Sunday, April 28, 2013

Earth Day Garden "Par-Tea!" with Bigelow Tea

I am a member of the Collective Bias (R) Social Fabric (R) Community. This content has been compensated as part of a social shopper insights study for Collective Bias (R) and Bigelow Tea. All opinions are my own.

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After getting suckered into buying a bunch of fiddly little toys at WalMart (how a non-talking 16-month-old managed to manipulate me into buying Princess toys for her and her older sister, I'll never know,) Baby and I picked out some Bigelow Tea flavors; one for each of us! I love that Bigelow has a line of organic flavors, and that they are a green company - they are constantly looking for and implementing ways to reduce, reuse, and recycle waste from manufacturing and office activities!

For example, Bigelow Tea's three manufacturing facilities are "Zero Waste" facilities. To get that status, they need to divert 90% or more of their waste from going to landfills - which they exceed by diverting 92-100% of their solid wastes! They are also big proponents of "sustainabili-tea," and strive for ways to conserve energy and preserve and protect the land. And it's hard not to love a company that's still run by the founding family - third generation, company president Cynthia Bigelow. They even still make founder Ruth Campbell Bigelow's very first flavor blend, "Constant Comment," and the exact recipe blend is a closely guarded secret - Cynthia's parents still mix it themselves!
Bigelow Tea has also joined the Ethical Tea Partnership, which includes companies that share a commitment to sustainable sourcing, and helps tea producers in areas like fair treatment of workers and environmental management.

Their attitude of "sustainabili-tea" goes into their end-product as well - 85% of their packaging is biodegradable or recyclable! Our garbage service lets us put compostable items in with our yard waste, so anything biodegradable like greasy pizza boxes, cardboard milk cartons (not TetraPak - you need to rinse and recycle those with paper and aluminum,) used paper towels, food waste - and Bigelow Tea's biodegradable tea bags - we collect in a paper sack each week to add to our yard waste collection bin for composting!

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EARTH Day = HeR TEA Day!
For the most part, bagged teas are "safe" for us, as they're naturally gluten-free. Bigelow Tea has even made it easy to be sure, by posting a list of all their gluten-free selections! But for any teas with fruity or unusual tea flavors, be sure to check for artificial flavors and colors (in this case, their raspberry, peach and vanilla have artificial flavors.) Most of them were totally fine, and the organic ones will all be safe. Except my WalMart didn't carry that line. *Boohoo*

I had wanted to try Earl Grey ("Tea. Earl Grey. Hot." Yes. I'm a total Star Trek nerd...) but I wasn't sure what "bergamot" tasted like, so I played it safe and chose a regular black tea blend for myself. Z loves cinnamon, so that was an easy choice, until I later discovered that it was caffeinated. Doh! And peppermint tea for all of us, quite frankly, since we all love mint! Plus it smells nice. And can actually help me stave off a migraine,* if I catch it early enough!

*Yup! Sniffing mint not only energizes your brain for a natural caffeine-free boost, but it is also a vasoconstrictor, so it helps shrink back down those swollen blood vessels causing all the pain! So I try and keep minty things around me at all times. Foil-lined tea packets are especially good, as they are easy to transport, and stay fresh and minty-smelling longer. And unlike mint candies, my daughter doesn't gobble them all up the second my back is turned. Plus I can save the tea bag and brew it to drink after! It is surprisingly easy and inexpensive to get a cup of hot water at a coffee or fast food drive-through in a pinch.

Earth Day Garden "Par-Tea"
We had a beautiful, warm, and sunny Earth Day, which is totally unlike the weather we normally see! We decided to have an outdoor tea party to celebrate the burning ball of brightness in the sky. Z had highly-sweetened Bigelow Cinnamon Stick tea (I decided to let her have it, despite the caffeine because she had been soooo excited when she read the flavor on the box. Maybe pushing her to learn to read wasn't the smartest plan after all...) I had my Bigelow English Teatime (also highly sweetened. I like to joke that I like tea-flavored sugar!) And Baby got some herbal Bigelow Peppermint tea with a few ice cubes to cool it down (no caffeine. Just mint. And delicious without any sweeteners at all! Although I would still add some to mine... When the girls weren't looking...)
Both girls know that Mama drinks a lot of tea, so they feel so grown up and privileged when I allow them to drink tea too, no matter what flavors we're choosing. What they don't realize is that I'm steering them towards the low- or non-caffeinated varieties. Ha!

I have several fancy china teacups and matching saucers found cheaply at thrift stores that we use for fun stuff like this. They aren't family heirlooms, or even part of a set, so I can relax and let everyone have fun and feel like a grown-up, instead of twitching at every clink of cup on saucer! Trusting my (older) daughter with these (supervised) from a fairly early age has taught her how to be careful and respectful of things, without the tension and stress of worrying about an irreplaceable item. If you're so nervous about something breaking, they'll be nervous too, which usually ends in a mishap. And by trusting her with these, it shows that I have confidence in her ability to treat them well, which in turn makes her feel good about herself, and raises her own confidence. We haven't broken one yet!
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Baby got a plastic sippy though. She can't be trusted!

But I'm not satisfied with just the ability to compost the tea and bags... I like to "re-use" them first! I've always been stingy with my tea bags, and tend to double brew each one. (On days I drink a lot, I even save the bags and combine them for a third steeping!)

There are many useful ways to re-use tea leaves around the home, so we've been trying a few of them before returning the leaves to the soil. Some easy ones (and I'm all about easy!) are to toss some bags into the toilet tank to release the scent every time you flush. Or put several used bags into your hot bath water. It not only makes the whole room smell nice, but the tea-bath can actually help your skin too! The antioxidants in green tea are especially good, and I've heard that caffeine can be beneficial as well.
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Or dry out the used leaves and use them like potpourri, either in the house or your car! I read that they can be left to deodorize the fridge, garbage cans, and cat litter; or sprinkled onto wooden cutting boards and carpets for a bit before being vacuumed up... but I don't have enough tea leaves saved up yet to try those. Damp tea bags (or brewed tea in a spray bottle) are said to be great window and mirror cleaners, but I'm too lazy to clean.

If you use tea bags as eye compresses though, be sure you only use organic ones. No one needs a dose of pesticides in their eyes!

Even if you don't enjoy drinking a second-brewed tea bag, did you know that tea can be good for your plants? Roses and ferns like the acidity of the tannins. Black and Oolong teas contain the most tannins, then green, red, and white teas (the bitterer the tea, the more tannins it contains!) Herbal teas may or may not contain tannins (cloves, cinnamon, vanilla, thyme, tarragon, and cumin all do.) So go ahead and brew up some more tea... then feed it to your plants! When you're done, you can even open up the bag and sprinkle the used leaves onto the soil!

Planting Par-Tea
For Earth Day, instead of planting a tree or something, we planted organic sugar snap pea starts. Might as well plant something useful. Plus I have a black thumb, but I've had two years of decent luck growing peas. But only when Z helped plant them. So after our little outdoor tea party, we transplanted some farm-bought organic plant starts into our large pot (we have a container garden. I can't be trusted with a real one!)
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I'd been saving the tea bags re-used in the bath, and we sprinkled the leaves from the non-tannin ones around the plants, then went ahead and buried the empty biodegradable tea bags as well. In hindsight, we should have added them to the dirt first, then the bags could have gone under the plants, and the leaves would have been mixed better with the dirt as we dug holes and piled dirt around. Oh well. I have a whole year to save up used tea bags... so I can forget and do it backwards again next year! Ha!

Little Z had picked out a mini rose plant thing at a store, and in less than a week the flowers had all dried up and most had snapped off. So since we had been saving our tea bags anyway, we attempted a revival, and watered it with our second-brewed black tea bags, then put the used leaves onto the dirt. I made way more tea than the little pots could handle, so we saved the rest to use over several days.
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It's too soon to tell whether this is going to help her poor little plant, but since I was involved, I'm sure it will somehow end up leading to a slow agonizing planty death. *sigh*

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You can check out my fun Walmart shopping trip with Baby on Google+! 

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  1. Your kids look like they had so much fun at your garden tea party and loved the Bigelow tea. Have you tried the pomegranate? It is so good. I did the same thing with a set of old vintage tea cups and bought a set for the kids to enjoy hot tea in so I didn't have to worry about them getting broken.

  2. I love how Bigelow is working to make our world a better cleaner place!

  3. I had no idea all the things you could do with tea bags, like even putting them in the toilet or bath water. You really got me thinking!


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