How to make sure what you are drinking is as 'green' as possible

There has been a lot in the press recently about the revelation that nearly all teabags contain plastic. Therefore, today's blog is all about what we drink and the choices that we have concerning our beverages.

Tea bags
If you compost you'll know that tea bags don't seem to break down completely anymore.

 The truth is now out, that the majority of them contain plastic Are Teabags Biodegradable?  Apparently, 'food safe' resin allows the paper fibres of the teabags to bind together.

If the tea bags themselves are plastic free, what about the plastic bag they are sealed in, the cellophane round the box, the plastic-foil wrapper, the staple or the individually packaged tea bag? Some are certainly better than others.

I've just had a closer look at this - no plastic in the teabag (the sides are closed with the string, rather
than 'glued'), no staple, it's organic and Fairtrade...and the wrapper seems to be made of paper, however it is a little bit shiny, almost waterproof, because it probably contains some bloody plastic :(

One of the answers may be to get your teapot back out.  

Of course loose tea tastes so much better anyway, but there are still issues with most of the packaging.  And apparently you have to spend more and buy 'long leaf' tea, or you'll just get a lot of dust at the bottom of the packet!

Pods, pouches, packaging galore.  If you do use Tassimo pods, you can give them to the charity Kicks Count who can send them for recycling whilst raising some funds.

At least glass coffee jars are recyclable and coffee grinds and filter papers are compostable.  In fact coffee grounds are excellent for composts.  Some cafés and supermarkets let you take them away - Waitrose in Great Malvern and Cheltenham both have boxes outside their stores with, 'please help yourself' signs.  Why not ask your favourite local café if you can have their coffee grounds?

If you do drink tea and coffee, please ask for it in a proper (washable / reusable) cup and if you have take-outs, get yourself a reusable container (Oxfam sell these) and ask the shop to fill it.  Despite people thinking they are, the majority of take away coffee cups are NOT recyclable, due to their waterproof, polyacetylene coating. Read all about it here Coffee Cups, Not Recyclable.

I very rarely drink any caffeine now.  I 'weaned' myself off coffee as a Green New Year resolution one year, mainly because I learnt that the amount of water used in the growing of and production of coffee is enormous (much higher than tea).  Plus the food (drink) miles.  Ok, it may seem fairly extreme, but I felt that I was running out of new green things to do!  I had been reducing my coffee intake and was down to one cup first thing in the morning, then I stopped and had a headache for three days - from just one cup a day!  I have too much energy now, so I am seriously considering going back to caffeine (joking - about the caffeine part).

Someone else I know, was a big tea drinker; eight plus cups a day.  He decided to stop drinking tea and didn't do it gradually.  Apparently, he was horrible to live with for two weeks - foul tempered, vile headaches and sleepless nights...Happily, things have since much improved.

'Energy' Drinks
There is a call to ban the sale of Energy Drinks to children under sixteen.  Some supermarkets are already doing / considering this.   There is plenty of information about their effects and ingredients.  Try coming off them to find your true energy levels improve.

During spring, summer and autumn I drink water flavoured with peppermint or lemon balm, straight from the garden. Simple, organic, without any packaging and the leaves are free too.

In the winter, I drink peppermint 'tea' and I'm on a quest to find some without any plastic in the packaging or the teabags. Please help if you have a source.  I've tried drying my own, but I must be doing something wrong.  Plus, drinking around nine cups a day, I don't especially want to spend more on tea than I do on wine ;)

And thank goodness wine comes in glass bottles.  Which leads nicely onto...

Years ago, we were having a conversation about food miles and had a Eureka moment, that perhaps we should consider wine miles too.  We grow some very fine white wine in the UK now and some of the best wine in the world comes from Europe.  Incidentally, new world wines (Australia, New Zealand, North and South America etc) tend to be much more industrially produced too.  Try to avoid buying wine in plastic bottles and also in those boxes which mostly have non recyclable 'bladders'.  There are lots of lovely, organic and Biodynamic wines to choose from these days as well.

Why we should have corks 
Here are some interesting websites and which stress why we need to keep using traditional corks rather than the - yes you guessed it - new plastic ones, (or screw tops).  Cork Forest Conservation.  It's actually really important for our Environment to keep the cork forests alive as they are part of our eco-system.  Cork Sustainability.  And of course you can reuse your corks by turning them into a proper cork board, or even a cork bath mat.

Get yourself a lovely reusable water bottle and be thoroughly appreciative that we have, and can drink the tap water in this country.  If I'm ever in Malvern, I take large containers to stock up and fill  with the natural spring water which is lovely.   Some people say water is boring, but I don't agree with this and prefer to avoid myriad artificial sweeteners, sugar, colours and goodness know what else contained in squash and various other alternatives.

To back me up, one of my favourite Facebook posts ever, went something along the lines of,
'You would't dream of giving this shit (sweet, fizzy drinks) to your pets, so why do you give it to your kids?'

Fruit Juice
After watching That Sugar Film, I don't drink much of this now either.  We think it's healthy, but actually it's a very condensed form of sugar, albeit natural - think about it, if you eat a whole apple or an orange, you're also digesting the roughage, take that out and you're drinking pure fruit sugar - nature actually intended you to eat one apple or orange at a time - the whole thing, not just the sweet part.  I'm not saying don't ever drink fruit juice, but do be aware of what it really is.

Straws are often unnecessary and a complete waste.  Here's an article all about them: Straws.  If you do need to use a straw, there are stainless steel or bamboo alternatives and please remember to ask at the point of ordering your drink, (in restaurants, pubs and cafés etc), not to be given a straw.  As more people do this, alternatives will start to follow, or at least they may begin to ask if you'd like one rather than automatically put one in your drink.  Some places charge a £1 deposit which you get back when returning your stainless steel straw, or you can keep it so that you'll always have one on you!

Years ago I used to drink the occasional coke in a brandy, but I stopped, partly because I didn't want to support that fairly well known brand and also because I remembered the 'leave a dirty coin in Coke experiment' and my mind suddenly said 'are you crazy? Are you going to put that inside your body?'  If you've forgotten the test, Sublime Science will remind you.   We think it's ok, because it is available everywhere, (especially on my litter picks!), we think it's normal because it's advertised ubiquitously, it sponsors all sorts of things and it's what millions of people choose to drink. Heck, it even had enough influence to turn Father Christmas red!  Think about this and you may start to wonder who else these multi-million pound brands can leverage.  Personally, I don't wish to support them and have them dictate things in my life that I may not even be aware of.

Nestle are amongst other things, apparently the world's largest producer of bottled water, which may be why they also believe that water isn't a universal right...but I'll let someone else tell you about how great they aren't in this article Nestle exposed and of course they own a huge number of other brands too...

As mentioned, it's almost guaranteed that on any litter pick, I'll find plastic bottles.  Look at this picture taken yesterday, washed up by recent high water levels in the river.  Notice the number of drinks containers.  Can you spot them all?  The fifth one is only just visible at the water's edge, it has a black lid, (answer revealed in next week's blog).

By the way, if you do ever buy a bottle in a café or restaurant, take it home and recycle it yourself as the majority don't have recycling facilities.

And it's not just in our rivers either, these came from the woods.

Sea pollution
Plastics in our ocean are yet another reason to stop buying plastic where ever possible.  You can sign a Friends of the Earth petition here FoE Plastic Oceans Campaign and read more about avoiding Plastics in a previous blog EcoCody Alternatives to plastic.

If you drink it, do try to buy it in glass bottles.  Better still, consider drinking less of it.  Increasingly studies are saying that it's not good for us, causing everything from acne to allergies. I don't like it, so it's not hard for me not to drink it.

The alternative?
I know that you've all been thinking, 'Cate gave up Coke in her occasional brandy, so what has she replaced it with?' The good news is that coincidentally, this mix also goes particularly well with another occasional tipple.

Yes it is more expensive than its plastic counterparts, but it comes in a glass bottle, and apart from some sugar (which I still prefer to sweeteners), it hasn't got any 'nasty' ingredients.  As stated, it's only for special occasions, so I feel these are made even more so.  Goes surprisingly well with the brandy.

Write to them
Write letters, emails or tweets to companies and demand plastic free.  I had a very quick and positive response from We Are Tea, who have "made a commitment to get rid of plastic completely by the end of the year."

Some of the things that I chose to do may appear radical, but I'm by no means saying you should or shouldn't drink this or that - I hope that I've given you some information that you may not already have been aware of.  Whatever you drink, be it soft, caffeinated, or alcoholic, use the power that you have as a consumer to let companies know exactly how you'd like your liquid refreshments.   Cheers!


  1. Have you considered freezing your own peppermint, instead of drying it?


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