As regular readers of SustainabiliTEA know, we recently returned from the World Tea Expo, where we were invited to address the subject of social and environmental responsibility in the tea industry. Before heading off to Las Vegas, our idea of a “successful” trip was this: sit in front of a room full of tea business owners/employees, describe our efforts to improve the social and environmental impact of our company, and maybe get some other people in the industry thinking along the same lines (or maybe even give them some tangible ways to take action). Well, the discussion during and after the session suggests that maybe this initial concept of “success” was achieved. There were many questions about green packaging, carbon offsets, organic certification and fair trade licensing, which, at least to us, hinted at a greater interest in (and awareness of) these issues. But the real “feel good moment” occurred a few hours later on the trade show floor.
Amidst the hub-bub of a million different vendors offering every kind of tea, herb and teaware that the world has to offer, one particular booth caught our eye. The company, who imports and distributes sustainably-produced teas from Bangladesh, was called Tetulia. Besides their friendly representatives and very nice graphic image, we were most attracted to their booth by the packaging they had on display – packaging that seemed to share many characteristics with ours! Not that it was a direct duplication, but maybe a younger sibling or distant cousin. As we approached the booth, we were greeted by Linda and Brianne, who instinctively launched into their sales pitch (working trade shows can be mind-numbingly repetitious – by the time we came across them on Day 3, it was all reflex). But once they noticed our name badges, the tone changed immediately. “Hey Linda, these guys are from Arbor Teas!” “Oh, wow!” Now keep in mind that, with the exception of a few local events, this was the first time we’d gotten that sort of response. “You guys were totally the inspiration for the sustainable packaging decisions that we’ve made!”
Whoa. The thought that we, from our little place in Ann Arbor, MI, could have a positive influence on a company selling teas from half-way around the world – without even knowing it – is very, VERY humbling. Testament to the global village that we now live in… and maybe the importance of leading by example!