5 Interesting Things I Learned about Fair Trade at this Fair Trade Tea Farm

In June, I had the amazing opportunity to visit India's largest organic and fair trade tea estate in the Assam region, on assignment for Numi Tea. Though I had just a short time at Tonganagoan Tea Estate, I got to tour a few of the 1235 acres of tea gardens that make up the estate, learn more about the fascinating and dramatic history of the tea estate (I wrote about that here: "How Tea Saved A Village"), and gain a new appreciation for the hard work that goes into each cup of tea that I enjoy (read more here)! 

In the video below, you'll see a few glimpses of what my trip entailed. Read on for a few insights into the world of fair trade agriculture that I gained! 

I guess I'm writing about politics and religion now, Damn it.

I woke up this morning to a flurry of posts on my social media feeds that made me sick to my stomach. While I slept, hundreds of white supremacist terrorists with tikki torches gathered in Charlottesville. Met by counter protestors, violence between the groups escalated and resulted in injury and even death for one demonstrator. The president of my country failed to condemn the terrorists' actions, instead issuing a statement that basically said both sides (white supremacists and peace activists alike) had behaved badly. 

I should mention that the "flurry of posts" I mentioned above mostly came from news outlets, activists, peace organizations that I follow, and one or two white friends. Mostly, though, silence from my 550, predominantly white, predominantly Christian, predominantly American facebook friends. 

So. While this platform is usually used for writing about ethical fashion and postive, upbeat stories of good stuff in the world... this is the platform that I have, and I have to use it to talk about this stuff, too. 

This post is written from me, an imperfect white-woman-"social-justice-warrior", to the "silent majority" that I see. People like me. 
 

Let's CONSIDER OUR HISTORY.
 

In his essay, "The Souls of White Folk", Author Stephen Jamal Leeper asks a thought- provoking question: "How has centuries of seeing one’s self as savior but operating as oppressor shaped white identity?". I have alot of thoughts on that subject, and someday (perhaps) I might write a longer post focusing on it. But for today, I just want to talk very personally about how "seeing one’s self as savior but operating as oppressor" is a part of my life. 
Growing up, my family was loving and tolerant. Our lives were focused around "doing good" and loving people in many ways. I was just a tiny kid when my parents started bringing me to the local nursing home to sing and play the piano and spend time with the elderly. We volunteered. We talked about the value of putting the needs and well-being of others above our own. I can not recall a single instance of my parents showing prejudice or any kind of altered behavior toward people of color/people of different faiths/people "different" than our family. I have a distinct, early memory of my dad calling out and condemning a racist joke that he heard another family member make- that stuck with my impressionable young mind. However, it also needs to be understood that also I didn't have any non-white friends growing up (this was rural Minnesota in the 90's) and very little exposure to cultures outside of my own beside what I learned from books, from school, and from "Sunday School" at church. 

When I was a child, I had an entire set of "missionary story" books. I pored over accounts of the lives of David Livingston, Amy Carmichael, and others. While I was inspired in a good way by some commendable actions (Most notably Amy Carmichael's early work combatting underage sex trafficking and her feminist tendencies in the 1800's), I was being programmed to admire and see as heroes people who ascribed to an idea of "missons" that I now see as inherently un-Christian and oppressive. I started to internalize at a young age that white people had a "mission" or responsibility to "save brown people". Of course, this has traditionally been done by forcing people of color to assimilate to white Christian culture. These missionaries that I was reading about as heroes were marching into foreign countries, "converting" the native people, forcing them to dress, talk, act, and even sing like white Americans- thus conveying the idea that white culture is somehow more "moral", superior, desirable. The Christian missions industry still largely operates in this way today, and these subtle perspectives were reinforced in me as I grew up in a church that raised thousands of dollars to send out "missionaries" on glorified vacations to prosthelytize the locals (often in already-predominantly-Christian countries, funnily enough). 

In school, Columbus was presented to me as a Christian hero and a great man, rather than a cruel, racist, genocidal maniac. Quotes like "Let us in the name of the Holy Trinity go on sending all the slaves that can be sold" were conveniently left out of books, and illustrations of Columbus kneeling in prayer were plastered on the pages. 

My history books skimmed over many of the atrocities committed against the Indigenous people of the Country I call home. I didn't know until I was twenty-seven years old that my country spent such a HUGE number of years actively at WAR with the original inhabitants of this "nation founded on Christian values". No one who taught me (even in college) really batted an eye at the fact that the most famous document in American history, the Declaration of Independence, STILL TO THIS DAY states that “all Men are created equal,” except, of course, for the “merciless Indian savages” mentioned within the next few lines. 

This spreadsheet lists every year in the USA's history. The red fields indicate years that we were actively at war with Native Americans. From a talk given by activist Mark Charles 

This spreadsheet lists every year in the USA's history. The red fields indicate years that we were actively at war with Native Americans. From a talk given by activist Mark Charles 

I, like most white Americans, would definitely say that "I am not racist", but the subtle influence of white supremacism is present in my life- and I believe that this holds true for most people with a similar history to mine. Even as an adult who has tried to become de-programmed from the wrong perspectives that I was fed, and who has soaked up as much knowledge as I can from non-white leaders and thinkers and activists who offer an antidote to my areas of ignorance, I am not completely free of ingrained prejudice. 

Does that make you as uncomfortable as it makes me? 
 

Let's EMBRACE OUR DISCOMFORT.
 

And let's not be ashamed of it. I really think that so much healing could take place, so many wonderful conversations could be had, if we would just stop worrying so much about "saying something wrong" or being misunderstood or being judged. Let's just be honest with each other. We need to be able to be honest in order to get down to the roots of racism and hatred. We need to be able to get down to the roots to eradicate it. 
 

Let's CALL OUT RACISM.


I am ashamed to admit this, but it's important. I have had so many opportunities to speak on behalf of justice, and I haven't done so.  Here's the thing. I don't get to be "too tired". I don't get to be embarrassed. I don't get to say "not today". I have a personal responsibility to live out what I believe regarding equality, love, and justice. Not to mention, my faith requires it ("Remember, it is sin to know what you ought to do and then not do it."- James 4:17). You have this responsibility too, if you are a white person who professes a belief in social justice. Let's face it- the most powerful and effective thing that we can do to fight racism isn't necessarily to to write about it or to speak publicly about it. It's having deep, personal conversations with the people in our own immediate sphere of influence. It's easier for me to write this post than it is for me to sit down with a racist relative to talk about our differences... but I recognize the latter as being even more powerful than the former in the long run. 

Let's LISTEN.

Let's not talk over people of color. Let's not speak FOR people of color. Let's listen, let's honor, let's lament, and let's have hard conversations.

That's enough words from me. To finish this post, I want to share some raw, real words from people I follow and learn from. 

"It's easy and even gratifying to point a self-righteous finger at the KKK/Alt Right marchers in #charlottesville. But their activities simply distract White America from doing the real work of excavating the white supremacy that is rooted deep down in every American institution, church, seminary and community. Everyone who participates in and benefits from whiteness is complicit in the hateful atrocities in Charlottesville. The same evil at work in Charlottesville is at work in American churches, seminaries, and communities." - Christena Cleveland

"Black folks aint hung up on the past. We mad about right now. THIS was last night. A mob of racists chanting "White Lives Matter" and "You Will Not Replace Us". The people in this photo (and those who sympathize with them) are not small in number, neither are they only in the south. They are in Orange County California and Portland Oregon. They are our classmates, teammates and neighbors. They are pastors, engineers , university professors, police officers, lawyers and judges. They are our crush's parents and siblings. THIS is why I lament for America. This is why I can't shut up" - Micah Bournes, Poet and Activist

Image: copyright Reuters via Standard Republic

Image: copyright Reuters via Standard Republic

“Does it bother you that unmasked members of the Ku Klux Klan will likely be in someone's church singing worship songs, praying, attending a church plant conference, or worse, policing our neighborhoods, teaching our children? Is there not an outrage from white-led churches and organizations to identify these KKK members and warn people of color? Does not the Holy Spirit compel you to preach a message this weekend to convict their hearts and transform their minds? Or are you still silent and complicit as the white nationalist power publicly terrorizes the rest of us?” -Rev. Michael McBride, LIVE FREE

Let's talk. If this resonates with you, if you hate it and disagree, if you feel your conscience nudging you.... I'd love to have a conversation. 

Matter Prints- More Than Just "Pants To See The World In" Now!

I’ve loved Matter Prints ever since a dear friend in Singapore, where Matter Prints is based, introduced them to me years ago. A clothing company taking traditional Asian garments and turning them into modern, wearable pieces that will last in your closet for decades while employing artisans practicing traditional crafts like weaving and block printing? My attention was caught!

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A Month in Review: June and July

Today, I thought that I’d try a little something different here on the blog. Back in the day, I used to post little life-updates. I miss that. There’s something that is soothing to me about writing down and documenting the things I know I’ll forget about in a month’s time. There’s something comforting in opening up and creating a bit more “closeness” in this online community…

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Mahagedara Retreat: The Most Eco-Conscious “Hotel” I’ve Ever Experienced

Mahagedara Retreat: The Most Eco-Conscious “Hotel” I’ve Ever Experienced

 I’ve traveled to many places where I’ve felt “at one with nature”, but I can’t think of a single location that tops Mahagedara Wellness Retreat and Spa for offering the perfect combination of luxury-level pampering and relaxation and nature immersion.

Mahagedara translates to “childhood home”, and you truly feel welcomed as part of the family from the moment that you step into the beautifully maintained grounds of the retreat.

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Kantala: Vegan Handbags That Aren't Made Out of Plastic + Support Weaving Artisans

Vegan handbags usually fit into one of two categories: “vegan leather” (which is usually made of polyvinyl chloride and other non-natural materials that are actually quite awful for the environment) or cloth/canvas (cute, but not very sturdy and a bit casual for those who prefer a more traditional looking purse. Up-and-coming Sri Lankan brand Kantala is bringing something new to the table with vibrant, woven handbags using carefully sourced, all natural materials paired with traditional shapes.

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Chai Overnight Oats

Chai Overnight Oats

Overnight oats has been my thing ever since I started attempting to live a more zero-waste life. It's easy to get the ingredients completely zero-waste (bring a cloth bag to the grocery store and fill it up with oats in the bulk section- usually grocery stores with small bulk sections at least have staples like oats and rice), it's cheap, and it can be made so many different ways!

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Reasons I thought about quitting blogging (and why I’m still doing it)

I’m frustrated with many aspects of blogging (as you have probably noticed from my tone on Instagram lately), and I wanted to be completely honest and share those with you. I have seriously considered quitting blogging in the past 6 months over the reasons listed below, and have decided not to. I’ll also be sharing how I plan to position my blog moving forward in this post.

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Marie Hell

I'm so thrilled that Marie Hell is radically transparent and actually willing to give consumers the information they ask for. As a blogger, it is usually incredibly difficult for me to pry information out of "ethical" brands to share with you, and I think that it speaks volumes of Marie Hell's integrity and the company's intentions that they are so confident in their transparency. 

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These Women are Walking Across Asia to Bring You Stories of Fair Fashion

veryone, meet your newest ethical fashion related obsession: Walk Sew Good. Made up of two smart and sassy women, Megan and Gab, team Walk Sew Good is currently walking across southeast Asia to gather positive stories about how your ethically-made clothes are produced and the affect that ethical business practices have on the people who make your clothes.

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Bunosilo will make ethical clothing just for you!

Based in India, this brand offers a colorful array of apparel and home goods made from primarily natural fabrics, with a price point ranging from about $20 to about $100. Your Bunosilo product will be made especially for you, upon ordering (you'll be able to choose the correct size and input any special custom requests at checkout), and will arrive on your doorstep in eco-friendly packaging, with your name on the tag! 

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Invigorating Green Tea Scrub for An At Home Spa Day

Invigorating Green Tea Scrub for An At Home Spa Day

Andrew knows exactly how to help me calm down and relax, and he specializes in planning day-long, elaborate scavenger hunts, building blanket forts, and planning DIY "spa days". He often surprises me at the end of a long trip or a hard day with a spotless bathroom equipped with candles, cucumber water, fresh flowers, and a variety of homemade, zero-waste and all-natural bath and body products- like DIY bubble bath and tea soaks! His latest creation is a green tea sugar scrub using Numi Tea's Matcha Green Tea Powder

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Is Ethical Fashion Elitist?

We often make blanket statements like "If we all changed our consumption habits, we could change the fashion industry!". But are we really asking everyone to change their consumption habits? And is that fair? For me, the answer is "no". At this point in my life, the vast majority of my friends, and the people I spend the most of my time with are not well-to-do and it seems ridiculous to encourage them to buy a $22.00 pair of organic and fair trade underwear when they are just trying to get by and cover rent and food for the month.

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My Friends Are Garment Makers: When "Fashion Revolution" Gets Personal

The longer I'm here in the beautiful Philippines, the more personally connected to the cause of "fashion revolution" I become. In just a few short months, I've befriended women in the garment industry, met local, small ethical fashion businesses and listened to their struggles to survive and "make it" without compromising on fair wages, and have even gotten the inside scoop on the big fast fashion manufacturing factories here. 

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Zero Waste Hair Care

This post is brought to you in partnership with Numi Tea. I'm compensated for my work for Numi, a company that values all the workers + voices that bring Numi to you! 

Hi, I'm Hannah and I haven't purchased shampoo or conditioner in plastic bottles for 6 months! Establishing a zero-waste hair care routine that worked for me took a little time (and several failed attempts at the "no poo" method), but I think I've cracked the code! Here's what I'm currently using to keep my scalp clean and happy: 

1. Shampoo Bar

After trying a few shampoo bars that were a bit more "clean" with their ingredients but didn't work well for my hair, I settled on the bars I found at LUSH. My favorite is the Seanik bar, but I've tried a few others as well that were all great! I'm really happy with this option, even though there are a few ingredients that I could do without, because LUSH shampoos are available locally here in the Philippines (so I don't have to ship a tiny bar of soap across the ocean), and because they are SO easy to purchase completely packaging-free! 

2. Baking Soda and Vinegar

I really do use baking soda and vinegar for cleaning EVERYTHING! Even though the no-poo method didn't work well for me, I still occasionally wash my hair with a baking soda paste if I feel like there's any buildup. I make sure to condition with a diluted apple cider vinegar rinse, too! 

3. Tea Rinses

Sometimes my hair needs a little extra help. Between constantly being exposed to super-intense sunlight here in the Philippines, and the inevitable scalp-sweating that is causing me to experience a bit of dandruff (not normal for me!), my locks are taking a bit of a beating. I try to pamper my scalp every once in awhile, and one of my favorite ways to do that (because it's easy and I don't have to mix up multiple ingredients) is with tea rinses. Tea is naturally an astringent, which means that it helps break up excess oil on your scalp and in your hair follicles, and different types of tea have different benefits as well.  

Numi Chamomile Tea
Chamomile tea is supposed to lighten and condition your hair. I first read about this in an herbalist's book when I was a teenager but didn't try it out until recently... I'm attempting to even out my unfortunately half-tone hair (the result of recklessly deciding to have my hair dyed- never again!). I'm not certain if it's just the time I've spent in the sun recently or if the tea is doing it's thing, but my hair is gaining some lighter streaks! 

Numi Mate Lemon Green Tea
The anti inflammatory properties of green tea help minimize dandruff, and invigorate your scalp. This one's my favorite. 

Numi Golden Chai Black Tea
The Caffeine in black tea helps to stop hair shedding by counteracting the hormones that cause your hair follicles to shrink and "kill" hair strands. You can use any black tea but this one smells SO amazing. 

To treat yourself to a tea hair treatment, steep 2 tea bags in a few cups of water. soak your hair with the mixture, and then wrap your head in a wet towel and let it sit for 30-45 minutes before rinsing out. If you try it, let me know how your hair reacts? What zero waste routines work for your hair? 

Zero Waste Kitchen Solutions from SuperBee

This post is in collaboration with SuperBee. I was not compensated for this post, but I was sent a free set of wax wraps to try. 


Plastic cling wrap and paper towels were two of the very last non-eco-friendly items still in our kitchen as we made the transition to a more zero-waste lifestyle. Andrew especially had a difficult time giving up the convenience of these two single-use, everyday products (how many 90’s-era kids didn’t grown up using paper towels constantly?).

IMG_0326.JPG

Finally, however, we cut ourselves off and stopped buying plastic wrap. For lack of a better alternative we started simply putting everything in glass jars in the refrigerator, but that’s not always ideal… It’s a bit difficult to fit a half-eaten sandwich or a block of cheese in a jar!

Enter SuperBee wax wraps. After trying to make my own wax wraps (and failing miserably- that’s another story for another time), I discovered this lovely, small and ethical company based in Thailand.

SuperBee wax wraps come in a variety of sizes and styles, and are made with only locally sourced and natural/biodegradable materials: 100% cotton, OTOP-certified pure beeswax, organic coconut oil, and tree resin. They’re easy to use, easy to clean, and affordable!

More important, still, than creating products that make zero-waste living easier for conscious consumers, SuperBee is providing good wages.

Going beyond just the bare minimum required by “fair trade”, SuperBee’s employees make 20% more than the living wage calculated by the Fair Trade Association. It’s a number that SuperBee founder Antoinette hopes will grow, as the company grows and more orders come in. In her words, “I believe generosity breeds prosperity”.

The women employed by SuperBee also enjoy the flexibility of bringing their kids along to work when they need to due to school holidays. 

Wax wraps aren’t sticky or messy, as you might assume, and they’re easily washed with warm water and mild soap. Because they form easily around whatever object you wrap, they can be used for everything from storing half an onion to covering a casserole dish!

I’ve mostly used mine for storing cut veggies- since I have a tiny refrigerator in my tiny apartment, it’s necessary for me to have space-saving solutions like this (I can only fit so many jars and bento boxes in there)!

I’ve come across several wax wrap brands, but SuperBee is by far the most transparent with regard to manufacturing, ingredients, and worker wages, AND the most stylish (there are colorful patterns to match any kitchen’s décor, as well as natural and earth-toned sets for the color-adverse like myself)- giving them my stamp of approval.

Check out SuperBee’s beautiful website to learn more about the SuperBee story!

SustainabiliTEA: Numi Talks Business

This post is brought to you in partnership with Numi Tea. I'm compensated for my work for Numi, a company that values all the workers + voices that bring Numi to you! 

If you've caught my angsty posts on social media lately, you'll know that I'm struggling with all the feelings of betrayal after discovering that some of the ethical companies I'd loved.... well, aren't really ethical. In the midst of this activist identity crisis (who can I trust? have I wasted my time?), Today's interview with Numi Organic Tea is giving me life. 

I've been thinking a lot about whether companies can remain "ethical" as they grow.  I had some tough questions for favorite tea brand (and long-time L+S+J collaborator) Numi to answer, and Numi's Director of Quality, Sourcing & Sustainability, Jane Franch,  graciously stepped up to answer them! Jane is currently leading the development of Numi’s climate initiative, among other exciting projects. Prior to Numi, Jane worked at SCS Global Services with clients large & small to develop, implement and maintain robust & credible ethical sourcing programs. Her work has taken her to 5 continents and countless villages, where she has had the privilege of getting to know the people and places that grow our tea, coffee, cocoa, coconuts, hazelnuts, mangos, and many other delicious treats.

Hannah: Numi has experienced some wonderful growth since the company’s beginnings in 1999. What have some of the challenges been in “scaling up” operations while still remaining true to Numi’s ethical standards?   

Jane: We’ve been fortunate in that as we’ve scaled, our suppliers have also grown with us. This is a reflection of the growth in general in the organic, socially certified CPG space. Nonetheless, we have faced challenges in scaling up, primarily related to material availability and managing costs. Because we place an emphasis on our supply chain partnerships and continuity in sourcing, and we require both organic and Fair Trade certification in most cases, we are sometimes faced with material shortages that limits our decision making. Similarly, as we’ve grown we’ve had to keep a keen focus on cost efficiency, which sometimes means prioritizing our sustainability objectives in terms of impact and value to the brand.

H: About how many workers are employed by Numi supply partners? How does Numi manage the company’s supply chain to ensure ethical treatment of everyone involved in the manufacturing of Numi Products?

J: To give an idea of the scope of our supply base, we currently source 150+ ingredients from 26+ countries, although ~75% by volume is coming from 6 distinct supply chains. Within those 6 distinct supply chains I would estimate there are approximately 7,000 farmers and/or workers.

When seeking new opportunities, whether on the customer side or the product development side, we lead with our mission and values. In terms of supply chain relationships, this boils down to knowing our suppliers, and making sure they know us as well. Before embarking on new supply chain relationships, we thoroughly vet potential partners through multiple onsite and remote meetings. Only once we’ve determined that we have a fit in terms of commitment to social impact and continuous improvement do we move forward with the relationship.  In addition to our up front emphasis on relationships, we approach ethical treatment of workers through a three avenues:

  • Numi Supplier Code of Conduct: our code of conduct outlines our expectations with regards to ethical conduct by our suppliers. All suppliers are provided with the Code of Conduct, and during site visits Numi representatives will conduct due diligence follow up as needed. Furthermore, where a supplier is working through a sub-supplier with whom Numi does not have a direct relationship, the primary supplier is responsible for implementing the Code of Conduct at the sub-supplier level.
  • Site visits: Among our core 6 supply chains, we visit each at least once on a three year cycle, although some supply chains we visit annually. By developing direct relationships with our suppliers, we better understand the challenges they may be facing, both in terms of delivering positive impact to the farming community or workforce, and delivering positive impact to the surrounding natural environment. Through this on the ground process, we can better identify opportunities to support the health and wellbeing of farmers, workers, and their families.
  • Certification: In addition to our Code of Conduct and face to face site visits with our key suppliers, we see certification as a valuable tool in further ensuring ethical practices within our supply chain. Currently, 67% of our product is socially certified by an independent 3rd party organization. 60% is Fair Trade certified through FLO-Cert, and 7% is Fair Labor Practices & Community Benefits verified through SCS Global Services. Certification offers robust and credible validation, and is particularly useful in those situations where perhaps our relationship to the producer is through an exporter or trader, and is not direct.

H: Do you think it’s possible for ethical companies to compete in a mainstream market without compromising ethics? If so, how? 

J: Yes, and Numi is a prime example. What we are seeing now is the values of the ethical consumer are becoming more mainstream, particularly as the millennial consumer comes of age. They are looking for companies with integrity who share their values, while also wanting a safe, clean product that tastes good.  Looking at Numi as an example, while we continue to be strong in the natural channels, we are also making inroads into the mainstream market, notably with stores such as Target and Kroger. The natural products industry is booming and becoming more mainstream to the average consumer; brands with certifications are now widely available across all categories and natural product sales grew by nearly 8% in the U.S. in 2016.

Price continues to be a challenge, and yet trends are also showing that consumers are willing to pay more for a premium ethical product if they have a high degree of trust in the brand and the values are aligned with their own.

H: Numi sells wholesale with several large retailers. Does the way that the wholesale system currently works lend itself well to fair wages for all? With so many “cuts” being taken by the various hands involved in the wholesale deal, how do you ensure that workers still get their fair “cut”?

J: Notwithstanding the challenges inherent in the current distribution model, Numi has a firm commitment to ensure that we are paying fair prices for our raw ingredients. This emphasis on the ingredients ensures that farmers and workers are getting a fair deal, and that consumers are also getting the most premium product available. This sometimes means that we have to cut costs in other ways, usually through simple packaging rather than fancy tins and canisters. We also evaluate new sales opportunities and product development ideas with the ingredients in mind, and avoid opportunities that would compromise our values and commitments at origin.

H: Can a large ethical company still be a “slow” company (in relation to the “slow food” movement)?

J: Thinking about the slow food movement as a return to local food traditions and knowing where your food comes from, I think it depends on the company. We are seeing industry-wide – and have for some time now – a trend towards transparent, traceable supply chains. From an organics and food safety standpoint, these supply chains have always been traceable, it’s the transparent piece that is new, and driven by both consumer demand and the growing awareness among brands that it makes good business sense to know your suppliers.

I would consider Numi a small to medium sized company. For us, our values have been at the center of our decision making every step of the way. As we’ve grown, so too has the list of spices, herbs and florals that we are incorporating into our blends. While we have maintained those close, direct relationships with the farms providing our top ingredients – green tea, black tea, puerh, mint, chamomile, rooibos, and turmeric – we’ve had to rely on our blending partners to source high quality, ethical ingredients for the minor spices, etc. This is part of the reason we developed our Code of Conduct, to ensure that our values were present even when we could not be present ourselves to meet the farmers, workers, and processors.

H: Let’s talk about packaging and shipping. How can larger companies reduce or offset the inevitable footprint of these areas of their operations?

J: We approach this through “reduce what we can, offset the rest”. Meaning, we reduce unnecessary packaging, both in our finished consumer goods and in the inevitable upstream shipping materials. Our purchasing and production schedule is designed for efficiency such that we are buying and shipping by the container/truck load and/or pallet load most of the time. This helps to avoid unnecessary emissions from partial shipments or air shipments that might be more typical in a “just in time” purchasing model.

We also do an annual calculation of our shipping emissions and offset these with verified carbon credits through the Carbonfund.org. Since we started offsetting in 2011, we have offset nearly 5 million pounds of CO2 equivalent. Currently, our purchased credits are supporting a small-scale hydro project in India and a wind farm in China.

Our vision for the future is to inset all of our scope 1, 2 and 3 emissions in our own supply chain through adoption or amplification of carbon sequestering regenerative farming practices with our key suppliers. Not only does this have a tremendous potential to reduce the impacts of climate change, it also supports the health and wellbeing of our farming communities by building productive, healthy, biodiverse farm ecosystems.

H: For Numi, how necessary is plastic/non-biodegradable packaging? Is the use of plastic materials limited?

J: Over the years, we have worked to drive innovation in sustainable packaging. We are proud of our achievements as a market leader in the use of 85%+ postconsumer waste paperboard for our cartons, SFI certified corrugate for our shipping boxes, biodegradable non-GMO filter paper for our teabags, and recycledpaper in our teabag overwrap. However, we are also mindful of the need to preserve product freshness so that the premium quality of the product is maintained all the way through to the end consumer. This has been a challenge with our overwrap, which is a 3-layer material with paper, foil and a petroleum based freshness sealant. Through the Sustainable Packaging Coalition and OSC2, we’ve worked with like-minded brands and the packaging industry to develop a biodegradable, non-GMO flexible packaging material that ensures quality while also delivering on sustainability. We are currently testing this material and hope to launch it in our finished products sometime next year.

On the upstream side, our challenge is the shrink wrap that is used to hold a pallet load together. For pallets coming to us in Oakland we have found a recycler that accepts this grade of plastics for recycling, however this is not a perfect solution. Often these lower quality plastics are difficult to recycle into any usable secondary product, and the required energy and associated emissions from doing so can outweigh the benefits. We’d love to see a market innovation for a non-petroleum, renewable shrink wrap alternative. Any ideas out there? 

H: Finally, within your role at Numi, what are you the most passionate about, personally?

J: Personally I am most at home on the farm. I love walking the farm with the farmers and workers, learning about how and why they manage the way they do, being inspired by their passion for organics and land stewardship. And building communi’tea with the faces and places where our tea, herbs, and spices are grown. There is so much we have in common as people, and so much beauty in our differences. Working for Numi I have the privilege and opportunity to celebrate our shared values while doing business for good.

H: Is there anything else you’d like to share with the Life+Style+Justice audience?

Keep drinking Numi tea, and keep asking questions! It’s up to consumers like each of you to hold brands accountable and strive towards the vision of an equitable, ethical economy. 

Workwear, Beachwear, Casual Wear, These Ethically Made Silk Shirts Do It All!

Disclosure: I was not compensated for this post, but The Fable sent me the featured tops for review. 

I was immediately impressed when I discovered The Fable brand. First, they carry all my favorite colors: black! white! navy blue! grey! Second, they fill a niche that's lacking in the ethical fashion industry- classy, affordable silk tops (yes, we have Everlane, but their somewhat dubious ethics have made some conscious consumers, myself included, wary about buying from them. Third, the transparency on their website is fantastic, complete with photos of the process of manufacturing each of their signature pieces. 

If you've been following me for any length of time, you know that I love versatile pieces (my tiny wardrobe is full of items that can work for just about any style, and everything in my wardrobe is pretty regularly rotated- I don't believe in "special occasion" clothes that only get trotted out once in awhile). 

I have been loving The Fable's silk tops, for that reason: They are amazing, neutral basics that can be added to any outfit! So far I've styled mine (the true white and dalmatian sleeveless options): 
-Under a suit
-As beachwear, thrown on open over a bikini and paired with slouchy pants
-Tied casually over sundresses
-Paired with dress slacks and a sweater for the office
-With ripped jean shorts and sunglasses
and I'm sure there are many combinations I haven't even thought of yet! 

The silk isn't fragile or see-through- It's surprisingly sturdy. I've been hand washing my The Fable tops in a bucket, as I do with most of my clothing here in the Philippines, and hanging them out to dry on my balcony with no issues whatsoever. 

I really appreciate the fact that I don't have to dry clean my tops, or "save" them for only office wear because I'm worried about ruining them.

The Fable shirts are designed in Australia and manufactured in Jaipur, India, under ethical labor standards. Tailors are paid double the standard "living wage" in India, never work longer than 8 hour days, and work in a well-ventilated, comfortable space with breaks for tea and company-provided lunch throughout the day. 

The fabric and buttons used for Fable shirts are dyed using low-impact, vegetable based dyes, but still come out with vibrant, deep hues. 

I love that The Fable shares photos not only of the skilled tailors who sew the shirts sold in the online shop, but photos of the workspace and sewing areas as well. It's so wonderful when brands are brave enough (or have enough integrity, really!) to give a glimpse into the reality of what goes on behind the scenes. 

The Fable shirts retail for $95.00-$125.00 (though some are currently on sale). Shipping is complimentary within Australia and New Zealand, and affordable everywhere else (only $10.00 to ship to the USA). 

I hope that these ethically made shirts fill a wardrobe gap for you like they did for me!

Two Weeks in the Philippines: An Update

It's been two and a half weeks since we landed in the Philippines. I wake up every morning blown away by how lucky I am to be here, and excited to start another day of learning and working and exploring. A few of the highlights so far have been: 

Discovering the Sunday market near our apartment. Fresh fruits and veggies in abundance (most of which I can buy without plastic, farmers' market style), beautiful plants and flowers, handcrafted goods, and FOOD STANDS. I'm slowly working on trying something from each vendor's stall. There are lots of healthy/sustainable options- from raw vegan brownies to raw milk and cheese to a huge variety of glass-bottled kombucha and probiotic drinks. 

Catching up at the shop! It's been wonderful to kick things into gear at the shop. We've started off the year by making some improvements to our workshop- a new floor to help with dust issues, a window (we had to knock a huge hole in the wall to install this in our previously windowless space!), and a new sewing machine. We're working on new products (lots of zero waste living products like cloth napkins and produce bags, and new tee designs) and planning for the next 6 months. We were able to just spend some time hanging out with the A Beautiful Refuge ladies and their kids, too, which was wonderful. Little Ryan had a birthday party and we enjoyed a huge feast and games (check out the video below to see Andrew and our friend Andy helping out with the Filipino version of the piñata). 

Hiking and camping in beautiful surroundings. Some of our wonderful new friends here invited us to join them on a quick weekend camping trip to BangKong Kahoy, a campsite and retreat nestled between two mountains. We had such a blast hiking up a mountain to taste the healing waters that flow there, road tripping while blasting 80's music, feasting on fresh, sustainably farmed food, and camping in the mountain air while listening to the rain fall on our tent. We got to meet and learn from the wisdom of the land's caretaker and water protector, and be inspired by his passion for caring for the environment.

Discovering new ethical brands. There are so many wonderful small local brands based in the area I'm living and I'm having so much fun getting to know them all! From clothing to bags to home goods to food, there's a rich variety of startups who are focused on ethics and sustainability. 

Getting into our new ethical living routine. It's been pretty easy to set ourselves up for minimal-waste living. There's a wonderful shop within walking distance, Ritual, that sells bulk items like all-natural laundry powder and baking soda, as well as cleaning supplies packed in recycled gin bottles and natural fiber brushes. I'll post an update soon on the product I've been using! 

Tiny apartment living has been awesome so far. Our space, measuring in units of Andrew, is about 1.5 Andrew's wide, and 3.5 Andrew's long. WE LOVE IT. It helps to have minimal belongings, as it's easy to keep the space feeling uncluttered and organized. 

Andrew put together this wonderful little video blog showing some glimpses of our life here over the past two weeks, hope you enjoy! 

Sloths, Toucans, and Trees that Walk: how Sumak Travel changed my perspective on DIY travel.

This post is on of several in a series on ethical tourism in Costa Rica, written by myself as well as Kasi (The Peahen Blog) and Simone (The Ethereal Edit).

To learn more about our experience with Sumak Travel, read Simone's post on Finca Sura organic farm, my posts on visiting San Jose and the Juanilama Community, and Kasi's posts on slow food and secondhand fashion

Hills surrounding Arenal volcano

Hills surrounding Arenal volcano

I watched a lot of nature documentaries as a kid, so the rainforest was pretty close to how I'd pictured it before visiting Costa Rica and experiencing it for the first time in real life. 

There were a few things that I didn't expect, however. The darkness, first of all. The tree canopy overhead is so thick that even on a bright, sunny day not much light filters down to the forest floor. Second, I didn't quite expect to feel so emotional while trekking, but I found myself quite overwhelmed by the beauty of nature, awed by the sheer diversity of plants and wildlife, and sobered as I thought of all the beautiful rainforest areas that have been destroyed or are in danger of disappearing. 
 

View from the rainforest trails near Arenal volcano 

View from the rainforest trails near Arenal volcano 

Third, I didn't expect to have my travel perspective changed. You see, I've always been a fiercely independent, DIY traveler. I love lists, I love planning, I love the thrill of showing up somewhere I've never been and navigating my way through a well-thought-out itinerary.

But then I met Jose Pablo, our guide booked through Sumak Travel. I love being around people who are truly passionate about what they do, and Jose certainly fits that description. His love for the wildlife, culture, history, and people of Costa Rica is apparent, and his knowledge on each of those subjects is extensive. I quickly realized that without Jose's guidance my experience would have been much less rich and informative. 

Jose Pablo teaching the group about how cinnamon is produced

Jose Pablo teaching the group about how cinnamon is produced

On our first day, as I traveled with Kasi, Simone, and the Sumak Travel team to our first destination (a sustainable farm), The van suddenly came to a halt. Jose excitedly got out, grabbed his telescope, and pointed toward a tall, scraggly tree near the road. Sure enough, a sloth was perched in the highest branches, scratching itself sleepily. 

The next day we woke up early and headed out to see the toucans we could hear squawking in the trees. I would have missed most of the bright flashes indicating their presence in the branches above us, had it not been for our guide's practiced eye. Seeing toucans, creatures I'd only seen caged at a zoo, flying freely in their natural habitat was breathtaking! 

The day before my group flew home, we visited Arenal volcano. The weather was rainy and grey, and we couldn't actually see the volcano through the mist... but our hike certainly wasn't ruined. As we walked the muddied trails at the volcano's base, Jose showed us medicinal plants, identified bird calls, educated us on the history of the volcano, and regaled us with tales of jungle trees that "walk" toward sunlight (moving and stretching in minuscule increments, but still!). 

Our other guides during our Arenal Volcano experience- horses that took us on a trail ride through the rainforest. 

Our other guides during our Arenal Volcano experience- horses that took us on a trail ride through the rainforest. 

Each of these moments would have been a moment that I would have missed out on, had I chosen to travel on my own. I'm immensely grateful to Sumak Travel and to Jose for showing me the value of enlisting a local guide- I've actually already booked local guides for several upcoming trips because of my experience with Sumak.  

Kasi and I during our horse riding excursion 

Kasi and I during our horse riding excursion 

If you want to experience South America through the eyes of a local guide, choose from one of the 12 countries where Sumak Travel offers trips, and start planning your adventure! 

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