Archive for January 2015 | Monthly archive page
By DC EcoWoman Robin Garcia
Did you know that January is National Hot Tea Month? There’s no better time to sit back and relax with a steaming cup. I grew up in a household of tea drinkers, and the smell alone makes me feel calm and satisfied when the temperature drops. What you also may not know is that tea is the second most consumed drink worldwide after water. Turns out that there is a lot more to this popular beverage than serving as a favorite drink of the British!
Black Tea vs. Green Tea vs. Herbal Tea
Real tea is made with leaves from Camellia sinensis. The type of tea reflects the length of time, if any, that the leaves have been fermented. Black tea leaves have been completely fermented, while oolong leaves have been partially fermented. Leaves that have not been fermented produce green tea, and leaves from unopened buds are used to create white tea. Fermentation also affects the amount of caffeine found in the tea, with black tea containing the most caffeine and white tea containing the least.
What about herbal tea? Well, it’s not technically tea! Instead of Camellia leaves, herbal teas are usually a combination of herbs referred to as tisanes. The lack of Camellia leaves also means that most herbal teas are decaffeinated. No wonder chamomile works like a charm at bedtime!
Wake Up Call
Like coffee, tea can often serve the purpose of perking you up due to its caffeine content. However, you usually don’t feel wired like you do after a cup o’ joe. It turns out that in addition to caffeine, tea contains L-theanine. Studies have shown that L-theanine promotes a state in which you are relaxed but not tired. It can also promote good memory, heighten awareness of your surroundings, decrease anxiety and help you deal with stress.
If you do want to enjoy your tea without the jolt, you can decaffeinate your tea yourself. Steep your first cup of tea for at least ten minutes, give the cup to a friend or chill for later (better than tossing it) and steep a second cup for 90 percent less caffeine.
Chai is a type of tea borrowed from Indian culture, where black tea is flavored with spices, milk, and honey. The word chai actually means tea, derived from the Mandarin word ch’a. So in Asian countries, you wouldn’t ask for chai tea – unless you want to be redundant and really emphasize that you’re asking for tea! Instead, ask for masala chai, or “spiced tea.”
Enjoying Your Tea Sustainably
Before you grab your travel mug (what else would you use!?), here are some points to consider so that your tea remains sustainable and low in waste production.
• We all love the occasional trip to the local coffee and tea shop, but brewing your own tea reduces the amount of waste you create and helps out your wallet. Brewing at home also allows you to control the taste. Who knows what delicious combinations you’ll discover in your own kitchen!
• Check that the company you purchase your tea from is fair trade certified. Both the Rainforest Alliance and Fair Trade USA list certified companies, including Lipton, Trader Joe’s, and Whole Foods brand teas.
• Consider using loose tea and a cute or chic infuser, which keeps tea bags out of the trash. There are many tea infusers available on sites such as Etsy and specialty shops. An infuser with some loose tea also makes an excellent gift for the tea lover in your life (I did this for a family member’s Christmas gift some years ago!) If you still want to use bags, look for biodegradable and bleach free options.
• Don’t forget about what you add to your tea! Is the sugar and milk you’re using local, organic, or free trade? Consider other options. I often sweeten my tea with honey, which is especially comforting during cold and flu season. Local or home grown herbs would also be a wonderful addition.
• Remember – your tea leaves can be composted! This is not only good for your soil and reduces organic matter in landfills, but really – who likes a soggy bag of trash?
So go ahead – wrap up in your blanket with a Netflix marathon and enjoy a tasty and warm cup of tea today!
How to go Green: Coffee and Tea
How to Choose a More Sustainable Tea
10 Absorbing Facts about Tea
The Tea Spot – About Tea
31 Ways to Celebrate Hot Tea
10 Interesting Facts about Tea
Fair Trade USA
Where do your electronics go to die?
By DC EcoWomen Guest Blogger Jamie Shopland
Take a look around your home – how many obsolete electronic devices do you have collecting dust? I bet it’s a lot. As I took an inventory of the devices around my own house, I found 5 laptops, 2 monitors, a Samsung smartphone, a Microsoft Zune MP3 player, countless laptop chargers and other cords, earbuds, and a 32-inch tube television. There is probably more. I am just one household, one consumer of electronics.
When I think about this on a grander scale, from my county of nearly 250,000 people, to the world’s population of over 7 billion and growing, it’s overwhelming and scary to contemplate the potential magnitude of our electronic waste, or e-waste. After you consider the magnitude, think about where all of this waste goes. Are you aware that, despite a Basal Convention ban, much of our e-waste is outsourced to China, making China one of the world’s major dumping grounds for these hazardous materials?
As I considered how much e-waste I had personally generated, my thoughts turned to the shopping madness of Black Friday, Small Business Saturday, Cyber Monday and post-Christmas holiday sales. I’ve rarely been one to brave it and in 2014, the National Retail Federation estimated that over 40% or “140 million Americans were likely to shop in stores or online during Thanksgiving weekend” alone. I was not one of the 40%. Also in 2014, consumers were expected to buy “the highest levels [of electronics] since 1994” according to the Consumer Electronics Association. This is worrisome.
“China currently generates 6.1 million metric tonnes of e-waste a year, compared with 7.2 million for the U.S. and 48.8 million globally, according to the United Nations University’s Solving the E-waste Problem (StEP) Initiative.” Does that alarm you? It alarms me when I consider this against how much e-waste is currently in existence compared to the volume of new-but-soon-to-be-obsolete electronics that will end up in our solid waste stream on their way to the Guangdong Province of China, among other places. If you are a “seeing is believing” kind of person, then see these photos by the Telegraph. And, if you need an example that hits closer to home, AT&T was recently ordered to pay (without admitting guilt, of course) $52M to the state of California for illegally dumping electronic waste in landfills unequipped to handle that type of waste. This is problematic. This is a global crisis.
With all of the obsolete electronics we keep in our homes, plus all the shiny new tech gadgets many of us have acquired this recent holiday season, just what impact does all of this electronic consumerism have on our health and environment? According to the National Institutes of Health, “[e-waste] can have serious repercussions for those in proximity to places where e-waste is recycled or burnt. A computer contains highly toxic chemicals like lead, cadmium, mercury, beryllium, BFR, polyvinyl chloride and phosphor compounds.” Researchers warn that airborne toxins from e-waste end up in the “soil-crop-food pathway,” causing heavy metal exposure in humans.
What Can I Do?
Are you asking what you can do to keep these hazardous items out of our solid waste systems? Good. It all comes back to you and me. You can start by recycling your electronics with a company that is certified for this type of recycling.
– Contact Best Buy to recycle many types of electronics free of charge.
– Schedule an appointment with 1-800-GOT-JUNK to have a TV removed.
– Checkout the EPA to find out how to donate or recycle certain electronics.
– Donate old computers to groups like Project Reboot to help eliminate the technological divide in low-income families.
Aside from recycling your products, you can use the power of your pocketbook to shop at retailers who have taken the EPA’s recycling challenge; there are businesses leading by example to protect our environment from e-waste.
Lastly, tell everyone you know about the importance of keeping e-waste out of our solid waste stream and tell them how easy it can be to recycle electronic products.
It’s imperative to human and environmental health that before you make decisions to purchase new cell phones, laptops, TVs, game systems, etc. that you first make a plan to recycle your obsolete electronic devices. Don’t be part of the problem. Resolve to be part of the solution.
Jamie Shopland is a political junky, equity advocate, web 2.0 dilettante and rockstar at large.
You can connect with her at https://www.linkedin.com/in/jamieshopland