Monthly Archives: January 2010

A New Look and Home for The Story of a Red Shirt

The story of a Red Shirt has remodeled and we are moving.  Check us out at our new digs –  We still have some more design work to do, but we would love to hear your initial thoughts.

The New Red Shirt Blog


Sustainable Design: A Tale of Two Tea Bags Part I

I recently caught my first cold of the season.  I guess most people do not think that is a big deal, but I was on a rally of nearly three years without a cold.  The good news is it was not too bad.  It slowed me down for a day or two, but then I was back at it full steam.

While nursing my cold, I drank a lot of tea.  It was very comforting and felt great on my raw, sore throat.  I tried many different brands (Traditional Medicinal, Numi, Good Earth, Trader Joe’s, Bigelow, and Organic India) as well as many different varieties (Sweet Lemon, Moroccan Mint, Echinacea Plus, Sweet & Spicy, Chamomile and Relax).  If you know anything about me, you can guess that almost all of them were organic.

Although I am mostly recovered, I am continuing the practice of drinking tea.  I have become a big fan of an afternoon and evening herbal tea.  It does not compare to my morning coffee (for all you coffee aficionados I highly recommend Matt’s wood roasted organic coffee), but I think tea will become part of my daily routine, at least while it is chilly outside.

If I have been able to keep your attention this far, you are likely wondering, “Where is he going with this?”  The good news is I do have a point beyond “I heart herbal tea.”

As I have been drinking all this tea, I have started to examine the different designs of the tea bags.  (Yes, yes, I know that loose-leaf tea is better than tea in bags.) I am a bit of a nerd for design.  Especially design that is done is a sustainable way.  You may be asking, how different can the bags be?  Well, as I am about to illustrate, the design does not have to be considerably different to be, in my opinion, much more sustainable.

Consider the picture of the two tea bags below.  At a quick glance (even a long stare) the two products from two different companies appear to be nearly identical:

  • Both are Moroccan Mint
  • Both are organic
  • Both bags are made from paper
  • Both strings are made of cotton
  • Both tags are made from paper

tea bags, sustainable design

However, there is one slight difference between the two bags that makes the design of one much more sustainable.

Instead of immediately letting the cat out of the bag, I want to see if anyone else can spot the difference(s).  (Remember that child’s activity: name all the little things that are different between two nearly identical scenes?)

  • How are these two tea bags different?
  • Why does this difference make one bag much more sustainable than the other?

Stay tuned for a Tale of Two Tea Bags Part II, when I reveal my thoughts (as profound or menial as they might be).

What Would Your Day Look Like with Super Powered Glasses?

x-ray glassesTo kick off the New Year at the Story of a Red Shirt, I am featuring another great guest blog from Rebecca.  I hope she is not trying to take my job!


Elyse Chen, one of CSR Asia’s Beijing staffers, recently shared some of her thoughts on food safety in the CSR Asia weekly newsletter.  She comments, “The basic responsibility of the food industry is to produce good quality and safe food. To fulfill this responsibility doesn’t require high technology, nor does it rely on advanced equipment. The key point is whether the owners and managers of the food companies have business ethics.”

Elyse goes onto to provide an excerpt written by a popular blogger that describes one day’s happy life of a Chinese person (and yes, the sarcasm is intentional).

In the morning, I woke up with a quilt made of shoddy cotton, brushed my teeth with carcinogenic toothpaste, drank up a cup of milk with melamine and excessive amount of iodine. Then I ate a fried bread stick fried in diesel oil and washing powder and a salty egg with Sudan Red G (a yellowish red lysochrome azo dye) inside, and I hurried to the office. At noon, I ordered a plate of finless eel fed with contraceptive pills and cooked with waste oil, a plate of cabbage sprayed with Dichlorovos, and two bowls of poisonous rice. In the evening I cooked cured meat made of pork from dead pigs fed with Clenbuterol; Spiropent, dressed it with soy bean which contained some hair. I also prepared cold jellyfish, which is soaked in formalin, grabbed a steamed bun containing bleaching powder and Sodium formaldehyde sulfoxylate, drank up two glasses of wine with great amount of methyl alcohol. Oh, what a happy life it is.” (As sourced from CSR Asia’s 6 January 2010 newsletter)

What if we were to each write a version of our day? One that took place in our own city and country that focused on not just what we ate, but also what we wore, inhaled, and absorbed?  What might it look like if we had some super power glasses that could see all that was invisible to the naked eye?  Those super power glasses would reveal a scary alphabet soup of chemicals, toxic materials, and unexpected foreign substances that we are coming into contact with everyday.

Globalization and international supply chains mean that the melamine that ends up in one’s milk in China is also ending up in milk in New Zealand or New York.  And it’s not just China that we have to worry about.  Manufacturers everywhere in the world are allowed to have micro amounts of toxic materials in their products and their waste streams (solid, water, or airborne).

In my humble opinion, businesses that use and release toxic materials shouldn’t be the norm.  It will take some creativity and perhaps some new technology, but it is possible to make a change.  Ray Anderson shares what Interface has done and continues to do as it climbs Mt. Sustainability in his latest book.

And for the record, Atayne doesn’t accept the status quo. As we continue to learn more, we are seeking alternate ways of doing things.  For more insight into our journey, check out the Naked Truth Part I and II.


What do you think about Rebecca’s thought-provoking post?  Here is my thought.  Capital One asked everyone, “What’s in your wallet?”  But they probably should have asked, “What’s in your milk, t-shirt, shampoo, toothpaste…”