Sunday, January 27, 2008

Sustainable Shopping... Part 1

Moms through the ages have engaged in both recreational shopping and shopping out of necessity. In other words, as soon as we drop the kids off or are heading home from work, we have to shop for milk, dinner, diapers, cupcakes for 60 tomorrow... whatever. And, when we get a free Saturday afternoon (such as a "dad-urday" afternoon), we like to hit the stores for some retail shoe shopping therapy!

So, though many would argue that shopping in and of itself is not really sustainable... it can be necessary, and it is a big part of our culture.

Moms who are trying to live a more sustainable life should first consider the sustainability of their consumer habits. It is important to generally shop less if we are to build a more sustainable culture. How many pairs of shoes, TV's, new ipods, jeans, handbags, etc. do you really need? I will leave that to each of you to consider, and I would challenge you to think of all of your purchases in longer terms in 2008. If, for example, you do need a new handbag, toy for your kid, couch, car, whatever... could you buy one that will last longer, was made locally, is more efficient, uses less water, is made from sustainably sourced materials, or comes in less packaging? I'm trying this year to, as contradictory as this might sound, make my shopping more sustainable.

To start off we're going to talk about tea.

I recently moved from Ann Arbor, MI which is full of people who are trying to make their lives more sustainable. When people live more sustainably the concept of sustainability bleeds into their businesses as well. So, I thought I would introduce you to a local business in Ann Arbor, that is taking the concept of sustainability and increasingly applying it to the reality of their business. The ideas presented here could be useful in many businesses, large or small. So, as a shopper, begin to look for them when you're buying everything from pacifiers to playpens, from car seats to cleaning products, from tomatoes to chocolate, and everything in between.

The company is called Arbor Teas.

As you have probably guessed, they sell tea. Now tea, in and of itself is no different from many consumer products. People buy it and consume it because they like it. It comes in packaging, it is bought, used and discarded. But, Arbor Teas has gone out of its way to make sure that their teas leave as small of an impact as possible.

They start by buying (and then selling to you) tea that is certified organic and most of it is fair trade certified. Thus, their teas have been farmed in such a way that is more beneficial to both the environment where it is farmed, and the local workers who farm it. Now, tea is not grown in the US, so there is some impact in the transportation of the tea from the village in India, China, Africa, Japan, etc. to you, but the overall impact is minimized by the organic farming method, and the fair trade treatment and payment of the farm workers.

Next, Arbor Teas has reconsidered the packaging of their teas. They teamed up with students at the University of Michigan School of Natural Resources to minimize the carbon footprint of their packaging by converting from tin-plated steel canisters to canisters made of parchment-lined paperboard, which generate less than one-fifth of the carbon emissions of tin-plated steel canisters. And, these containers can still be re-used to extend their lifespan. Additionally, if you buy a gift certificate to Arbor Teas, you can have it sent paperless by email to the recipient. Cool!

Arbor Teas aggressively recycles many of their processing materials. Even packing peanuts that are used to protect the teas as they are mailed to customers are recycled. And, if you live in Ann Arbor, your tea will be delivered to you by bike... further cutting transport emissions.

Finally for the emissions that they can not reduce in absolute terms, such as delivery flights, ground transportation, facility electricity, etc., they have opted to either purchase renewable energy credits from their local electricity company or to offset their emissions by purchasing carbon credits through

So, kudos to Arbor Teas, and as a green living mom and shopper, you can take these ideas and take a look at local and corporate business in your community and ask how they are reducing their emissions. If they have not begun to look at their emissions, packaging, recycling, water and energy usage, materials sourcing, organic farming, etc. make some suggestions to improve your community businesses and support those businesses like Arbor Teas that are actively greening their products and operations.

Have a great green week mamas!

And, if any of you are shopping for a house in 2008... check out this green energy showplace! Hurry! Because as energy prices continue to soar... this one will be snapped right up!


1 comment:

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