been at the core of the Renegade Tea Estate. We have tried to grow tea in a way that would have minimal effect on the surroundings - so the fauna and flora would thrive together with the tea bushes and the tea would be both safe for the environment and for the people who drink it.
While from a financial point of view organic farming is not always very efficient, especially for a starting company, we have always found a way how to stay true to our initial promise. Now, going forward to delivering this tea to you, there are other obstacles on the way - waste created in production, packaging and shipping.
While we have tried to find the most reasonable solutions in those areas as well, then it has been a challenge with selling single packages of teas in our e-shop. The effect on the environment was definitely a big push for us to make the next leap - to step away from just selling tea and to focus on building a community of people who get their yearly tea from our farm.
The key things that tilted us towards making this leap were the following:
- Knowing before the season what teas and in what quantity we need to grow reduces our waste and inefficiencies to a minimum.
- Using bigger packages (150 g , 200 g instead of 30 g, 50 g) enables to save on packaging and create less waste to the environment.
- Knowing in advance where we need to send the tea at the end of the season will enable us to arrange more efficient shipping solutions. Sending bigger shipments once instead of several small ones helps as well.
- Managing just one big shipping bundle at the end of the season is much more efficient than having someone always on stand-by for the next order.
The two big topics here are packaging and shipping.
Firstly, let’s talk about packaging since this is something that always creates a lot of questions. Looking at our packages, I guess for many people it raises a lot of questions. Why an otherwise environmentally conscious company would use this kind of packages? Well, there are several reasons and it’s a wide and complicated topic, but I’ll try to keep it short :)
When choosing packages, there are a few key factors to keep in mind - tea needs to stay away from moisture, light and oxygen to keep its aroma and taste qualities. Taking this into account means that we can’t use only cardboard, only plastic or plant cellulose film is also not an option. Mono-material plastic packages, which would be a good solution for recycling, also lack an oxygen barrier. We could overlook those things, but then again, why would we send tea to you which we know might lose its taste on the way? In a way, trying to create less waste with packaging, creates product waste instead.
Luckily, the material industry is evolving and there are more and more environmentally friendly and recyclable materials out there. But for not hopping on the greenwashing wagon, it’s not only the packages that need to be recyclable but also the papers and inks that need to comply. For us, with relatively many products in small quantities, finding a combo like this has been so far unsuccessful. That is, keeping in mind also that the solution shouldn’t also push our prices for you through the roof.
The other important point to keep in mind is that the recycling systems in all countries are quite different and what might be recyclable in Estonia, might not be in Hungary or USA and might end up being burnt anyway. Without being able to minimize the risk of the tea going to waste and/or making sure that the packages will be recycled in all countries, we believe the best thing we can do at the moment is to reduce the number of packages to a minimum. In our opinion, the most Earth-friendly way isn’t to recycle more, but to consume and produce less.
Producing tea mainly for people who have ordered a specific amount, means that we don’t produce and package more teas than necessary. We will use bigger packages with a changed design to fit more tea, which means again less plastic per packaged tea. This also means that the size of the shipping parcel stays more or less the same, but fits considerably more tea. We are working also on a refill system and plan to launch it already soon!
In a regular e-shop, packages go out as orders come in. During the winter season, we also sent out parcels on a daily basis. Waiting for the courier to come every day and sending out a package to the same person every 4-5 weeks got us thinking… What if we could send all the tea at once? Use less packaging, fewer “kilometres on the road” and fewer of our “empty” hours as well.
While we actually really enjoy sending packages, seeing how people’s preferences change over time and smiling to ourselves when a familiar name goes on the shipping label. It also takes a lot of time which we think would make more sense to invest in taking care of the tea bushes, thinking about new recipes, talking with you, our customers.
And wouldn’t it actually make life easier for our customers as well if we send tea once per season? You wouldn’t need to make the same process every time you run out of tea. Instead, you make a commitment once a year and get all of your teas at once, after the season. No reason to remind yourself to order all the time, pay for the shipping each time, follow sales campaigns to get a better deal and constantly wait for the courier or run to the post office.
This means that we can also find more efficient and also cheaper shipping options. Sending one big shipment, instead of several smaller ones every day, is definitely better for the environment and everybody’s wallet as well :)
So while the first and main reason for this change is to build an open and personal tea farm where you would be a part of it. The environmental benefits definitely gave us a big push to suppress our fears and be brave :)Read more about adopting your own tea garden from here.