BEC #009 – Tea Leaves

Thanks to Shaina for this idea.

Our house was lucky enough to get a teapot a couple of months ago and I’ve been converting to loose leaf tea – which is great. It’s nice to be able to control how much tea I use for one thing. Even nicer to have a pot nearby to refill my cup when it gets low.

The best thing though is just having a teapot next to me on the desk. Teapots are just damn pleasant.

Keep the ideas coming! I have a tonne already but I WANT MOOOOOOOORE.

- Rebecca Clements


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Used teabags are even more useful. Damp tea is held together in a convenient package for everything from soothing tired eyes to deodorizing sneakers to marinating meat to cleaning tiles:

Loose leaf tea has superior taste, by far, and most tea shops have a much wider variety of teas than any amount of bags you can find on a store shelf… PLUS you can mix your own blends! tea bags use the scraps from making loose leaf tea, the left over dust and chunks usually found on the floor of the processing plant. I’d never use bags of tea again, plus the leaves go in the pots of my houseplants, along with my used coffee grounds, as they make WONDERFUL fertilizer (tea bags do not offer the same benefits).

I’m not sure if this is really a thing to do for the enviroment, as the tin in which the tea is packed in is made of metal, and how many bags of tea equals a metal tin? Buy your tea in a bag, not tins :)

Being enviromentally friendly is not really so easy using small steps, as the complete impact of one’s actions are really hard to measure. I’ts like people do not like the fact that some fruits are packed individually, but on the other hand, if the packaging protects the fruit so thait it becomes eaten it is really better for the enviroment with a package (you know, if the fruit is rendered useless during transport, then all the resources used to grow and transport it are void…)

What I’m really saying is, that it’s hard, really hard to be green in one’s daily life. But it’s still good that we are trying, right?

I agree that it certainly can be a struggle at times, and that it’s great that people start to think of all the aspects of a single purchase – and what I mean by that is that they develop the ability to do that for the sake of awareness and for changing their habits over time, not worrying about every single aspect of every purchase for the rest of their lives. (The goal is for things/systems to change so people don’t HAVE to be taking SO many things into account).

Like anything, it’s a bit of a challenge to do anything at first but then it becomes second nature, and easy and you move onto the next thing.

Thankfully, large changes are happening all over the place. Better government legislation, companies and designers creating more sustainable products and practises and infrastructure, etc.

But small changes in our daily lives are, I think, one of the most INCREDIBLY powerful things, and absolutely essential.

One reason of course is that individual actions multiplied by a huge number of people… well, the effects are huge and felt all over society. There are endless accounts of this happening all over the world, all throughout history.

Another is that – and this is a huge part of what BEC is about – it’s often hard for people to make large changes.

Everyone is at different stages of change, everyone is in different circumstances, everyone has a different level of understanding of certain things. Making a change here and a change there in your life is often what makes it easier for you to then make other changes in your life. It’s a gateway to a new level of understanding about the way society works, your own actions, and probably about how easy it was to make a change, and how life is a little bit better.

Someone might start drinking loose leaf tea over teabags and that gets them thinking about the other things they buy, they might start buying things that are made with better practises, start buying more organic, start feeling better physically and mentally, start feeling more powerful and motivated, they might pass this habit onto their friends, they might begin to vote more progressively, they might start to see the benefit of being more active in their community, they might start buying more local produce from farmers markets, growing some of their own food, etc etc.

I mean, there’s no one pathway. It’s just about finding how things can be done better in your personal situation.

And that rubs off on friends, family, your community. People see others making little changes, they feel better about making them themselves, etc. It becomes a real snowball.

The other thing is that even a small step forward can prevent people from taking steps backwards. Which we REALLY cannot afford.

AND of course, these messages are felt very strongly by the market. They notice what consumers want and don’t want, and other markets take notice of that other market and soon it’s a trend.

I could go on and on :)

The point is that small changes ARE important, as long as they keep happening, as long as people keep thinking about things and keep trying to do better.

The fruit thing… my personal view is that, really, it is just insane to package fruit individually. Bit by bit, we need to be transporting fruit and veges less (ie. buying more locally), being more accepting of the natural state of food (blemishes, different sizes, colours etc), and… well, there are a number of things that need to happen.

As I said, bit by bit.

…And I’m sure I’m not telling you anything you don’t know here! I’m really just writing this for the sake of everyone reading. I hope people keep talking about the BEC comics like this because it’s important this discussion and deconstruction happens.

Hey Rebecca, here is something I like to keep in mind when it comes to small changes: a timeline of the evolution of life on Earth. The impression you get from scrolling across that graph and seeing that the evolution of life was already half-over before eukaryotes even showed up is pretty mind-altering, I think. This is how all evolutionary processes work – there is a long, slow building up process at the start, which puts all the groundwork in place, before it all suddenly clicks together and exponential growth occurs. It is nothing but small changes over time, but when they are added together, they become immense.

Social evolution functions exactly the same way, but because it is not confined by the extremely slow pace of genetic evolution, it happens much at a much faster rate. Just look at all the sweeping social changes which have occurred since the rights movements – that’s within a human lifetime. The problem is though, people look back at these events and they don’t see all the small steps, all the individual efforts, all the gradual processes which came together to bring about these changes. They only see the compressed history document, where Rosa Parkes gets on a bus and MLK Jr makes a few speeches and suddenly racism was over forever.

The idea of a large, sweeping reform which solves systemic problems is largely mythical, brought about by a simplified understanding of history. All social change is the result of small steps taken by individuals. They might not seem to be making much difference, but that’s only because the majority of the work is done in the long build-up process at the start, where the overall change is much less noticable. But eventually, a tipping point in the social consciousness is reached and change spills over everywhere, and going back to the old system becomes practically unthinkable to all but an inevitable minority who can’t let go of the past.

I’m just going to chime in here a bit-

It is worth the recycling of tea leaves to avoid tea bags. I’ve been out of the textile manufacturing loop for awhile but your teabags are often made from cellulosic microfibres.

If we do not use tea bags I’m sure the tin would be worth the metal as there are huge amounts of water (a resource that is very valuable in Australia) go into the manufacture of microfibres which are extruded from spinnerets in a similar way to a polyester fabric but they are much finer (around 2 nano meters in diameter).

As for the tin- the tin currently used in my house is much loved, old, tea tin- you can buy refills from some nice tea place or your supermarket.

I’m hoping to get into this kind of habit myself. Just having a few tea tins that I can take to a local tea shop and have refilled. It feels ridiculous to buy small amounts of tea when our household goes through it so fast. It’ll be nice not to have to buy it so often, and to have well-loved tins that I can use for whatever I want.

Chime in as much as you like, Liz! Much appreciated.

I’m not a fan of tins or caddies – they let air in, which means that the tea loses flavour. So far I keep it all in an airtight, opaque glass jar (it only holds about 500g of tea, but that lasts a while usually) but I’ve been looking at getting a BeanVac container and filling it with tea instead – it’s a vaccuum-sealing container designed for coffee beans.

My main dilemma is keeping my tea warm. While I don’t mind cold tea in summer (and I deliberately let the teapot go cold) cold tea is not very nice in winter. I’ve heard of samovars but never found one :(

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