Archive for the ‘fair trade’ Tag

Not Using What’s Provided, Part 2   Leave a comment

A few months ago I wrote a post about reducing waste by not mindlessly using all the “free” “convenience” products that we are often surrounded with. Recent occurances at work have made me aware of a related topic: providing your own stuff instead of using the “free” stuff that is provided.

The first example is tissue products. My office keeps a cabinet stocked with boxes of tissues for employees to take as needed for their individual offices. I buy my own tissues instead. Why spend my own money when my company is already providing the same thing? Because it is really important to me to use paper products that are not chlorine bleached. (I don’t care as much about whether they’re made of recycled content, but I’ve yet to find tissue products that aren’t labeled as both or neither). It is worthwhile to me to buy my own tissues and reduce by even a tiny fraction the pollution caused by chorine bleaching. Taking it a step further, I have a small terry cloth hand towel that I hang near the entrance to my cubicle so that it is convenient to take with me into the restroom to use to dry my hands instead of using the paper towels.

The second example is tea and hot chocolate. Like many offices, there’s always a pot or two of coffee brewing in the break room at my office and a tray of sugar, creamer, teabags, and hot chocolate mix packets. While I drink hot tea throughout the day, and occasionally enjoy a hot cocoa pick-me-up, until recently I almost never partook of those offerings. Instead I keep quite the selection of teas at my desk (peak was 19 different kinds, including medicinal), and a tin of cocoa mix. It is very important to me that tea and chocolate be fair trade certified, or fairly traded for herbs when there’s no certification available. Currently, I’m out of tea as I switch from tea bags to loose teas and in the intervening time since I’m out of tea I’m taking the lazy(?) way out and instead of doing without I’m using the macha tea provided in the break room. I hope that since it is a Japanese tea, it might be actually grown in Japan where fair trade certification does not apply.

My third example is junk food snacks. One of my strategies for reducing junk food consumption and trash is to bring my own snacks to the office. A square of high quality fair-trade dark chocolate and/or a piece of fresh fruit at my desk helps me ward off the siren call of a Reese’s cup or cookie left over from someone’s meeting. The sugary snacks in the break room usually offer me zero satisfaction, contribute to long term increased sugar cravings, and create relatively high volume of waste. My sweet snacks provide me with as much satisfaction as I want, and create little to no non-biodegradable waste. A container of carrots, tomatoes, or other vegetables helps me keep away from the bags of chips in the break room, and was instrumental in overcoming my cracker addiction.

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Conscious Kitchen Challenge, Beverages   Leave a comment

One of the blogs that I read regularly, Ask An Organic Mom, is doing a conscious kitchen challenge to promote her new book. I’m taking the challenge and posting my results here. The first part was a self-exam, the second was about shopping, the third was fruits and vegetables, the fourth was meat, the fifth was seafood, and the sixth is beverages. I haven’t read her book, so the challenge is limited to what she posted in her blog. When I saw this part of the challenge I said “ooh, an easy one!”

The first half of this challenge deals with water. And that’s what I drink mostly. At home I drink straight out of the tap, at sit down restaurants I drink water that is probably tap water, at serve-your-own-drinks type restaurants I get water from the water button on the soft drink dispenser so I think that is probably just tap water, at work I drink filtered tap water. We used to have those 5-gallon water bottles but just as I started seriously preparing for pregnancy and thinking that I needed to leave behind the convenience of the water cooler, the water delivery guy suggested that we switch to a new water cooler that gets the water through a reverse osmosis filter hooked up to our tap. (My concern with the 5-gallon water bottles was the plastic type; I think they are polycarbonate and hence have problems with BPA/estrogenic compounds.) I do plan on getting my water tested when we move into our new house, and I still need to download the water quality report, but I plan on continuing to drink tap water.

As for water bottles, I’ve really never gotten into the whole disposable water bottle thing. I do use the disposable water bottles for trips, but I’ve been carrying around a refillable water bottle since I was a freshman in high school. At that time it was a plastic water bottle. Then a few years ago I got a Sigg (which I thought at the time was stainless steel). Then when it came out that Sigg was shading the truth and their bottles are actually aluminum with a plastic coating, I decided I didn’t trust the company and replaced my Sigg water bottle with a stainless steel bottle from Green Bottle.

The second part of this challenge is “everything else”, which for me is pretty much just tea. I drink hot tea at work all day every day pretty much. I have 19 types of tea at my desk, including black, green, white, and herbal/medicinals. I insist on fair trade certified tea, and even some of my herbal teas are fair trade. Generally they are also organic; actually I think they all are organic. I’m currently getting ready to transition to almost all loose-leaf whole-leaf teas on the theory that there is less energy/material inputs than for bagged tea. At home in the summer I make sun tea, which is of course fair trade and requires no energy input for the brewing.

Every once in a while I will enjoy an alcoholic drink and I do have to admit that I don’t focus too much on organic in this realm. I’m allergic to barley and hence have to drink wheat beers. Since it is already a challenge to find beers that I can drink without getting a horrible stomach ache, I don’t complicate it further by insisting on organic. As for wine, my husband buys that as he’s the wine snob. For the most part I think we have California wines. I would be very interested in organic wine, but as I said I’m not the one doing the shopping. When it comes to hard alcohol and mixed drinks again I defer to my alcohol snob husband. We have some amazingly high quality liquors on our counter (especially Scotch and tequila)! I really could care less if they are organic because they are essentially artisan made goodness. When it comes to mixers, though, I start getting picky because I think high fructose corn syrup (HFCS) tastes disgusting and I don’t enjoy mixers made with HFCS. That pretty much rules out 95% of commercial drink mixers. Even tonic water contains HFCS! Instead I tend to buy juice and then never finish the bottle so it sits in our fridge for months and months and months and months (it’s actually amazing how long juice can last in the fridge; especially if you don’t mind a little fermentation). Not exactly a great choice, but I haven’t worked out a better system yet.

And then there’s the unmentionables: sodas. I think I’ve had one soda, maybe two so far this year, I can’t remember very well. I pretty much stopped drinking soda early in my high school years. And I’ve never looked back.

I used to make myself drink juice, but I gave that up. One should not have to force oneself to drink something that’s supposed to enjoyable. I don’t know why I don’t gravitate to juice, but I don’t.

Posted July 30, 2010 by mayakey in food, organic

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Aaah, Sun Tea   3 comments

…one of the best things about summer.

Although, making sun tea is now apparently discouraged. Since the water temperature never reaches boiling, it won’t kill any bacteria on the tea bags or in the water. Instead, the warm water could actually help bacteria to flourish. Okay, I’ll grant you that, but personally, I am not willing to give up my sun tea habit. I grew up on sun tea and I love it. For me, balancing the risks and rewards leaves me with: enjoy my sun tea. A big part of that is the fact that I’ve never personally known anyone to get sick from sun tea. So I question how serious the risk really is. Yes, in theory a jar of water in the sun is a great environment for bacteria, but a quick look around the kitchen reveals countless other great environments for bacteria. I am inclined to say if my tea was cloudy or had visible biofilm in the jar I would not drink it. Plus, I can’t find anything on the internet that actually tells me what might happen if one consumed the bacteria of concern, Alcaligenes viscolactis. I found nothing when I actually searched the CDC website, either, despite finding numerous references to CDC as the source of the “don’t do sun tea” guideline. So I don’t personally feel that the risk outweighs the rewards. Of course, everyone has their own unique place on the risk-reward spectrum, and therefore a different conclusion.

I do take precautions: I brew my tea in small batches using glass jars that originally held juice. No plastic, no fancy doodads with nozzles or spouts, just a glass jar and a lid. The tea doesn’t sit around for long since one jar makes enough for two glasses of tea, and depending on how hot the weather is that is either one evening or two. I have multiple jars so that I can rotate them every day, with one in the fridge chilling while the other is outside steeping. This allows me to wash the empty jar each evening and leave it to air dry before making another batch of tea the next day. I inspect the lids after every use and make sure they are clean.

What is it about sun tea? I’m not really sure. I don’t remember noticing that sun tea really tastes different than regularly brewed tea (except for the addition of a mint sprig). I guess part of it is the tangible proof of the power of the sun. It kind of feels like a daily science experiment. Plus, it’s easy, impossible to screw up, and almost free (except for the cost of the tea itself and a few cents for the water) since there’s no energy cost. Personally, I feel more connected to the earth drinking sun tea compared to iced tea made in the kitchen.

As for the tea itself, I grew up on the standard of two Lipton bags with a sprig of mint, but I have done some experimentation to find my favorite iced tea. The world of tea is so big! I’ve tried Orange Pekoe, Darjeeling, Earl Gray, Gunpoweder Green, jasmine green, and a green tea blend. Right now my favorite is a blend: 1 bag of Orange Pekoe and 1 bag of Gunpowder Green with a sprig of mint. Surprisingly, I also enjoyed jasmine green tea so I’ll do that every once in a while for variety. Of course, all of my tea is Fair Trade; I won’t buy anything else. I think Fair Trade is a topic for a whole separate post, though.

Posted June 14, 2010 by mayakey in food, simple living

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