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).

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4 responses to “Sustainable Design: A Tale of Two Tea Bags Part I

  1. I run into the Numi problem all the time when drinking tea. Why do they insist on using two staples?!

    First off, as the “fine tea” bag demonstrates, the staples aren’t necessary and that mean unnecessary metal use with all its extraction, refinement, and transportation costs.

    Second, you’ve got to ripe the darned staples out if you want to compost the bags. I suppose you don’t have to, but I don’t want to go stepping on or kneeling on or sticking my hands into dirt filled with tiny staples. No thanks… for the staples, that is. Thanks for bringing such nuances to light, Atayne!

  2. For the record, I actually recycle any non-dirtied paper tabs after steeping. We all should. Why not reuse the wood pulp for paper first and then compost paper that’s beyond recycling?

  3. Ha, the staples! That’s what I was going to say! And, it appears that the bag on the right is using more paper on it’s little tab, it’s folded over. The one on the left appears to be a single sheet. Interesting, veeeeeery interesting 🙂

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