Member Spotlight: Ahimsa, Beyond Plastics, Earth Guardians, Wisdom Supply Co.

Plastic Pollution Coalition (PPC) Members come from a wide range of sectors and are aligned in their mission to build a world free of plastic pollution and its toxic impacts on communities and ecosystems around the world. The Coalition Spotlight is our monthly blog to uplift and showcase their work, giving our readers an inside look at some of these influential change-makers. For August, we are featuring PPC Business and Organization Members with programs or products designed to prepare students, parents, guardians, and teachers to go back to school plastic-free for a healthier year ahead. 

Ahimsa

With kids in many parts of the world going back to school this month, parents and teachers are doing their best to set them up for success. When it comes to school meals, students can bring their food from home, and buy or receive from school. Unfortunately these meal options are often associated with lots of chemical-laden single-use plastic—from one-serving plastic food packaging to throwaway plastic trays. 

Children’s meals shouldn’t be filled with hazardous plastics. Ahimsa is a woman-founded and-owned company that makes sturdy, toxic-free, completely plastic-free, stainless steel foodware products for children. Not only are their dishes and meal sets safe, but they are intentionally designed to make it easy for parents to portion out healthy serving sizes, while engaging kids in a sensory mealtime experience since the dishes are made with bright colors. From sectioned “balanced bites” plates to their cafeteria line, Ahimsa products are third-party tested to ensure the highest standard of safety and effectiveness, and Ahima recently became the first MADE SAFE certified children’s foodware company. 

Dr. Manasa Mantravadi, Ahimsa’s founder, is a board-certified pediatrician, a mom of three young kids, and a passionate advocate for children’s health and environmental sustainability. She is on a mission to empower parents, guardians, and teachers with evidence-based information and to help create a safer, kinder, and healthier future for all kids. She will be moderating Plastic Pollution Coalition’s upcoming August webinar, “Going Back to School Plastic-Free”, and is currently petitioning the USDA to pressure officials from the National School Lunch Program to move away from plastic to protect the long-term health of millions of children. 

Beyond Plastics

Beyond Plastics is a U.S.-focused organization pairing the wisdom and experience of environmental policy experts with the energy and creativity of grassroots advocates to build an effective movement to end plastic pollution. Based at Bennington College, Vermont, Beyond Plastics works toward institutional, economic, legislative, and societal systemic change to prevent plastic pollution and its many harmful impacts. The organization was  founded and is led by former Regional EPA Administrator under President Obama, Judith Enck, who brings a wealth of knowledge and policy experience. 

Beyond Plastics acknowledges that ending plastic pollution requires change from everyone, from individual behavior changes to corporations taking responsibility to governments implementing effective policies. Beyond Plastics is also committed to environmental justice, supporting solutions that support communities impacted by injustice.  To support change and engage communities and individuals, Beyond Plastics holds virtual grassroots organizing trainings, provides free, public resources about issues related to plastic pollution, and rallies for passage and implementation of more effective legislation.

The organization has now grown to encompass grassroots subchapters all across the country as part of their Beyond Plastics Local Groups and Affiliates program, launched in February 2022. This July, rePurpose of Washington state became the 100th group to join the Beyond Plastics grassroots network, and groups like theirs hosted events for Plastic-Free July that called attention to the hazards of plastic and the systemic reasons for the plastic pollution crisis. In addition to their July events, the national group has recently delivered a 27,600 signature petition to the EPA, calling for a ban on toxic vinyl chloride (a chemical which fueled this year’s toxic train disaster in East Palestine, Ohio).

Find out ways you can take action in your local community and engage with Beyond Plastics, or sign up to learn about plastic pollution in Judith’s fall class—which is open to the public through September and October 2023. If you are a parent or guardian doing back-to-school shopping this month, you may also want to check out Beyond Plastics’ Plastic-Free Back To School Guide!

Earth Guardians

During the back-to-school season we want to uplift the work that youth groups are doing to address the urgent and interconnected crises of plastic pollution and climate change. Earth Guardians are a global, youth-led organization that inspires, galvanizes and trains diverse youth to be effective leaders who advocate for environmental and climate justice. They do this by using art, music, storytelling, civic engagement, legal and direct action to advance solutions to the most challenging issues we face as a global community. Earth Guardians’ core staff is 80% Black Indigenous People of Color (BIPOC) youth, and includes Emmy Scott, Earth Guardians’ newest and youngest executive director.

Operating from a bottom-up, decentralized model of distributed leadership, Earth Guardians empowers youth-led intergenerational groups, or Crews, from around the world. These localized chapters drive initiatives in their own communities, while contributing to the global Earth Guardians movement as a whole. By offering financial and educational support, leadership trainings, and a speakers bureau, the international team supports Crews’ grassroots efforts to put power and resources directly into the hands of frontline youth activists—especially those who come from historically underserved communities worst harmed by pollution, climate change, and injustice.

One of Earth Guardians’ major projects is the Choose Action Now (CAN) Campaign, meant to encourage youth leaders around the world to host events that call attention to the urgent need for climate action, in the wake of inaction from world leaders during COP. This global day of action inspired 70 events that took place during COP 27 in November of 2022 as part of a global day of action. You can find a long list of educational resources and one-pagers from Earth Guardians with project ideas that you can launch and lead in your local community here

Wisdom Supply Co.

Back-to-school shopping can be daunting with so many school supplies typically made of or wrapped in single-use plastic. PPC Business Member Wisdom Supply Co. is a woman founded and run, certified B-Corp that is on a mission to change purchasing habits around school and office supplies, offering plastic-free, reusable, refillable, and nontoxic alternatives made from regenerative and truly recyclable materials. 

From zero-waste planners to unlacquered colored pencils, Wisdom Supply is replacing toxic products made from and wrapped in plastic. In doing so, founders Heather Itzla and Nicole Kozlowski aim to disrupt what they call the “shelf-to-shore pipeline,” referring to the amount of pollution and subsequent environmental destruction created by plastic school and office supplies. These activists-turned-businesswomen are dedicated to scaling systems that prevent plastic school supplies, like vinyl binders and plastic pens, from entering the global waste stream. They also aim to change narratives behind status quo back-to-school shopping that are wasteful, health-threatening, and unnecessary for learning. 

Heather will be discussing the importance of going back to school plastic-free, including the health implications of toxic school supplies in Plastic Pollution Coalition’s upcoming August webinar. In 2024, Wisdom Supply will be transitioning from a B-Corporation to a nonprofit organization to more effectively serve schools.

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By Daniel Elbaz, PPC Intern 

Like many teens, I love boba tea. The delicious drink has gained popularity with Gen Zers. Boba tea stores are practically our generation’s version of a fro-yo bar! So what is boba tea, where did it come from, and how did it get so popular?

Boba tea, or bubble tea, is made with a tea base, tapioca pearls (boba), brown sugar, condensed milk and sometimes fruit, served cold. This sweet drink was popularized in the early 1980s in Taiwan, where it was apparently invented by mixing tapioca balls, a Taiwanese dessert, with milk tea, which has long been consumed in Taiwan. Throughout the 1980s and 1990s, boba tea became very popular across East Asia, especially in Taiwan and China. In the 1990s, bubble tea arrived in the United States via Taiwanese immigrants, first in California then spreading to the rest of the states.

Teens Love Boba Tea—But Not All the Plastic

Boba tea has become quickly popular because it’s a fun, colorful, and refreshing drink, with a unique combination of tastes and textures: earthy tea, creamy condensed milk, and chewy tapioca balls. Additionally, most boba tea shops offer countless flavor combinations to choose from, including different varieties of teas, boba, and fun toppings such as lychee jelly, oreo, or fresh fruit. The multitude of options allows everyone to customize their drinks to their tastes and preferences. Lastly, going to boba stores has become a trendy social activity because people enjoy trying new boba shops together with friends, family, and other boba enthusiasts.

The popularity of boba tea is huge—and still growing. By some estimates, there are around 3,600 boba shops in the United States. Worldwide, the bubble tea market size is valued around $2.75 billion (USD). This number is expected to continue to grow as it has over the past twenty years, and it is estimated that by 2030 the market size will almost double. If those numbers alone don’t prove that boba tea’s popularity has infected the globe, a survey has shown that 94 percent of people in their twenties have bought boba tea in the past three months.

However, whenever I feel like getting boba tea, I also feel a bit guilty. This is because these drinks almost always come in single-use plastic cups with plastic lids and plastic straws. The huge size of the boba tea market underscores the importance of reducing its plastic footprint.

One day I wondered: Could it be possible to enjoy boba tea without all the plastic? With some ideas in mind, I decided to explore more sustainable approaches for buying boba tea.

How to Drink Boba Tea Sustainably

Reuse is the key to plastic-free boba tea. Photo by Daniel Elbaz

My strategy for making plastic-free boba tea focused on reuse. First, I found a few large mason jars, and bought lids made with a boba-straw sized hole. Boba straws are wider than typical straws to accommodate the tapioca balls that give boba tea its name. Additionally, I purchased a pack of boba-sized stainless steel reusable straws. The combination of the mason jar, lid, and straw would substitute the single-use plastic cups, lids, and straws boba that tea shops typically distribute.

My next step was to take to the streets and search for boba shops in Los Angeles, California. When I found shops, I asked employees whether they could serve me their boba in my reusable cups. By the end of the process, I visited a total of twelve boba tea shops. Out of those twelve stores, only five of them agreed to serve their drinks to me in my reusable cups, while seven stores refused to serve me in anything but single-use plastic.

There seems to be a lack of consistent policies around accepting reusable cups at most of the boba shops. I called different locations of some of the biggest chains across the United States (such as Gong Cha, Kung Fu). These stores all seemed to have differing answers on whether they would accept reusable cups, which means that there is inconsistency even within chains. A number of shops also stated they would make the boba in a plastic cup, but they would pour the drink into my reusable cup, which obviously defeats the purpose of going reusable.  (Note: In California, bill AB619 was passed in July 2019, which allows reusable food containers to be refilled by a food facility or a consumer.)

A pattern emerged among the bubble tea stores that served me in my reusable cups: they all initially mixed the drink in a reusable stainless steel or glass cup, then poured it into the cup they gave to customers. This means shops’ method of serving drinks is actually rather sustainable and could easily allow customers to bring their own cups.

Thank you to the five stores that allowed me to use reusable cups: Just Boba Tea House, Teaspoon, Volcano Tea, Ume Tea, and Redstraw Tea Bar. Teaspoon, Volcano Tea, and Ume Tea all sold their own reusable cups. Volcano Tea on Sawtelle Boulevard even upgraded the size of drink for free from a medium to a large for bringing a reusable cup. Find more reuse/refill shops, cafes, and eateries on these maps from Plastic Free Future and EcoRate.

Bring Your Own Cup and Help Create Change

Many boba tea shops are willing to fill up your reusables…you just have to ask. Photo by Daniel Elbaz

While many of the boba shops I visited or called seemed to be at a loss for how to serve me using a reusable cup, I witnessed that if customers demand plastic-free solutions, boba shops could easily accommodate reusables.

It’s easy to find reusable boba cups (I found reusable, plastic-free boba cups at various online and brick-and-mortar retailers). Please join me in visiting your local boba store with a reusable cup. 

Plastic Pollution Coalition would love for boba shops that accept reusable cups from home, or sell their own reusable cups, to join their coalition. Please help our efforts by commenting with names of stores you know and love that engage in these plastic-free practices. 

Ordering boba tea in reusable cups was an easy way for me to feel good instead of guilty about one of my favorite drinks. By joining me in this movement, you can fully enjoy your favorite boba tea too.

If you’re an employee or owner of a food or drink business, we encourage you to visit our Plastic Free Eateries page to find actionable steps, resources, and strategies for going plastic-free. Once you’ve taken action to eliminate plastics, please reach out to join our Coalition!

For individuals and organizations committed to ending plastic pollution: 

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Birthdays are a special celebratory occasion that should not come at the expense of the environment and our health. It’s simple to plan a memorable birthday without creating more pollution with plastic plates and cups, party favors, and water bottles containing microplastics. By opting for a plastic-free celebration where waste is minimized, you can have a fulfilling and fun experience that is both better for you and the environment. Where to begin? Here are some fun ideas for celebrating birthdays without all the plastic.

PLASTIC-FREE PARTY

Stainless Steel Cups & Plates

How to celebrate birthdays plastic free

Using stainless steel cups and plates instead of plastic and other throwaway items is a great way to reduce plastic and paper wastes and reduce your carbon footprint. Throwaway plates and cups may seem convenient, but they cause a lot of harm. Ultimately they will be sent to a landfill, dump, or incinerator, or contribute to the plastic pollution accumulating  in our oceans and other waterways. Additionally, using reusable stainless steel cups and plates can add a touch of elegance and sophistication to your celebration. They can be relatively inexpensive to purchase, are easy to clean, and can be reused again and again—saving you time and money in the long run! Because they are so durable, you can also easily loan stainless steel cups to friends, neighbors, and loved ones.

Cloth Napkins

How to celebrate birthdays plastic free

Using cloth napkins is an eco-friendly alternative to paper napkins, which often come packaged in single-use plastic and create loads of waste. Cloth napkins are also more absorbent and durable than paper napkins and can easily be washed and reused, making them a practical choice for any birthday celebration.

Glass or Metal Beverage Dispenser

How to celebrate birthdays plastic free

Using a glass or metal dispenser is an environmentally friendly option for serving drinks, as it reduces the need for single-use plastic bottles or cups that pollute our planet. It also provides a unique and eye-catching way to serve drinks at your party, and can be customized with plastic-free decorations to fit your theme.

Glass Bottle Beverages

How to celebrate birthdays plastic free

Opting for beverages that come in glass bottles is an easy way to reduce plastic pollution, as glass bottles can be infinitely recycled (unlike plastic) and when in use do not release harmful chemicals into your body or the environment. They can also provide a nostalgic and vintage vibe to your party, and can be used as a decorative element to complement your party theme or decor.

Reusable Straws

How to celebrate birthdays plastic free

Sipping from reusable straws made from bamboo, glass, or stainless steel instead of plastic is a simple way to reduce waste. Reusable straws can also be a stylish and practical addition to your party decor, and can be customized with unique patterns or colors to add a touch of fun to your celebration. Additionally, replacing single-use plastic straws with non-plastic reusables can help promote a wider range of helpful plastic-free practices and encourage others to reduce their plastic use on a regular basis.

Plastic-Free Party Favors

How to celebrate birthdays plastic free

Choosing plastic-free party favors for kids is a great way to reduce plastic waste and set an example for young people to carry sustainable practices into their daily activities and choices. Handmade bracelets, wooden toys, or coloring books can also serve as a fun and unique keepsake for your guests, and can be customized to match your party theme or color scheme. Furthermore, opting for these types of party favors can promote creativity and imagination in children, while also teaching them about the importance of ending plastic pollution.

Plastic-Free Decorations

How to celebrate birthdays plastic free

Skip the balloons and plastic streamers and make decorations for your party from truly recyclable and compostable materials like paper, flowers, and food! Cut out pages from an old coloring book that matches your party’s theme and hang them with twine or cotton string for artistic and delightful party ornaments. Hanging popcorn, dried fruits, or flowers also make for great compostable, zero-waste, and eye-catching party decorations. Don’t spend money on cheap plastic tablecloths or party napkins that also contain polluting plastics either. Traditional fabric tablecloths and napkins are more durable, and heavier than the cheap plastic items you use once and throw “away”—so you also don’t need to worry about them being blown off your table in the wind. 

PLASTIC-FREE GIFTS

If you’re looking to give a thoughtful and sustainable gift that won’t contribute to plastic pollution, there are many options beyond traditional plastic items. In fact, gifting experiences can be just as memorable and meaningful as physical items, and can provide a great way to celebrate without creating unnecessary waste. Here are some fun ideas for plastic-free gifts that are sure to please.

Gifting Plants

How to celebrate birthdays plastic free

Gifting plants can be a unique and healthy gift idea, as they not only add greenery and beauty to the recipient’s home but also have air-purifying abilities that can help improve air quality indoors. In addition, plants can be long-lasting and low-maintenance gifts that can be enjoyed for years to come with proper care, and even help relieve stress.

Outdoor Experiences

Gifting outdoor experiences like rock climbing, hiking, or kayaking can provide a unique and exciting way to celebrate a birthday without contributing to plastic pollution. Such gifts also promote physical activity and restorative time spent in nature. These experiences can create lasting memories and provide a fun and adventurous way to celebrate any special occasion.

Concerts, Theater, & Music Classes

Gifting cultural experiences like concert or theater tickets can provide a special and memorable way to celebrate a birthday without the need for wrapping paper or plastic waste, while also supporting the arts and creating opportunities to create new memories. In addition, attending a live performance can be a great way to bond and connect with friends and loved ones while enjoying a shared experience. Music and improv classes also make great gifts, and can help develop a child’s creativity and artistic voice.

Cooking or Baking Classes

Gifting a cooking or baking class can provide a fun and hands-on way to learn new skills and create delicious meals or treats. Learning how to cook for oneself can also promote healthier and more sustainable eating by reducing reliance on plastic-packaged and processed foods. Additionally, taking a class can be a great way to spend quality time with friends or loved ones and create lasting memories.

Fitness & Skill-Based Classes

Gifting fitness classes such as a yoga, dance, or martial arts lesson can provide a healthy and energizing way to celebrate a birthday without creating plastic waste. In addition to promoting physical activity and wellness, these classes can also offer opportunities for personal growth by fostering new skills. Yoga classes, in particular, can offer a range of physical and mental health benefits, including increased flexibility, strength, and balance, as well as improved focus and relaxation. Dance classes can be a fun and social way to stay active and can provide an opportunity for self-expression and creative exploration, making it a great gift for anyone looking to enhance their physical and emotional well-being while celebrating their birthday in a sustainable way. Martial arts classes can provide self-defense skills and instill discipline and focus, making it a great gift for both adults and children. 

Celebrating a birthday free of plastic is a simple and effective way to show respect for the environment and our bodies, while also creating meaningful memories with loved ones. From choosing reusable tableware to gifting plastic-free items and experiences, there are many fun and creative ways to celebrate sustainably. By taking steps to reduce our plastic consumption, we can all play a role in protecting the planet and shaping a culture of care for future generations. 
For more tips on plastic-free gift giving including zero-waste gift wrapping, check out our tips for celebrating the holidays plastic-free! And take the pledge to Refuse Single-Use Plastic:

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April 13, 2023 , 3:00 pm 4:00 pm EDT

The United States is in a waste crisis. The way we produce, manage, and dispose of materials is harming public health, the environment, and our climate. We need to rethink and redesign our systems to be more sustainable. Because people and our planet deserve solutions with zero climate-damaging emissions and zero toxic exposures. Zero Waste programs and policies can do that. 

In the first episode of Just Zero’s webinar series, Getting to Zero Waste in the U.S. – What We’re Up Against, experts Kirstie Pecci (Just Zero), Judith Enck (Beyond Plastics), and Melissa Aguayo (Break Free From Plastic), discuss three of the main issues driving our country’s waste crisis: 

  • Plastics Production
  • Environmental Injustice
  • Corporate Agendas

Every morning when you wake up, what do you pour into your cup? 

For many of us, an early cup (or a few!) of coffee or tea is a daily ritual. But did you know that along with your morning brew, you might also be sipping on a hefty dose of plastic?

A major focus of this Plastic Free July—a global month-long movement to encourage people to engage in solutions to plastic pollution—is the ubiquitous single-use plastic coffee (or tea) cup. So this month we are highlighting why it’s important to cut plastic out of your “morning brew” routine—and we will show you how to do it!

Get Plastic Out of Your Cup

Single-use plastic items, including the cups commonly used to hold coffee and tea, are rarely recycled and instead mainly end up in landfills and the environment, or are incinerated. Plastic pollutes the environment, where it contaminates shared resources such as water and soil, and harms wildlife.

And not only is plastic bad for the planet, it’s bad for our health: Plastic does not break down but instead breaks up into infinitely smaller pieces, which people inadvertently ingest along with food and beverages, inhale when we breathe indoors and outdoors, and absorb through our skin. Plastic pollution disproportionately burdens people of color, rural, and low-income people with toxic pollution.

These plastic particles accumulate in our bodies—including in our bloodstreams—where they leach toxic chemicals known to harm human health, such as phthalates, bisphenols, and UV stabilizers. These toxins are known to cause reproductive harm, neurological damage, and can increase the risk of cancer—among many other ill effects.

Unfortunately, there are many ways plastic particles may be brewing in your coffee or tea. From the cups used to hold beverages bought “to-go,” to the at-home machines and accessories used to make your own brew, plastic may seem unavoidable. But with the right information, you can make choices that minimize your exposure to plastics in your favorite morning beverage.

Choose Reusables Over Single-Use Cups

Do you buy your coffee or tea to go in single-use beverage cups? If you do, you’re ingesting plastic along with your coffee or tea.

Single-use cups are often made of paper on the outside, and inside are lined with a thin coating of plastic meant to insulate your drink and prevent hot liquid from leaking out. Scientists have demonstrated that a 12-ounce paper cup’s plastic lining sheds more than 1.5 trillion tiny plastic particles into the liquid it holds. They found that these tiny toxic plastic particles shed more rapidly when the liquid inside the cup is hot.

Thankfully, many coffee and tea shops are making it easier for customers to bring their own non-plastic (stainless steel, ceramic, glass) reusable cups for refill. Others offer standard ceramic, metal, or glass mugs for use if you can take the time to enjoy your coffee or tea inside the shop, such as PPC Business Member Wild Trails Coffee in BC, Canada. There are also reusable takeaway cups, such as those from PPC Business Member and Earthshot nominee Vessel, which can be returned and reused indefinitely. If you can make your morning brew at home, it’s even easier to choose to reuse! 

Some of our favorite non-plastic reusable cups for coffee and tea include:

  • Ceramic mugs or ceramic thermoses, such as those made by Soma
  • Stainless steel mugs or thermoses, such as those made by PPC Business Members Klean Kanteen or Carry Your Bottle
  • All-glass thermoses, such as those made by Tupkee

Make Your Morning Brew Plastic-Free

Here’s how:

1. Find plastic-free coffee makers and accessories

Many coffee makers—especially electric automatic models—are now made out of plastic. Plastic is cheap and insulates hot liquids, but these qualities create a toxic tradeoff. Just because the market is flooded with plastic coffee makers does not mean you need to use them.

There are plenty of coffee makers and accessories out there that can help minimize your exposure to plastic. Some may seem expensive to purchase initially. But because they are made with no-to-little plastic, they are long lasting and you will save money in the long run (as long as you take good care of them). Additionally, with a little research, it’s possible to buy these or similar products secondhand or from alternative sources for less than the retail price.

Manual coffee makers that require you to drip, percolate, siphon, press, or pour over are the styles most commonly made of glass and/or stainless steel, helping you to avoid plastic. Some good manual coffee maker and accessory options include:

  • Manual stainless steel burr coffee grinders, such as those made by Waldwerk (this is a manual grinder from Germany, ships internationally) 
  • Electrical stainless steel burr coffee grinders such as those made by Fellow Ode Brew (this electric grinder like most a plastic hopper but the burrs inside are stainless steel)
  • Manual ceramic burr coffee grinders, such as those made by Porlex
  • Glass pour-over carafes, such as those made by Chemex
  • Glass siphons, such as those made by Yama
  • Single-cup stainless pour-over brewers, such as those made by Sumptown Coffee Roasters 
  • Single-cup glass pour-over brewers, such as those made by Pure Over
  • Stainless steel and glass french presses, such as those made by Public Goods (most french presses have a small amount of plastic at the seal, which largely does not touch the coffee inside) or Bodum
  • All-stainless steel french presses, such as those made by Mueller
  • All-stainless steel percolators, such as those made by Farberware 
  • All-stainless steel stovetop espresso makers, such as those made by Alessi

If you prefer automatic coffee makers and accessories, it’s a bit harder to find plastic-free options since these machines are largely designed with plastic. Even steel espresso machines typically have plastic hosing inside to carry hot water. Drip machines minimize hot water’s contact with plastic. These two automatic options best limit your exposure to plastic by being mostly made of stainless steel and glass:

2. Find plastic-free tea brewing tools and accessories

Single-use tea bags may seem to be made of paper. But in reality, the majority of tea bags are made from plastic. With each plastic tea bag you steep, scientists have found that nearly 15 billion plastic particles are released right into your drink. This is a significant number of plastic particles, and concerning, again, given the dangers these particles pose to the environment and our health.

The best way to avoid toxic plastic in your tea is to purchase loose-leaf tea and use fine stainless steel strainers, such as those sold by Package Free. Not only are these strainers simple, but they are also inexpensive and widely available. 

You might also consider a ceramic mug-and-strainer combo, such as those made by Euna Living. Plain glass, ceramic, or cast-iron teapots such as those sold by Susteas are also excellent brewing options as long as you avoid painted or enameled options—which may contain toxic cadmium and lead. If you prefer a press-type model, try a brewing pot such as those made by Rishi Tea & Botanicals.

If you want to use tea bags without the toxic plastic, check out reusable organic linen (a fiber from the flax plant) or cotton tea bags, such as those made by Marley’s Monsters or Net Zero Co. Simply place your own loose tea leaves inside, and steep like you would a conventional tea bag (without all the plastic!).

Consider What Goes Inside Your Cup

Once you’ve established your plastic-free coffee or tea routine, the next step is to consider what you’re putting in your cup.

The fast-accelerating climate crisis is making it more challenging to grow coffee and tea, with droughts, flooding, heatwaves, and storms ruining crops and damaging the lands where coffee and tea is grown. For example, Kenya, which grows nearly half of all tea consumed in the UK, is expected to lose more than a quarter of its optimal tea-growing lands by 2050 to climate-related disasters and change. Climate catastrophes also disproportionately harm underserved communities, including groups like women, Indigenous peoples, and low-income people—who often depend on farming crops, including tea and coffee, for their livelihood.

Unfortunately, many people working on coffee and tea farms are mistreated by their employers, and are sometimes forced into labor. What’s more, even when workers are paid for their hard labor (most tea leaves and coffee beans are painstakingly picked by hand), the conditions on these farms commonly range from harsh to inhumane. Some workers have little to no access to adequate water, food, shelter, bathrooms, and other necessities. 

Additionally, one must consider the deforestation that goes hand in hand with the expansion of cropland, as well as the rampant application of pesticides and use of plastic in farming coffee and tea. Landscapes have been completely stripped of their natural health by coffee and tea growing—especially in Central and South America, Asia, and Africa, where much coffee and tea is grown—and polluted by pesticides and plastics used in growing.

Being informed about these issues is the first step to making positive change. Speak with your dollars by buying organic, fair-trade coffee beans and loose tea in non-plastic packaging from companies that are transparent about their practices and sourcing. For example, Arbor Teas has a wide selection of ethically sourced, organic teas in non-plastic compostable packaging, and Café Mam offers a selection of organic, fair-trade coffees grown in Chiapas, Mexico, in plastic-free packaging.

Make Today a Plastic-Free Coffee or Tea Day

Thankfully, with the right information, a little planning, and preparation, you can set forward a morning coffee or tea routine free of plastic and toxic chemicals that’s also considerate of the people who picked each bean or leaf in your favorite morning drink.

This Plastic Free July, how will you incorporate reuse as well as health, environmental, and ethical considerations into your daily coffee or tea routine? We hope this blog has given you plenty of ideas for getting started in taking your plastic-free morning routine to the next level.