Industry News

Recycle: Effective Ways to Heal the World

How can you make an important difference in the world? You are already providing the world's most recyclable product-tea-but did you know there are many other ways to join the recycle campaign and save our world's resources? Does your garbage collector accept segregated waste (paper, bottles, garbage) and if not, who does? What local agencies accept food and what are their criteria for donations? Want some easy ways to get started? Here are ten:

Bears, discussing our wastefulness.
Bears, discussing our wastefulness.

1. Don't Throw Away the Brewed Tea!
Did you know that tea is a totally recyclable plant? The waste from brewed tea is a gardener's delight. The spent leaves are excellent as mulch and worms LOVE teas, so compost owners, take note. Keep a metal or crockery bowl for the spent leaves. Invite local community gardeners to use the leaves for free if they pick it up weekly. They'll get the benefit in their gardens, and you'll get the satisfaction of recycling locally. You can put the tea waste container outside your shop and fill it up daily as necessary.

"Re-dried", the leaves are often used by local craftspeople for sleep pillows and potpourri. Ask your favorite sources if they can use recycled leaves (and what health issues must be addressed.)

Instead of throwing the leftover liquid down the drain, use it to "water" trees or plants or flowers. The nutrients will nourish your plants and help them grow fuller and faster. NOTE: If you find that most customers leave half-pots of tea, find out why. Are you offering pots that are too large for one person to consume? Is the brewing less than perfect? Have they received one water replenishment too many? A little leftover is normal; half-pots are unwarranted waste.

2. Avoid selling tea that's beyond its prime, give it away instead!
Selling loose-leaf tea or teabags, which have been sitting on the shelf way too long, will displease the customer and hurt your reputation. Get a tax write-off instead. Give the tea to your local Meals-on-Wheels or other social service agencies to see who would be interested in picking up teas. NOTE: Better to buy in small quantities and reorder more often than to load up your shop with too much tea that will sit too long.

3. Give Away Unused Food. Have you over-estimated quantities needed?
Instead of throwing out uneaten sandwiches or sweets, consider giving them away to homeless shelters and other food-recycling sources. Many restaurants throughout the country have become a good source for food banks and services that provide meals by connecting with their local social services agencies. You'll have to follow their guidelines for health and sanitation, but wouldn't it be great that hungry people will eat today because of your generosity? Many take packaged foods, too, so ask for their list of acceptable donations. NOTE: If you find you are left with too much food all the time, rethink your buying and preparation models; they may use an adjustment. It's just as wasteful to overdo as to throw out good food or goods.

4. Use Recycled Products Whenever You Can.
What paper shopping bags, tags, gift cards, wrapping paper, and shipping boxes are you using? Check your current sources for the availability of recycled products. The next time you attend a gift show, receive a catalog, or see your paper products representative, ask about the new additions to recycled products. You'll be pleasantly surprised at the continuingly growing list of product choices and improved quality and pricing. NOTE: If you do nothing else but avoid plastic bags you'll be giving the world a tremendous gift.

Many paper products for retail businesses are already made from small trees grown and harvested for this purpose, not from fully-grown, aged trees. PLASTIC DOES NOT DISINTEGRATE. If you must use plastic products, use recyclable bottles and bags. Styrofoam "popcorn" is a terrific product for protecting fragile items, however, it lasts forever and does not disintegrate! It does not break down in dumps. At the very least, use recycled popcorn, but ask your suppliers for other products you can use that can be just as effective in protecting products you mail. Shredded newspapers work wonderfully, and they recycle your daily paper to boot.

5. Give a discount for customers who bring in their own tins or bags, or who re-use your shop's tins or bags.
This will not only save you money, it will certainly save additional paper and tin. Giving a discount off a purchase is incentive enough for customers to bring in their containers. Simply weigh the tea as you usually would, scoop it into the customer's container, and realize that with this small gesture, you're helping to save the world's resources of metals, papers, and peripheral materials.

6. Laminate When Appropriate.
Lamination saves wear and tear and numerous replacements of paper products you use to promote your goods and services. If you have menus, tent cards, educational materials, or promotional items that do not change often, laminate them. You can clean them up with a light brush of a damp cloth, they stay fresh and crisp for a long time, and lamination will save you money by reducing printing costs.

7. Use Wipe-Off Boards Instead of Paper Signs.
Use chalkboards or wipe-off boards that use ink markers to indicate daily specials or new product information. No paper waste yet you can stimulate with color and art.

8. Use E-Mail vs. Snail Mail.
Have a growing mailing list? Use it to promote sales, new products and services? Ask your customers if it's okay to send this information to them via email? Mark a designation in your guest book for email addresses and use them! Saves paper, printing and postage costs, and LOTS of time. If you send newsletters or more complex promotions, consider doing these via e-mail, too.

9. Look Around Your Shop With Recycling in Mind.
What items do you replace daily? Can you find a way to recycle or replace them with items that do not need to be renewed? Figure out the costs of labor, soap, and water. Can you provide "real" cups and plates instead of plastic or Styrofoam ones without hurting your bottom line? Will a Palm Pilot system of order taking be more efficient and paper saving compared to the pads of paper you use? Are they more efficient? Is there a way to present gifts that uses less paper but still looks pretty? Do this at least once a year, like today!

10. Ask for Suggestions.
Tell your customers what you're doing and ask for their recycling suggestions. Use your e-mail to ask their help, and put up a sign asking for their help. The incentive? Give away some tea or gift item for the person who comes up with a solution that works for you. Make it a theme campaign, such as "Be a Sweetheart, Recycle" for February, or "We Spring Clean All Year Round, We Recycle", or something tied in with your shop's name.