When Tea From Halfway Around the World IS the Ethical Choice

It’s easy to think this way: Tea shipped from halfway around the world must be bad in some way. After all, lots of fossil fuel emissions were used to get it from, say Sri Lanka, to the U.S. And it’s also tempting to think like this: well I know it’s fair trade certified and organic and helps local growers…but I don’t think I should buy it because so many gallons of fuel were burned to get it all the way over to me in little ‘ol Iowa.

I know this isn’t word for word what anybody thinks, but it’s always in the back of some people’s minds.

I was recently in the grocery store looking for some tea. I always look for fair trade certified first because I think the number one concern should be making sure those responsible for growing the tea should be paid a fair price for their product. And organic is always a bonus. I was wandering down the tea aisle when Dilmah Earl Grey Tea caught my eye. In the right lower hand corner there was a stamp that read “Ethical Tea.” Wow! That’s gotta be exactly what I was looking for the whole time. Not fair trade certified tea or organic tea…but ethical tea! What a way of framing it!

From the package:

“Dilmah is the only international brand owned by tea growers…Earnings remain in Sri Lanka for the benefit of workers, the community & the future of our industry…Our mission is to offer you the freshest & finest tea and bring our workers hope of a better future.”

Let me tell you, no other “conventional” or “regular” tea box had words like that written on them.

In the age of awareness of Global Warming, I think we need some perspective on efforts to transition from a fossil fuel world to a renewable clean energy world. This transition can’t happen overnight. There will be a transition period before we have a post-oil world.

We shouldn’t stop doing good things just because they use fossil fuels. If Sri Lankans grow delicious tea and want to share it with the world that’s wonderful. I think ultimately it would be great if there was a way to ship those to America (and other places) via renewable clean energy. But, the fact of the matter is that technology does not exist yet in a capacity to make that a reality. So, do we say thanks but no thanks to the Sri Lankans in the name of stopping Global Warming wherever we can. I don’t think so. I think in the transition period, what is important is people and the good works they do. Here’s a contrast, do I think it’s ok to ship coffee beans from Sri Lanka that were not purchased ethically or via fair trade during the transition period? No. Like I said previously, permission to use fossil fuel emitting shipping technology should depend on whether the shipment/shipper/receiver have an ethical and good goal in mind. For Dilmah, it’s helping Sri Lankans sell their tea to the world so they can have a better community.

I’m more than happy to participate in something like that.

One little interesting side track: We, the people of the United States of America export our products and expertise all the time! When someone thinks of “shipping something halfway around the world” as bad…it’s always when someone ships something to us and not that we’ve shipped something halfway around the world. I think we need to be mindful that we’re not hypocritical when we condemn practices of other nations.

Assignment: Think about where your tea comes from and if it is ethical. Does your grocery store sell Dilmah tea? Something like it? Remember that when you buy Dilmah tea you support the MJF Charitable Foundation. It looks like they do some really wonderful things for people. Also, skim through this online book “The Story Behind Your Cup of Tea”.


The Temptation of the Anti-nutrition

I like salt and fat.

I’m just like everyone else. My physiology has wired me to seek out these foods and it’s easy to get caught in a bad situation when salt and fat and high caloric food are within arm’s reach and cheap.

I happened to come across a Hardee’s advertisement in the newspaper. My mouth watered upon seeing the above picture. And that’s exactly what Hardee’s was counting on. See, I don’t believe fast food restaurants (or most sit down restaurants) care much about providing the customer with nutritious healthy food; I think they care about tempting you with aromas, fat, sugar and salt no matter the health costs associated with eating such foods. Because, when push comes to shove, the emotions and cravings involved with “good-tasting” foods is very very hard to resist.

Fortunately, I’ve been able to resist the “entire farm in a biscuit.”

Per Double-Loaded Omelet Biscuit from Hardees.com:

800 calories

58g fat

20g saturated fat

1970mg sodium

And the coupon is buy-one-get-one-free! So, if a person goes to Hardee’s by themselves in a hurry before their workday looking for a quick cheap breakfast, they’ll buy two of these. And they will consume 1600 calories, 116g fat, 40g saturated fat and 3940mg of sodium…FOR BREAKFAST!

And we wonder why America is 60% overweight or obese…

We live in a toxic food environment and it’s easy to get trapped in the fast food cycle. It’s cheap and filling and tastes good in some visceral way. But the toxic food environment is not good for anyone. One popular thought is people should be free to choose whatever food (healthy or otherwise) they want. It’s their right and the company’s right to sell them whatever they want. However, a toxic food environment is manipulative and the deck is stacked against the consumer. I think advocating for personal responsibility is worthwhile. However, our food environment is akin to being locked in a room with shelves full of brownies and pizza for 48 hours…eventually you’re going to start eating this stuff because of your situation. That’s what a toxic food environment does…it makes a lot of decisions for you. Which is the opposite of personal responsibility. Food companies hide behind “personal responsibility” and “moderation” and make the consumer their scapegoat.

I’ve rambled for long enough, until next time.


“Folks, This Ain’t Normal”

Joel Salatin, personal hero of mine, has a new book coming out October 10th. It’s called Folks, This Ain’t Normal: A Farmer’s Advice for Happier Hens, Healthier People, and a Better World. I can’t wait for this release! Keep an eye out for it yourself, I guarantee you won’t regret reading 384 pages of Joel’s quips and ideas.

Check out Joel promoting the book in this clip below.