Tea is a relatively energy-efficient beverage. A cup of tea, made by boiling only the amount of water you need, produces about one tenth of the carbon footprint generated by a large cup of cappuccino. To put this into perspective, if you drink four cups of black tea every day for a year, you will have used as much energy as a single 40-mile car ride. On the other hand, the energy involved in a three-a-day latte habit is equivalent to flying halfway to Europe!* Here are a few tips to make your tea habit even more eco-friendly:
Measure and Then Fill. Put only enough water in your kettle to fill your teapot or mug. By taking care to boil only as much water as you need, you’re not wasting any water, and you’re not expending any more energy than necessary to bring it to the right temperature.
Stick With Gas If Possible. Generally speaking, it’s more energy-friendly to use a gas stove than an electric stove or AC-powered (plug-in) kettle. Gas burns more cleanly than coal (which is used to produce the vast majority of residential electricity in the United States). Natural gas is definitely not a perfect solution for all of our energy needs, but until technology and renewable energy markets develop further, it’s still better than coal. **
For Electric Stove Users. If you drink your tea with a meal, use the same burner you cooked with to heat your kettle while the burner is still hot. This takes advantage of the residual heat left in the burner, and reduces the energy necessary to heat your water. Also, if you plan on resteeping your tea with leftover water boiled for the first infusion, turn the power to the stove off in between infusions, but leave the kettle on top of the stove to absorb the leftover heat.
For Tea Drinkers at the Office. Consider using an AC-powered (plug-in) kettle as an alternative to a microwave. These are much more energy-efficient than the microwave and often boil your water in half the time.**
Cold-Brew Iced Tea. If you are making iced tea, opt to use the cold-brew method rather than the hot-brew method. The cold-brew method eliminates the energy needed to heat your water and takes advantage of an appliance (your refrigerator) that is already running in your home. Check here for an easy step-by-step guide to How to Make Iced Tea – Eco-Friendly Cold-Brew Method.
Local Water = Smaller Footprint. Opt to use tap water first if you have safe drinking water that is relatively free of strong smells and tastes. If not, use natural spring water when brewing your tea and opt for local spring water if available. The shorter the distance your spring water has to travel to reach you, the less carbon is emitted into the atmosphere. And don’t forget to bring your water containers back to the store to be refilled. This reduces the amount of packaging material necessary to transport the water, and typically saves you some cash, too.
*Source: “The World’s Water, 2008-2009″ by Peter Gleick, et al, www.waterfootprint.org.
**”Source: “Best Way to Boil Water” by Luke and comments by Gregory Hancock, August 2009