Zero Waste Tea: Journey and How to

My First Zero Waste Tea Shopping: David’s Tea and Bulk Barn

I love tea. I drink several (minimum five) cups a day. I have always drank loose leaf tea but it’s only recently that I have completely switched to loose leaf. The only time I don’t drink loose leaf is when I’m at my grandpas house and he makes us a pot of tea after dinner. I find that I don’t really like black teas in loose leaf. Maybe I’m just not used to anything but Tetley’s orange pekoe, but I just can’t do orange pekoe, earl grey or really any black tea in loose leaf. I will do the odd chai tea though.

My favourite tea is green tea. This I will happily drink in loose leaf or matcha form. I also like herbal teas. Lucky for me these are easy to get in zero waste form.

Even if loose leaf tea comes in a non-zero waste container it is still producing much less waste than individual tea bags. Some people say you can compost tea bags and others say no, but if you don’t have a compost (I’ll be getting one this summer) than it’s best to skip the bag anyways.  I’ve talked about this a bit before in my kitchen swaps article, but I wanted to touch on it more now.

I’ve recently bought zero waste loose leaf tea from the Bulk Barn and David’s Tea. Bulk Barn is only in Canada, but similar bulk stores exist in most places. David’s Tea is available widely in Canada and some locations in the United States. To see more about Bulk Barn check out my last post.

The tea I choose from Bulk Barn is fair trade Chinese green tea. I bought .25 pounds of tea (or so the jar says, I don’t remember what the scale said). I am sad because their tea selection has shrunk over the years. They had many green teas, some black teas, and a few herbal teas. The green was the only one I was interested in. I sadly had to choose between a fair trade tea and an organic tea. They didn’t have any green teas that were both. I like the tea I choose. It was around $10 and will last me quite a long time. I use less than one tablespoon (maybe even less than half) for each cup of tea so such a large jar will last a long time and save me money compared to tea bags and cafes.

David’s Tea is one of my favourite places to buy tea (for any Americans reading this it’s similar to  Teavana which has many more US locations than David’s tea). They have a wide variety of tea. You can buy it in packaging or you can buy it in metal tins (with labels and sometimes plastic lids), but you are always allowed to bring them in (no matter how small) and have them refilled. I used two containers from a chia tea kit I got as a birthday gift years ago for my tea today. I love that they have lots of organic teas. They also organize everything by colour (all the herbal teas are in a yellow container). So it’s very easy to find a tea you like in store.

When you look online they have a filter for  kosher, organic and fair trade so you can see all the teas that fit which ever category(ies) you choose. I haven’t ordered tea online so I don’t know if you can get zero-waste friendly packaging. I use the online to decide what kind of tea I want because it takes me forever for me to make decisions.

davids-tea
I really love the filter. It lets you pick the tea that fits your taste and values.

Once I’ve decided what I want I bring my containers with me to the store. They have a membership card so you can earn free drinks. They make tea for you (with no bag) and you can bring your own mug. I ended up getting organic chamomile, and organic serenity now. I find that both (especially chamomile) are strong so I don’t use too much for a cup. I bought $5 of each tea and it should last me ages. I only drink these kinds of tea in the evening, and not every evening.

I think the quality of tea I buy has improved since going (mostly) zero waste. I take more time to decide on what tea I want, and why, than I used to. This ends up in more ethical and environmental choices.

Let me know where you get your loose leaf from, and what your favourite tea is below.

 

My First Zero Waste Bulk Barn Haul

I was nervous about bringing my own jars because Bulk Barn has just allowed stores across the country to accept them. Luckily the wonderful staff eased that right away. It was not only my first time bringing jars but the first time anybody has brought jars to that store! The staff were so excited to try it out and make sure it works. They had to watch training videos on how to tare the weight and inspect the jars, and they were really excited to finally put their training into action. I wasn’t expecting that at all. So if you’re nervous like I was just do it. It will be fine, and your cute jars might even get a compliment or two.

img_3475I didn’t bring many jars because it was my first time, but I will bring much more next time. They only accept glass jars so if you don’t drive, or live really close, this could get a bit heavy for you. First you go to the cash and they inspect your jars for rust, water, or any food residue. If it passes they will weigh it and put a sticker on with the tare weight. Then you just fill them up on your own, and bring them to the cash like usual.

My cashier was so excited she almost forgot to give me my change. Make sure you remember, write down, or photograph the name and number of the product. They are usually very good at recognizing everything but a lot of things look the same. I had to tell them which green tea I chose, and because I had a photo on my phone I was prepared.

img_3474I ended up getting some mixed nuts (on sale!), honey roasted peanuts, fair trade green tea, organic pea penne, and organic green lentil and kale penne. I was worried bringing lots of jars (especially small ones) would bother the staff but it caused no problems. I like small jars so I can test things. They often have new kinds of grain free noodles and I like to buy enough for one or two bowls of pasta to test them out.

Overall it was a great experience and I’m so happy Bulk Barn has listened to their customers and allowed zero waste jars.

I insta storied the whole shopping experience, so if you’re into that kinda thing please follow me @amanda_edgley

To see my past article on Bulk Barn go here.

Zero Waste Plastic Wrap

 

Plastic wrap is so annoying. Not only is it non recyclable plastic, but I find half the time it doesn’t stick to anything anyways. So I’ve found a zero waste solution: beeswax cloth wraps. You can buy these online, but they’re really easy to make yourself.

The only things you need are:

  • A double boiler (a pot with a metal/glass bowl on top)
  • Cloth (cut into squares)
  • Beeswax

I used old cloths I’ve been holding on to forever. Beeswax is easy for me to get (I’m a beekeeper) but you can buy it online, craft stores, or from honey booths at farmers markets.

First you need to set up your double boiler. All you need is water in the bottom and beeswax in the top. Bring the water to a simmer with the bowl of wax on top. Wait until the wax is melted. You don’t need to check the temperature as long as all the wax is liquid you’re good to go.

double-boiler

Second you’ll want to dip your cloth into the was. Dunk the whole thing in and stir it around. When it’s all covered use tongs/your hands (careful it’s very very hot) to pull it out. Grab two corners and spread it out dripping over the pot. The faster you pull it out of the wax and get it spread out and dripping the better.

Third,  if there are lots of places where the wax is thick redo it. If there are only a few spots carefully scrape them off.

cloth-wrap-drip-dry

Lastly, just let them dry a little bit. You can hold them until they’re no longer dripping than carefully set them on your counter. They dry very fast, but you want to let them sit before you actually use them.

cloth-wrap-done2

They’ll feel really stiff, but the more you use them the more malleable they become. You can use them for sandwich wraps, to hold anything you would normally use parchment paper for (like homemade cough drops), and you can use them as bowl covers.

If you try making these let me know

Coffee Cups Ruin Everything

I have been trying to avoid disposable coffee cups for some time now, but I have decided this year that I am not getting a coffee without a reusable cup, no matter how desperate I am for caffeine. I try as hard as I can to produce no waste when getting a coffee. I have a reusable cup in the trunk of my car at all times, and if I go somewhere and someone else is driving I bring my cup in my purse.

Despite my best efforts I still had a zero waste fail. My friend and I were having the perfect day. We went to a health food store that actually had zero waste options, I bought direct trade organic coffee, we thrifted some records, and we were ending the day by stopping at an organic coffee shop. The café seemed perfect. I love coffee and am devoted to organic coffee (I’ll make a post on coffee later).

We got to the coffee shop an hour before it was supposed to close, I brought my own reusable cup in my purse but we decided to have our coffee “for here”. I thought I had nothing to worry about since we weren’t getting our coffee to go. But sadly I was wrong. Even though I tried my best I still failed at being zero waste.

I was very annoyed. I tried to comfort myself with the fact that the cup was at least made out of recycled material, but I still felt bad. I was hoping to make it the whole year without using a disposable coffee cup and here we are in January and I’ve already failed.

I decided not to let it get me down. I tried my best. I meant to be zero waste. I didn’t actively try and use a plastic cup but it happened. The best thing I can do now is learn to ask about cups if I’m new to a café. If every zero waster gave up after each fail there wouldn’t be any of us.

Bulk Barn Canada Goes Zero Waste

This is probably one of the most exciting things to happen in my zero waste journey. I have been struggling without having a bulk store to go to, and as of February 24, 2017 Bulk Barn’s across Canada will be allowing customers to bring their own containers. This is a great day for zero wasters and environmentally conscious people across the country. In Canada zero waste options are rather limited, primarily being in Vancouver (probably the “greenest” part of Canada shopping wise).

When Bulk Barn agreed to have a test store in October for zero waste, I still had my doubts. Bulk Barn has been well known in the Canadian zero waste scene for being very much against bringing your own containers. When the pilot store was announced I was hopeful but assumed it would take much longer for a zero waste Bulk Barn to arrive near me.

There are 260 Bulk Barn’s across the country so it will be far easier for Canadians to get there zero waste on. There are two stores in my town and I plan on being there bright and early Febuary 24th to show my support for this great change. This is also a great way to make zero waste more affordable; their website always has tons of coupons, and sales in store.

The best thing you can do to encourage change is vote with your dollars. The test stores did really well and because of that the company made national changes! This shows the power of voting with your dollar. If you want more zero waste, and/or ethical options you have to choose as many of them as you can. The more popular it becomes the more likely a business is to follow through.

To find a store near you go to: http://www.bulkbarn.ca/en/Stores

They also have a useful guide on their website for what kind/condition of containers you can use and a list of what stores are already zero waste friendly.

Zero-Waste Valentine’s Day Gift Ideas

It feels like the holidays just ended, but we only get a short break because Valentines Day is just around the corner (one month to be exact). I like to start planning for gift giving well in advance. Valentine’s Day is easier than Christmas or a birthday, but I still like to plan. To help everyone out I’ve decided to put this list of gift ideas together. These are mostly zero-waste, but some have small amounts of waste but are organic, sustainable or “not virgin” (made out of recycled materials).

1. Bulk Bin Goodies

This is the easiest option if you have a zero-waste bulk store near you. You can buy the traditional chocolates for your friend or partner and put them in a cute jar. The best thing about this is you can decorate the jar to personalize the gift from the packaged boring heart shaped boxes everyone else is getting.

You can move further from just chocolate. Give them a set of jars one sweet and one spicy. You can even give them a jar of their favourite loose leaf tea. One good idea is buying that expensive chocolate/candy/tea/coffee that they won’t treat themselves with but have always wanted to try.

Personalize the inside and outside to fit perfectly.

2. No Bulk Store No Problem

If you don’t have a zero-waste store near you, you don’t have to say no to chocolates.  It wouldn’t be Valentine’s Day without them. But you do need to find good chocolate. Try and find brands that organic, and more importantly ethical or sustainable. Like Theo, Alter Eco, or Green and Black. These are all fair trade. I especially like that Alter Eco and Theo use cardboard packaging (with foil inside) rather than plastic.

 In addition you can look for local chocolate shops. They may cost more but you can often use your own packaging. The best part is you’ll be supporting a local business.

3. Love Notes/Date Ideas

You see notes and think paper, but you can use scrap paper, old copy paper, or sustainable paper (made out of bamboo or sugar cane). Grab a mason jar and fill it with either a list of things you love about them, or a list of dates you’ll take them on this year. It’s a very thoughtful gift with minimal environmental impact.

4. Bake it Yourself

Rather than buying goodies just make them yourself. It shows that you put effort in and you can make their favourite baked good. This is my plan (don’t worry my partner doesn’t read my blog). I’m going to make him a peacan pie from scratch (crust and all) so fingers crossed I don’t ruin it.

4.5 Cook it Yourself

Last year rather than going out we stayed in and cooked our own fancy dinner. We bought organic ingredients from the farmers market and it still cost less than going out.

5. Buy Plants Over Cut Flowers

 House plants are far better for the environment than cut flowers. Unlike cut flowers a houseplant lasts forever, this means that they will have a reminder of you in there home forever.m

If you do get cut flowers try and get them from a local flower shop, or farmers market. When they’re done compost them.

Bonus Thoughts

 If you’re planning on drinking a nice glass of wine try and buy it local, zero waste and/or sustainably made. Like Banrock Station. They re-invest profits into environmental projects around the world.

The most important thing is to spend time together. Valentine’s Day doesn’t have to be consumerist if you use it as a reminder to spend some quality time with loved ones.

Let me know any of your own editions to my list!

Zero-Waste Kitchen Swaps

The kitchen is one of the biggest producers of waste (both food and packaging). By making a few simple changes you can easily make your kitchen more environmentally friendly, and zero-waste.

Coffee Time

bodummoka-potAvoid paper filters for brewing your coffee. There are so many different ways to make coffee and most of them don’t use a paper filter. You can use a Bodum/French Press, a moka pot, an automatic coffee maker with a mesh filter, espresso machines, manual espresso makers, and so much more. They all change the flavor of the coffee (really only coffee snobs will notice most of it) and it can be fun to have different options every morning.

If you use paper filters switch to non-bleached filters. This way you can compost your filters and grinds easily. Composting your used grinds is the best way to get rid of them. You can also throw them straight into your garden (tomatoes and kale especially love coffee grinds).

In addition you can use coffee grinds for many DIY beauty products. Lip scrubs, body scrubs, soap bars, and a hair treatment are some of the many things you can do with used coffee grinds, other than compost them.

Say No to Paper Towels

paper-towelPaper towels are awful for the environment. So many of them get used every time you cook a meal or clean the kitchen. It’s just as easy to use a dish cloth and wash it. I just throw them in with my regular laundry. It’s super easy. You can buy them in any colour you like, made out of sustainable/organic materials, and you can even thrift them.

You can also use old clothing to make cleaning rags for your kitchen and save the dish clothes for your hands, dishes, and produce. It’s a very simple way to limit the amount of trees that get turned into paper products.

Find Good Packaging

If you can’t find a zero-waste option near you, just buy the product with the best packaging you can. Look for items in glass jars instead of plastic (peanut butter is an easy one for this), pick cardboard over plastic (it stands a better chance of being recycled), and items made out of sustainably sourced materials or recycled  materials.

yeastOn the left are two different ways to buy yeast, one in a glass jar with metal lid, and the other in paper packets. The packets aren’t recyclable, but the glass and metal lid are. You can also re-use the glass jar. In addition one packet has enough for one loaf of bread while one jar has enough for several.

cerealSome companies try and package as ethically as they can. There are no zero-waste breakfast options for me (I really wish I had a local zero-waste store) so I try and find the best option I can. Natures Path Organic makes cereal that I really like. They use eco-pac for their bags, and have no cardboard box. Without the cardboard box there are less trees being turned into paper, and the eco-pac is biodegradable. It also just tastes good.

Use Produce Bags and Shop Locally

Bringing your own grocery and produce bags is a super easy way to reduce your waste. The thin plastic bags your produce goes in stand little chance of being recycled so skip them as often as possible.

Shopping at smaller local stores and farmers markets can help you reduce your waste (they are usually less picky about you using your own bags/jars/whatever) and help you reduce the carbon footprint of your food. If you’re buying locally the food had to travel less. You don’t have to give up all far-away foods but try and buy seasonally and locally when you can.

Tea Time

tea-2Tea bags are not compostable. It’s best to switch to loose leaf tea. You can buy loose-leaf tea at bulk stores, David’s tea, and health food stores without packaging. If you can’t find it zero-waste than buy it in a metal or glass container. I have loose leaf tea from Twinnings and from For Teas Sake that is not zero-waste but come in metal tins that I plan on reusing after words.

I use to find loose leaf tea annoying, but it really isn’t that much harder to empty a tea ball than it is to throw out a tea bag.

tea-ballsThere are also a ton of different tea balls you can use. I have gotten so many as gifts. You can get them in nearly any shape and made out of nearly anything. Plastic isn’t best but if you buy one plastic thing to replace thousands (that’s really how much tea I drink)  of tea bags it’s not a bad option.

My favourite one is my round metal one that I found in my grandparents house. No one was using it so it became mine. It has a finer mesh on it so I can use all my teas in it. I find with some of my others tea gets out.

Use Jars to Store Food

lemonWhen you store food properly you won’t end up wasting it. I prefer to store everything in glass jars because they are recyclable and reusable. I also didn’t pay for my jars. They are all old food jars that held nut butters, sauces, coconut oil, and juice. It’s much better to use what you have than go out and buy new jars.

I store my lunches, juices, coffee, and any chopped up produce in a glass jar. It’s super handy and looks nice. I make lemon water most mornings, so I chop up a lemon throw it in a jar and I’m set for the week.

Make it Yourself

breadx2One way to reduce packaging is to make things yourself. This is really only good if you have the time. I like making home made bread but I don’t do it all the time. Baking is an easy way to reduce waste because breads, cookies, pies… almost always come in plastic bags.

If you don’t bake there are a lot of easy things you can make at home in large batches and freeze to save time (pasta sauce for example).

 

Have you tried any of these swaps? Do you have any to add? Let me know in the comments below.