The Dark Secrets Hidden in your Tea: A Twinings Investigation

Although I’m usually a coffee person, I have recently increased my tea intake and trying new blends. As with most thing, this led me on an ethical journey to discover the story behind the brands I’m drinking. This is what I found out about one popular company Twinings & Co.

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The good ol’ Twinings & Co company sells Twinings of London, a large range of delicious teas for around $2.70 AUS in a pack of 10. Every now and then they have a special of $0.99 AUS and we all rejoice… but my friends there is a reason why you can buy tea for this price. The reports from 2015 and 2016 are not good:

  • 2015, BBC investigation found workers were paid so little they lived in horrible conditions, suffering from malnutrition and illness. Workers were also exposed to chemicals with no health and safety standards. On some estates, it was found that child labour was being used.
  • 2015, Business Benchmark on Farm Animal Welfare scored Twinings a tier 6 on their farm animal welfare policies and practices. Tier 6 is the worst score a company can receive.
  • 2016, Newsweek Green Ranking of 34.2 out of 100 when measured against 8 indicators: energy, greenhouse gas, water, waste, fines and penalties, relating executive pay to sustainability targets, board oversight of environmental issues and external audits.
  • 2016, Rank a Brand (for use of cotton) scored Twinings 2 out of 19.5, making it one of the lowest performing companies assessed.
  • 2016, Oxfam’s Behind the Brands Scorecard ranked this company equal last on their agriculture sourcing policies with a score of 36%
  • 2016, given an ethical rating of F from Shop Ethical (the lowest possible score)

However, don’t throw out your tea bags yet, there are some great alternatives out there. Yes, they are more expensive, but the thought that my tea is keeping someone else’s child in forced labour horrifies me. I will not support modern-day slavery once I’m aware of what’s happening.

Let me offer three alternatives:

Peppermint Tea: English Tea Shop

  • 100% Fair-trade certified – sometimes Brands use a percentage of fair-trade products so they can put the logo on their packaging, this one is 100% fair-trade
  • NON GMO (Genetically Modified Organism) project verified nongmoproject.org
  • Certified Organic – All agricultural ingredients are organically grown and processed.

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Camomile and mint: Planet Organic

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Camomile and Apple alternative: Pukka Planet

  • 100% Fair-trade certified
  • Certified Organic – All agricultural ingredients are organically grown and processed.
  • Environmentally friendly packaging including envelopes.

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I hope this blog has opened your eyes a little to how YOU can fight against modern slavery and help change the environment. Another popular brand to stay well away from is Tetley as it also ranks an ‘F’ on the Shop Ethical website. Bushells, Liptons and T2 all receive a ‘C ‘rating, so they pass, but it’s up to you to decide what you believe is acceptable.

I personally don’t want to be so removed from the production of the what I eat and drink (and wear) that I embrace a consumerist attitude towards my planet’s resources that keeps other in bondage and negatively impacts on future generations. The good news is that with tea, there are a number of positive brands including: Lotus Peak, Nature’s Cuppa, Madura, Dilmah and Nerada. So, the power is in your wallet and in your cup.
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Yes, the issue of ethical consumption can be a bit of a rabbit warren, but if you are interested in it, start somewhere. Why not start with your tea and help someone feed their family?

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Love Jess xxoo

PS – I wrote this while drinking my English Tea Shop peppermint tea and it was delicious!

References:

The Bitter Story behind the UK’s national Drink

The Business Benchmark on Farm Animal Welfare – 2015 Report

Newsweek Green Ratings – 2016

Rank a Brand – Top brands failing on Cotton Sustainability

Oxfam, Behind the Brands April 2016 Company Scorecard

Living Simply without the shops – Part 2

At the end of August I wrote a blog about trying not to spend unnecessary money in the month of September (read it here). Having just realised that it’s now October, I thought I’d give you an update on the month that was.

It was a rather interesting 30 days for me and I’ll try to be as transparent as possible. During the month of September I wanted to incorporate three things into my every-day-life. These three words were my mantra for September:

Simplify. Enrich. Focus

It was important to me was that it wasn’t a pass/fail ‘project’, because that would totally undermine the point and only become a burden. My approach to September was not to just have nice ideas, but to have practical ways to incorporate these ideals into my life-style. I wrote down nine things to could do to simplify, enrich and focus my life during September and off I went. Some I did well in and others went by the way-side… I didn’t end up planting those herbs after all. Looking back, I think there were two things I really wanted to do: stop spending unnecessary money and create a culture of thankfulness. Realistically, this meant staying at home more and being mindful of my thoughts.

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Obviously, just because you can’t spend money doesn’t mean you can’t go out. You can go to the park, visit a friend, go on little adventures and a host of other things all of which are fun and interesting. Unfortunately, little Bella does not like going out. My little darling will scream the whole way of a 30 minute car-ride at times and a trip to the park can require more emotional energy from me than I used before having kids. There are times when Bell-Bell is awesome during an outing with not a tear in sight, but they aren’t that common. A trip in the car, no matter how short can easily be a joy killer. It is the age and stage – this too shall pass.
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(Cheeky monkey)

Two and a half weeks in, I was waking up every morning seriously depressed. After a few hours (and a double shot coffee) I would find myself again and the day would be pretty good. Bella was still doing two to three nighttime wake-ups, I was with the girls 24/7 without a break and we were all coming out of our third bout of illness. However, my morning depression was pretty bad, so having had horrible post-natal depression with Amy, I took myself off to see my GP. The diagnosis? Exhaustion… of course. So, I decided to ignore my Simplify and Focus mantras and took myself and the girls straight from the doctor’s office to get a coffee and some cake. It was time to relax and enrich my life a little. I believe Bella screamed the whole way home (as usual), but I had some real coffee and the memory of a nice ‘date’ still in my mind.

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From then onwards things got easier. Bella started sleeping more at night, we all became healthier, I upped my coffee intake and I knew what was going on with my emotions, which that helped at lot. On the whole I enjoyed the month of September and I know I will continue to do some of the nine things I wrote out. It’s odd that to living a simpler life in our culture is something you have to ‘fight’ for at times. You would think it would be easier, but it goes against cultural norms. Why be happy with what you have when you can have and/or could afford more?

With September at an end, I have $45.60 to donate to a worthy cause. I don’t know who I will donate to yet, but I know it will focus on children either in trafficking or community development.

And if you’re wondering… yes I did my share of baking and slice making this month 🙂

Love Jess xx00

PS – I read this awesome blog this morning and just had to share… Are you living Deliberately?

Living Simply without the shops

Sometimes it’s hard to keep little people entertained. I’ve found (and so have other mums) that if we do an activity in the morning my kids are less painful at the end of the day. The problem is, going to the shops can be an easy way to burn up time and create extra stimulation for their little brains. We don’t often buy things, but I have been thinking a lot about the lessons this is teaching my dear ones. Am I teaching them that shopping equals happiness? When I do buy little things (they don’t need), am I teaching them that to value the many toys they already own? So, we do stickers and colouring, water play and dolls-house, Lego and pretend to be horses (ugh, the horses), and… we bake.

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Amy’s at that wonderful age where she wants to help me.

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This morning I woke up with baking on the brain, but my rules were simple: If I don’t have it, we can’t make it. I didn’t want to spend any money and make a trip to the shops. If I needed a piping bag, well too bad. If I didn’t having baking powder, I’d have to find a substitute.

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Turning to the very yummy and creative Sweetest Menu, Amy picked out some cupcakes she wanted to make. I had to do some serious substitutions and managed to distract her with the idea of strawberry infused icing instead.

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My favour part of the whole exercise was packing up a few little cakes to take to our neighbours.

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As I struggle with the consumerism machine I’m continually fighting an internal battle. I want to buy my family treats and toys ‘just because’, but there are kids in the world who don’t have clean water. So here is a strategy I will put into place for the month of September:

  1. If we go to the shops and I’m tempted to buy that unnecessary gift for my immediate family, I will exercise more self-control and transfer the amount of said item into another account when I get home. At the end of the month, I will use that money to make a donation to an international relief agency.
  2. I will be more conscious of what I’m teaching my little ones. We can have fun in so many different ways and most of them don’t involve money. Although I rarely spend ‘just because’ money on myself, I need to make sure I’m not setting that example or expectation for my kids.

Love Jess xxoo

Living Simply: A quote

“Ironically, studies show that increased consumerism comes at a steep price. A rise in prosperity is not making people happier or healthier… We are incurring debt and working longer hours to pay for the high-consumption lifestyle, consequently spending less time with family, friends and community.”

– Jen Hatmaker, 7: An Experimental Mutiny Against Excess

Shout out to Laura Swanson for the recommendation

Living Simply with my new favourite Blog

There are a few blogs that I follow. I try to be deliberate about what I’m viewing in a world where every one is trying to tell you something. I have tried to maintain a mix of fun and educational, but most of all, I keep it simple. This is my current list of blogs I faithfully subscribe to:

Wronging Rights

Un-Fancy

A Deliberate Life

Sweetest Menu

However, I now have a new one to add to my list. It was started by a friend of mine and is called Better Dressed. What is this new blog about?

Better dressed is an everyday girl’s guide to crafting a more ethical and sustainable personal style.  It documents my own pursuit of a better wardrobe: better for me, better for the environment and, most importantly, better for the people who make my clothes.

http://www.betterdressedblog.com

When I first saw this blog, everything inside of me went ‘Yes!”. Laura speaks about things that I am processing and working through myself. Thoughts about simplifying life, starting with what I wear and where I buy it from. In short, it’s about being a responsible global citizen.  I could go on about this blog, but I suggest you check it out for yourself.

Love Jess xxoo

Living Simply in Rest

I have just made myself a coffee and warmed up some Banana Bread in our malfunctioning microwave and settled down to finally write this blog. It has been a while coming, but you’ll understand in about three sentences. Two of our closest friends recently returned from an overseas trip and whilst away they heard a short, six-word sentence and passed it along to us. It has truly hit home with me, so I have written it onto our bathroom mirror:

Rest until you can dream again

I am tired. It could have something to do with being pregnant and having a two and a half-year old. I’m positive the financial stress doesn’t help nor the fact that I now need to add ‘microwave’ onto a growing list of things to address around the house. Sigh. In regards to church-life, I have been involved in activities or ministries since I was 13 years old (I’m 30 now). That’s a lot of meetings, vision/directional changes, informal counselling, encouragement and late, late nights. We also did a large amount of travel last year, seeing places and things that were devastating and disheartening. In light of all we saw, we certainly know a lot more about the difference between good intentions and best practice, and I become tired when I see the first more often than not.

Additionally, since coming back from our trip, Tim and I have made it a priority to slow down our schedule. It’s one of the main things we learned for ourselves, the power of rest in a crazy Western world. I tend to feel overly responsible for everything and everyone (a recent revelation), which means my schedule often gets out of control as I try to accommodate the people around me and make sure they are going ok and not getting left by the weigh-side. It’s a learning process, so I’m still learning how to manage my diary.

I’m sure you can understand then, why this little line means so much to me. When you’re tired, it’s hard to think ahead and dream outrageous, energetic dreams. Sometimes it’s hard just getting out of bed, even when you’re not pregnant 😉

For those who believe in Jesus and know a little about their bible, it’s time to be Mary and let the Martha inside me have a break. It’s time to take up Jesus’ offer in Matthew 11:28 and come to Him for rest, to sit on the grass together and not even have to say anything. After a good long rest, maybe we’ll have a conversation about what’s next and what we can do together, but I can imagine Jesus sitting next to me, enjoying the peace and quiet just as much as I am.

Resting in the Grass

I believe that it really is important to rest or have seasons of rest in order to move forward. What I love about this little quote from our friends, is that the pressure is off. It’s a reminder that you don’t have to force yourself to dream; you will naturally be able to do so once you’ve had enough rest. Just rest and eventually the dreaming will begin again. So, if you’re tired, like me… rest until you can dream again.

Love Jess xxoo

Living simply this Christmas

Last year Australian’s spent 43 billion on Christmas. This included 17 billion on food and 2.4 billion in tax-deductible giving.

“If Australians gave even just one dollar out of every hundred spent this
Christmas to someone living in poverty that would raise $400 million.”
– TEAR Australia

I actually love Christmas and buying presents for people, but because of a tight budget and broader global perspective, we are trying to approach Christmas simply. Christmas doesn’t have to be ridiculously excessive or too commercial, it can be wonderfully simple.

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This year our Christmas present list is very small, consisting of Amy, her cousins, our neighbour, a donation to the UN and getting on board with the Random Acts of Christmas initiative. When thinking about what type of presents to buy for Amy’s older cousins, I didn’t want to get them another thing. They already have so much and in recent years, we have tried to give people experiences and memories over things.

With this in mind, Amy’s 6 and 4 year-old cousins will be getting a cooking experience to share with their mum (inspired by this list of non-toy gifts.) In cahoots with my brother and his fiancé, we have put together the ingredience for some chocolate chip cookies along with some accessories they can use again. Simplifying life doesn’t mean boring, it means being creative in the small things as well as the big. What’s one thing you can do this Christmas to simplify?

The recipe we’re using is from the Sweetest Menu, because I know the author and have experienced how yummy these cookies are.

“Live simply so others can simply live.”
– Mahatma Gandhi

Love Jess xxoo

PS – If you know Amy’s older cousins, don’t tell them what their present is… haha.