9 Things To Know About Organic Tea Grown In India

clipper teas organic farming india tea plantations picking leaves

It’s Organic September and my inbox has been full of news of brands and products supporting organic. Great news! The benefits of organic farming and production stretch from soil, planet and wildlife, to farmers, products and consumers. Everyone’s a winner. Which is probably why sales of organic products hit £22billion in 2017 up 6% from 2016.

One email stood out and that was Clipper Teasorganic tea production in Southern India with a small peek behind the scenes. If you’ve ever wondered how tea is cultivated organic, here are nine things I discovered about how Clipper Teas does it in the Nilgiri Mountains:

  1. In this region, 40% of the total population works in the tea industry (source: wessanen uk)
  2. 60% of workers have emigrated from Northern India, for the better pay and working conditions
  3. Tea plants (Camellia Sinensis) are fertilised with nitrogen from cow manure
  4. First, cow dung arrives at the plantation and dried. Then it’s mixed with thousands of worms to help aerate it. This means bringing oxygen into the manure.  The compost is then rotated until it’s ready to use
  5. The plantations are also experimenting with an algae farm as another way of cultivating organic – read the science behind how and why algae is used in organic farming here. It’s basically a cost-effective and eco way to boost plant growth
  6. Plantations are also trialling compost from local food waste
  7. Plant, insect and bird life are thought be 50% more abundant on organic farms compared to non. Locals say there are now more bison in the area
  8. Fewer pesticides and genetically modified ingredients not only benefit the soil and environment but the workers too, who no longer have to put their health at risk when spaying plants with chemicals
  9. Not just certified by the Soil Association, the majority of these plantations are also Fairtrade (Clipper Teas was the UK’s first Fairtrade tea company in 1994and more are in the pipeline,helping to provide workers and communities with additional funding for healthcare, education, better pay and employment benefits, such as sick leave.

So next time you kick back with a cup of tea, choose one that’s organic for the benefits of the environment, wildlife, and most importantly, the tea workers and villages who are better off because of it.

Now, here’s a snapshot of the people behind your tea!

clipper teas organic farming india

clipper teas organic farming india tea workers

clipper teas organic farming india tea plantations picking leaves

clipper teas organic farming india tea plantations workers

clipper-teas-organic-tea-farming-india-picking-tea-leaves-plantations

Picture credits: Clipper Teas

 

6 reasons to love beauty brand Dr. Bronner

mike-bronner-at-natural-products-show-london

I recently had the pleasure of meeting Mike Bronner who is one half of Dr Bronner beauty brand. If you love a brand that’s truly passionate about social and environmental issues, involved in activism and practises what they preach, you will love Dr. Bronner –  famous for its magic multi-use all-in-one liquid soap but involved in a whole lot more.

My interview with Mike was at the Natural and Organics Show and we chatted for over an hour as he reeled off endless nuggets of inspiration and insight into the brand’s history, commitment to fair-trade, missions and principles.

I’ve rounded up six reasons why Dr Bronner resonates with me and why it totally ROCKS.

1. Dr. Bronner has a long history

The Dr Bronner story spans 150 years and is at the heart of everything the company does today. Here is a brief overview of this soap brand’s fascinating story as told by Mike…

“I’m a 5th generation soap maker, going back to 1858 when my great great grandfather started making soap in Germany. He came to US in 1929, very poor without a penny to his name. He tried to persuade his parents to leave Germany but they thought Hitler would pass. Of course he didn’t and eventually a letter came from a camp to say ‘you were right’.

My great grandfather then decided to go on a mission to unite people and the planet to prevent something like Hitler from happening again. He said it doesn’t matter what religion you are, we’re all one. We may be different and have different customs but underneath it all it’s the same divine. We need to understand that or we’ll destroy ourselves.

He started talking about his peace plan on the steps of University of Chicago but authorities thought he was crazy and put him in a mental hospital and gave him shock treatments. I like to say the line between madness and visionary is very thin; yesterday’s crack pot is today’s visionary.

He escaped twice, put back in. Third time he made it to California and Persian Square in LA. It was a hotbed of political activity and he fit right in so he started giving lectures about his peace plan. He became very popular and moved into auditoriums, and people were listening to him.

He was still a soap maker so he made liquid soap at home and gave it out to people. The soap became so popular people were coming to take the soap and leaving and not listening to him.

So my grandfather decided to put his philosophy on the soap bottle so people would take it into the shower and read it and they would have no where to hide. And that’s how this label came to be.

The soap became a vehicle to get the message out. Usually the label is the way to get the product out but this was vice versa.

This soap was very underground in early days in 1940s. People thought natural things were backwards so people kind of laughed at him but he was behind the times and ahead of the times. In the 1960s the counter culture came in and the hippies discovered the soap. The label was all about peace and at the time the Vietnam war was happening. My great grandfather put his phone number on every bottle so they could actually dial and talk to Dr Bronner.

Just by word of mouth this soap became the number one selling soap in America. My great grandfather has no sales force and no advertising and in 1968 it was a sell out.”

2. Dr. Bronner is a for-profit company with the DNA of a non-profit

Salaries are capped at 5:1 so the  highest salary is never more than 5 x higher than the lowest and 25% bonus to all employees plus many other benefits.

“We think everything in life connects, from root to fruit, so we try to make every part of the company as best and fair as it can be – not just for farmers but for all employees.”   dr bronners campaigning compassion farming

3. Not just a beauty brand, Dr. Bronner is an activist organisation too

The brand is well known for its all-in-one liquid soap which can be used in 18 different ways but did you know the company is an active campaigner and charity supporter too? Next time you see a Dr Bronner product take a moment to read the small print covering the box and you’ll see there’s more to it than meets the eye. Each product has a powerful story and message to get across.   

“Last year almost 7% of revenue went to charity or activism. That equals about half of profits. It’s usually the more edgy ones that either haven’t caught on yet or don’t get as much media attention that we back.” 

Causes Dr. Bronner company is currently supporting:

  1. INDUSTRIAL HEMP
  2. FAIR PAY TODAY – “It’s not just a fairness issue for employers, it’s a smart business choice too. We have less than 6% employee turnover – nobody wants to leave. Employees feel invested in and give 120%. If businesses were smart they would adopt fair pay too.”
  3. ANIMAL WELFARE
  4. DRUG REFORM POLICY
  5. GMO LABELLING
  6. YOUTH PROGRAMMES

Read more about each cause and Dr. Bronner activism here.

dr bronners campaigning fair pay

4. Dr. Bronner went fair trade in 2007

Dr Bronner products are multi-ingredient fair-trade, not just one or two.

“We’re not doing this for us. We’re doing this for what fair-trade represents in the world. It’s about farmers making a living. If brands can get the fair-trade label by using just 1 or 2% fair-trade ingredients then the vast majority of ingredients are not being sourced from farmers getting a fair deal. We call that fairtrade-washing.”

5. Dr. Bronner launched the first ever organic and fair-trade project for coconut oil

Dr. Bronner started its own fair-trade coconut facility in Sri Lanka in 2007 because there was no other fair-trade supplier to source from.

“We wanted to go fair-trade in our soaps but the number one ingredient is coconut oil – it’s 25% of the product. At the time there was no fair-trade coconut in the world so we developed it.”

Read more about Dr. Bronner ethical sourcing here.

6. Brushing your teeth with Dr. Bronner just got a whole lot better

Dr-Bronner-Toothpaste-mike bronner interview

Everyone knows you can brush your teeth with Dr Bronner Pure Castile Soaps – as well as do you laundry, wash your hair, wash the dishes, mop the floor and wash the dog! (check out the cheat sheet for how to dilute for different uses here) – however, a stand alone toothpaste has now arrived.

The new Dr. Bronner All in One Toothpaste has been in the making for three to four years.

“It’s fluoride-free, with no artificial foaming agents. Like all our products, it’s vegan and cruelty-free. It contains coconut oil (to give it slip), baking soda, silica, minerals and organic menthol crystals. It contains no artificial colour, flavours, preservatives or sweetners. It helps to whiten, freshen breath, reduce plaque, and has a nice taste.”

Seven months worth of product were sold in just one month after the US launch.

Only around one or two products are launched every few years but whatever launches, sticks. One of my favourites, other than the liquid soap, is the Lavender Hand Sanitising Spray.

“New products have to be highly functional and meet all our core values. We’ll only make something if it can be certified organic and fair-trade we won’t use any synthetics.”

Shop at drbronner.co.uk and check out a wealth of info about ethical sourcing, principles, campaigning, philanthropy and more on drbronner.com 

Love Dr Bronner too? Let me know! Comments below or tweet me @YanarBeauty.

How Weleda makes fairtrade argan oil in Morocco

I’m on the west coast of Morocco in a tiny village outside Essouira watching 30-40 local Berber women crack argan oil kernels with little rocks and nimble fingers onto big slabs of stone. The sound of tick-tick-tack-tack fills the air above the low murmur of chitter chatter. I’m with Weleda UK, the health and beauty brand that sources its fairtrade and organic argan oil from this women’s cooperative.

These Berber women have been shelling argan for generations but now they’re being paid a better wage with good working conditions and even family benefits. They kindly let us film and photograph this fascinating process, which was a very special experience so I’m really pleased to be able to share it with you.

Continue reading “How Weleda makes fairtrade argan oil in Morocco”

In My Wardrobe: New Veja Trainers

New trainers! Veja trainers. After years of following the brand, I’ve finally got round to buying a pair. For me, Veja is a brand with the most amazing ethos and commitment to everything related to making a product: the environment, ecology, fair trade, workers and style.

Veja trainers Aida Shoreditch

The soles are made from Amazonian rubber trees (instead of usual petroleum-derived rubber) and help to provide an income for 60 Amazonian families as well as provide an incentive to keep trees up and not deforest.

I love the transparency in the who, where, what and why of Veja shoe-making – check out the video below to see more about how the shoes are made, and the brand’s inspiring commitment to workers and sustainable materials.

By doing things differently they can attempt to distance themselves from worker exploitatio and environmental degradation which is sadly the usual result of most things we produce and consume. Instead, I feel like there’s a lot of respect for people and the land, and that’s my kind of brand.  Read more about Veja materials and projects here

If you’re due a new pair of trainers, and want a decent alternative to the usual suspects, Nike et al, then check out the endless number of Veja stylesAnd if, like me, you try to minimise consumption of leather and animal materials, then many are almost vegan. Some are totally non-leather, others have some or very little. I believe mine (above) have a little bit in the V cut-out. Although I would have preferred a totally non-leather pair, from what I’ve read, Veja leather is said to be eco-tanned without chromium (a lingering pollutant) and with knowledge of the source and living conditions of cattle.

Check out the online Veja store (they ship to UK from France) as well as a few boutiques around London. I bought mine up from the gorgeous Aida in Shoreditch for £75.

Let me know if you have a pair, buy a pair or love them as much as I do. @YanarBeauty

PS – this is NOT a sponsored post. Just genuine love for a decent brand! x