Treading Lightly
Treading Lightly

My Favorite Fair Trade, Organic Teas

I love tea. I drink it year round with at least a cup in the morning as I settle into my workday. Some days, especially in the winter, I have another cup after lunch.

But tea has a big impact.

Tea is a mono-crop, and it comes with the heavy pesticide and herbicide use that mono-cropping is known for. The industry has a long history of worker exploitation, poor working conditions, and unequal profits for growers and distributors that lead to unlivable, low wages. Child labor is still widespread, and the tea industry is ripe with trafficking children and women. Deforestation, lack of natural biodiversity, and soil erosion are also rising concerns with an industry that is both growing and being pressured by climate change.

My Favorite Fair Trade Organic Teas

It’s important to me to fill my cup with something I feel good about.

There isn’t a way to know the true impact of the tea I drink and if it contributed to any of the horrors above. But I still think that looking for certain certifications is a start.

I only buy organic teas because it’s better for the workers who pick and process the leaves, for me, and for the environment. I do my best to also opt for fair trade when available. Thankfully fair trade tea is getting a lot easier to find.

Coincidentally, every company featured below is a Certified B Corporation. This means that they are a for-profit company that “meets rigorous standards of social and environmental performance, accountability, and transparency.” It’s an easy way to know if a company is invested in social good, especially in the locations that they do business.


My Favorite Fair Trade, Organic Teas

Quick note: While I am trying to transition to loose leaf teas only, some of my favorites still only come in bags. (If you have a favorite loose leaf please share!) I am still searching for a good local source of loose leaf, fair trade, organic teas in bulk. (Bay Area friends, do you know a place?)


1. Numi Decaf Ginger Lemon

Taste: This is the one of the two green teas I like. Okay, I haven’t tried a ton of them, but once I had this one I couldn’t see why I should bother switching. The flavor is light and not at all grassy. A squeeze of lemon juice makes this tea divine and a nice wake-me-up in the morning.

To put it frankly, I trust Numi. They don’t use any ‘natural’ flavors or perfumes. They instead rely on high quality spices, herbs, and teas. I know exactly what I’m drinking when I make a cup.

Impact: Fair Trade. Organic. While I wish this tea came in loose leaf, its bags are made from unbleached hemp paper. They are biodegradable and can be composted at home. The boxes are made from recycled cardboard with soy-based inks, and they don’t use any plastic wrap. They are actively working to create home-compostable, plant based wrappers for the tea bags, according to their website. (Their current wrappers have to be sent to the landfill, a fact that many tea drinkers like me take issue with.) They purchase carbon offsets and renewable energy certificates to offset their production emissions and energy use.


2. Numi Golden Chai

Taste: A hot, spicy chia can turn any day around. Once you start making your own chai, you won’t go back to the boxed, concentrated shit they sell at most coffee shops.

I’ve had a lot of chais in my life, but this one is by far my favorite to make for myself. It’s robust and spicy, and it holds up great when flooded with milk (or made entirely with milk instead of water). You can add a sweetener if you like, but for the most part it really doesn’t need it. Take note! The Numi’s loose leaf by far is more flavorful than the bags.

Impact: Fair Trade. Organic. Loose leaf and bags (although the loose leaf is superior in every way).


3. Traditional Medicinals Green Tea Lemongrass

Taste: In case you haven’t noticed yet, I love citrus flavors, especially in tea. This tea is refreshing without letting the lemongrass overwhelm the green tea. I feel virtuous with a cup of this in hand.

Impact: Organic. Fair trade. Certified B Corp. 100 percent of their electricity comes from local renewable sources. Traditional Medicinals supports many social good projects in India including building schools, helping provide water security for 3,100 people, increasing opportunities for girls and women, and more.


4. Numi Breakfast Blend

Taste: This tea is as smooth as breakfast teas come. It’s not bitter or astringent, and it pairs perfectly with a splash of milk or cream.

Impact: Organic. Fair trade. Loose leaf and bags.


5. Numi Moroccan Mint

Taste: Minty with a subtle sweetness, this tea is great for curbing a sugar craving or giving you a little after-meal pick me up. I’ve been in love with this tea for years, and I finally bought it in bulk. It turns out a pound of this mint tea goes a looooong way at 1/2 tsp. per cup. I gave it out for Christmas gifts and still have at least a half pound leftover.

Impact: Fair trade. Organic. Loose leaf and bags.


6. Yogi Ginger

Taste: This strong ginger tea used to be my secret weapon when I had a sore throat or an upset stomach. These days I drink it even when I’m not sick. The spicy ginger flavor has grown on me. The lemongrass helps add depth and smooth out the ginger taste.

Impact: Organic. While it doesn’t come in loose leaf, the tea bags are compostable and the outer box can be recycled. Yogi is also a Certified B Corporation. You can learn more about their environmental and social impacts here and see their B Corp. score card here.


PS. This is not a sponsored post or an advertisement. I don’t receive free products or any other perks for any posts. There isn’t a single affiliate link on the blog. These truly are my favorite teas.

Zero Waste Christmas Decorations

Piles of wrapping paper. Broken Christmas lights and ornaments. Browning trees resting on the curb. When you peel back the wrapping, the holiday season sure is full of trash.

Americans create 25 percent more waste in the month between Thanksgiving and New Years. That adds up to an extra 1 million tons of trash that go straight to the landfill or end up in the ocean.

Celebrate the holidays without the waste or the clutter with these zero waste Christmas decorations.

Cranberry and Popcorn Garlands

Zero Waste Christmas Decorations – Cranberry and Popcorn Garland
Reading My Tea Leaves

Compostable garlands are great to decorate your tree or hang around the house. Erin from Reading My Tea Leaves used cranberry and popcorn to create beautiful, mostly kid-proof decorations.


Petite Rosemary Wreath

Zero Waste Christmas Decorations – Rosemary Wreaths from Spoon Fork Bacon
Spoon Fork Bacon

Whether you are using them as place cards or just sprinkling them around the house, these little rosemary wreaths from Spoon Fork Bacon can be made out of compostable materials. They will also add a lovely scent.


Cinnamon Applesauce Ornaments

Zero Waste Christmas Decorations – Applesauce cinnamon ornaments
Katy Elliott

These clever ornaments or gift tags from Katy Elliott are made of two ingredients – cinnamon and apple sauce. They also smell divine.


DIY Eucalyptus Garland

Zero Waste Christmas Decorations – DIY Eucalyptus Garland via Homey Oh My
Homey Oh My

Decorations don’t have to be overly complicated or heavy. This DIY garland from Homey Oh My is a beautiful addition throughout the winter.


Felt Ornaments

Felt Zero Waste Christmas Decorations – Ornaments via Purl Soho
Purl Soho

I’m such a sucker for plush ornaments. I don’t know what it is, but there is something about them that feels cozy and inviting. These ornaments from Purl Soho will last for years, and you can make them out of repurposed felt. They also seem like a great activity for kids on a cold winter day. (These snowball ornaments from Purl Soho are also great.)


Paper Snowflakes

Zero Waste Christmas Decorations – Paper Snowflakes via iheart Organizing

IHeart Organizing

These aren’t the clunky snowflakes you made in elementary school. Jen and her family at IHeart Organizing made their decorations in a single night.


Tree Trimmings

Zero Waste Christmas Decorations – Mason Jar Tree Trimmings
A Barefoot Day

Clippings make a great alternate to an entire tree. You can also take your tree trimmings and spread them around the house to enjoy the scent and the festivities everywhere.


Pine Cone Garland

Zero Waste Christmas Decorations – Pine Cone Garland The Sweetest Ocassion
The Sweetest Ocassion

My mom still has pine cones my brother and I painted in elementary school. This pine cone garland from The Sweetest Occasion is a bit more chic than those are, but the spirit is still there. Skip the paint to make these compostable and zero waste.


DIY Fresh Mini Trees

Zero Waste Christmas Decorations – DIY Mini Christmas Tree from Trimmings via Say Yes
Say Yes

Next year I should make one of these adorable mini trees from Say Yes for our tiny house. Make these without the hot glue in order to reuse the base and compost the top.


Foraged Garland or Mantle Decoration

Zero Waste Christmas Decorations – Foraged Garland Style Me Pretty
Style Me Pretty

Not only do you get a lovely winter walk in, but you get a free, stunning decoration. The incredible women behind Petal Floral Designs shared their tips for how to make your own on Style Me Pretty.


Floral Tree

Zero Waste Christmas Decorations – DIY Floral Tree
Design Love Fest

I’ve never seen anything quite like this. The results are stunning. I would imagine the downside would be that the flowers aren’t going to last very long resting in the tree without water. But that doesn’t mean you can’t take Design Love Fest‘s idea and use hardy winter berries or other longer lasting plants.


Cinnamon Stick Himmeli

Zero Waste Christmas Decorations – DIY cinnamon stick himmeli

You can’t beat the smell of cinnamon on a cold, dark day. Jojotastic created these beautiful decorations out of cinnamon sticks and twine. Use cotton thread and leave out (or save) the wooden beads to make these compostable.


More on celebrating the holidays sustainably:

Sustainable Christmas Lights

Minimalist Gift Ideas

15+ Christmas Cookies to Gift (And Eat Right Now)

Homemade Beauty Gifts

Last-Minute Homemade Gift Ideas

Sustainable Gift Wrap

Why You Should Celebrate a Minimalist Christmas

6 DIY Cleaning Recipes

I’m in a huge cleaning mode right now. There’s something about the warm weather that makes me want to open all of the windows and scrub until it shines.

While I’m one of those people who enjoys cleaning (I’m a sucker for instant satisfaction), I can’t stand excessive scrubbing or time wasted. I’m very conscious of the chemicals that I bring into my house. The cleaning products we use end up rinsed down the drain and flushed into our oceans, bays, and rivers. Sewage treatment plants cannot pull the bleach and other caustic chemicals out of the waste water before it is discharged into the environment.

All of these DIY cleaning recipes are effective and safe for you and the environment. They will help you clean your home from top to bottom!

DIY Cleaning Recipes

5 DIY Cleaning Recipes

Homemade Stain Remover
Remove tough stains from your laundry, carpet, and upholstery with this two-ingredient recipe.

DIY Castile Laundry Soap
Use your food processor and have six months of laundry soap done in five minutes. If only you could do the laundry the fast.

Hardwood Floor Cleaner
All you need is this easy spray and a microfiber cloth to make this effective hardwood floor cleaner. The cleaner removes dirt and grime without harming the finish of the wood. You can use any flat mop or even re-use an old Swiffer mop.

Homemade All-Purpose Spray
From counters to sinks, this cleaner cuts grime just about anywhere. I mostly use it for sticky bits on the counter and tough grease on the cabinets and stove-top. It’s also great to disinfect the counters before making jam or rolling out cookie dough on them.

Castile Soap Toilet Bowl Cleaner
There isn’t much, if anything that I won’t clean with castile soap. A teaspoon or two is plenty to clean even the dirtiest toilet. You can clean the whole bathroom with it! For a sparkling toilet, squirt a teaspoon or so of castile soap into the bowl before scrubbing with a brush.

Smelly Shoe Spray
Goodbye, stinky shoes! Beat the feet smell with this easy spray. Use it after each wear to keep your shoes and feet fresh.


Paper towel alternatives

Cheap and effective dorm cleaning

Do you know what’s in your cleaner?

Homemade Stain Remover

Life is messy. I am messy. My roommates are really messy. Needless to say this homemade stain remover gets used frequently. From removing the tomato sauce I exploded on my favorite light purple sweatshirt while cooking to pure mud from hiking to the chocolate my roommates ground into the cloth napkins, I have had my fair share of tough stains.

This homemade stain remover is powerful without all of the nasty chemicals. It also won’t bleach or discolor your clothes.

Homemade Castile Soap Stain Remover

Homemade Stain Remover Ingredients

2-5 teaspoons liquid castile soap
1-2 cups of water

I love simplicity, and the two ingredients in this stain remover certainly fit the bill. Castile soap is heavily concentrated. When diluted with water, the soap is easy to apply without overdoing it. I also love that I can buy it in bulk. Our local Whole Foods and a few smaller grocery stores in the area let you refill your bottle. I make my homemade stain remover in a small spray bottle so its always on hand and easy to use.

To be fair, I don’t usually measure my ingredients when I make this castile soap stain remover. Typically I squirt some of the soap into the spray bottle and add water. If it’s too much soap (I base it off the color of the stain remover and how sudsy it comes out) I add more water once there’s room. Not working as hoped? I add a little more soap. It doesn’t take much to create a powerful stain remover, so err on the side of less soap to begin with.

Best Uses for Homemade Stain remover

I have some pet peeves and some constantly-dirty items. Here’s my list of all of the things that get a thorough spray before hitting the wash:

1. Not so white socks (AKA the reminder to mop more often)
2. Grimy sleeves – sweatshirts are my worst offenders. I blame the gym.
3. Sunscreen marks
4. Armpits and collars of white shirts
5. Food stains
6. Dirt, grass, life stains
7. Blood stains
8. Light colored sports bras (they get a general all over spritz to keep them looking bright and clean)
9. My workout shirts – where I wipe my sweaty face and anywhere that spent time on the floor (sit ups anyone?) to get out the extra oils and dirt
10. Makeup marks (not common for me, but the stain spray has taken it out in the past!)

Zero Waste Trail Mix

Snacks are my biggest barrier to being zero waste. I stopped buying chips and crackers to try to reduce how much processed, packaged food I eat, but I rarely make it from one meal to the next without a snack and my lack of snacks was becoming a huge problem. No snacks is a really bad thing. In an effort to stop scaring people while eating healthier and reducing my waste, I made myself delicious, hearty trail mix.

Zero waste trail mix is so easy! I brought empty jars with me to the grocery store and came home with a killer snack. The bulk bins were full of fun ingredients, and it was great to be able to just get as much as I wanted instead of trying to shove pumpkin seeds into everything I eat before they go rancid. I also got ideas for things I wouldn’t normally put in my trail mix.

zero waste trail mix-zero-waste-trail-mix

Nut-Free Zero Waste Trail Mix

Raw Sunflower Seeds
Pumpkin Seeds
Dried Cherries (unsweetened and unsulfured)
Unsweetened Coconut Chips
Chocolate Chips

All of my ingredients were organic and local if possible. You can leave out the chocolate chips to cut the sugar, but I fell prey to peer pressure and I can’t say I regret having them in there.

Once I brought home my bounty I just poured it into a quart-size jar and shook it up. Done.

zero waste trail mix-zero-waste-trail-mix

Now instead of constantly cramming my face full of (delicious) chips, I am eating nutritious seeds that are full of protein and magnesium. While you won’t find me on a cool trail anytime soon, this is my new go-to snack.

I pop it in a small, reusable container to take it on the go or straight into my hand for convenient snacking sans dishes around the house.

Zero Waste Grocery Shopping Inspiration

This month I finally bit the bullet and started to take the last few steps toward zero waste grocery shopping. Food packaging, and the reality that it is most of what goes into my trash can, has been on my mind.

I had been meaning to bring glass jars to fill up at the bulk section of my local grocery store for months, and yet something always held me back. I don’t want the jars bouncing into each other while I walk. I don’t know how to get the tare weight. What would I even buy. What if the selection isn’t as good as the packaged products.

They were excuses because I was afraid of trying something new. It’s not even that big of a change in my routine, and yet I dragged my feet on it for months!

zero waste grocery shopping zero waste trail mix-zero-wast- grocery-shopping-zero-waste-trail-mix

Zero waste trail mix made with my bulk bin loot.

Turns out zero waste grocery shopping from the bulk bins is super easy!

My canning jars were plenty sturdy for the walk over, and when I got to the store the customer service person weighed them and wrote the tare weight on top for me. I can keep reusing those jars without having to get them re-weighed. When I got home, I just put the jars straight in the cabinet and I was done.

Zero Waste Grocery Shopping Guides

These are the people or the blog posts that really gave me the extra push I needed this month.

Zero Waste Home: Zero Waste Grocery Shopping
Bea and her family were my first introduction to zero waste living years ago. I’ve admired her lifestyle and read her book. I implemented quite a few of her tips. Her post breaks down how to shop zero waste for everything on your list.

Paris to Go: Going Zero Waste
While the woman behind this blog has unknowingly become my minimalist wardrobe guru, her post on how to go zero waste when the people in your life aren’t so keen was great. I live with roommates who understand what I’m doing on various levels. They put up with my experiments and don’t question why I’m collecting compost on our countertop despite the fact that where we live doesn’t have compost collection. Not buying the beloved potato chips didn’t go over well. But the post has been helpful, especially with the suggestion of giving “appealing alternatives.” Turns out homemade hummus and fresh veggies are quite the motivator.

Trash is For Tossers: 5 Days of Zero Waste
This video was the last little, “hey, you should do this” push I needed. I already do so many of these things, so why not add in zero waste grocery shopping? Lauren Singer‘s advice to look through your trash and see what you throw away the most hit me the hardest. My trash is full of tissues and chip bags, both completely avoidable.

Now I still don’t know how to get kale without a rubber band or twist tie put on by the store or how to get tofu without the plastic container, but this has opened my eyes. I’m struggling to give up tortilla chips and potato chips, but I have certainly cut my consumption significantly to reduce the packaging they come in.


11 Tips to Save Water

Earth day is only a week away! But you don’t have to wait until then to start living a little more sustainably.

Despite the recent rain, Californians are still being asked to conserve as much water as possible. It is long-past time we got serious about saving water. Whether your state is counting every drop or you are just trying to do your part, use these tips to save water.

11 tips to save water -tips-to-save-water-earth-day-2016-sustainable-lifefactory-glass-water-bottle

11 Tips to Save Water

1. Turn off the water when you’re washing your hands, brushing your teeth, and doing dishes. I know it doesn’t seem like much, but most of the time we have the faucet running we are just letting the water run right down the drain. Instead of rushing through your hand washing, turn on the water, rinse your hands, turn off the water, scrub with soap, turn on the water, rinse your hands, turn off the water, done! It makes a huge difference in the amount of time the water is actually running.

2. Stop watering lawns and other excessively thirsty plants.

3. Only wash full loads of laundry. It’s so tempting to do a quick load of laundry mid week with only a few things in it, but the less you do laundry, the more water you save. And since the largest carbon footprint of our clothing is not from manufacturing but from the water it takes to wash them over and over again, there are extra benefits to holding off. If you go to a laundromat, choose front-loading, European style washers. They use significantly less water (and are nicer to your clothes).

4. Opt for a shower instead of a bath, and make that shower fast. I’m aiming for seven minutes or less (which is huge for the queen of the 10-15 minute shower), and when I can, skip a shower. Showering less is actually good for you, but on days when I get really sweaty I take a quick (1-2 minute) shower where I don’t wash my hair.

5. Only run the dishwasher completely full and opt for the dishwasher over hand washing for appropriate items. You’ll use up to 35 percent less water than if you washed them by hand. When you do need to hand wash items, use a bowl or the sink and fill it with soap and water instead of washing each item individually and running the tap.

6. Wash clothes less frequently. While there are some items that need to be washed after every wear, pants, sweaters, and jackets certainly don’t need to be. Not only will you save a significant amount of water, you’ll also save the time it takes to do the laundry and you’re making your clothes last longer.

7. If it’s yellow, let it mellow. Although it’s really most convenient and least difficult to explain when you have your own bathroom.

8. Avoid meat. Eating less (or no) meat drastically cuts water consumption. A pound of beef takes nearly 2,000 gallons of water to produce from growing the feed for the animal to the production and processing of the meat.

9. Stick to one cup. I know, this is blasphemy. But cutting back on your coffee habit will impact more than just your energy levels. It takes 55 gallons of water to make a single cup of coffee. That’s 11 five-gallon buckets.

10. Drive dirty. Nixing the car wash will save you more than 150 gallons of water.

11. Break up with plastic bottles. It takes more water to create a plastic bottle than to fill it. Instead of drinking bottled water, ice tea, even that green juice, fill up a reusable bottle with your favorite beverages instead.

For more tips on how to cut your water consumption, check out this great list from National Geographic.

Loose Leaf Tea

There is something healing and comforting about drinking a cup of tea. The world seems to slow down as the steam slowly billows around your face. The cup warms your hands and you find yourself reflexively leaning in.

I start most days with a cup of loose leaf tea. Each sip eases me into the day.

Loose-leaf-tea- Loose leaf tea loose-leaf-tea loose leaf tea

I’ve always loved tea. When I was little my mom would make it for me with a heaping spoonful of sugar. I used to get so excited to drink mint tea or herbal teas so heavily sugared that they tasted like juice. Every once in a while she and I would go downtown and have high tea at a fancy restaurant. I felt like a princess.

For years I had boxes and boxes of tea. All different varieties, and even some duplicates. I finally realized how few of them I truly liked. How I would most often reach for one or two varieties and the rest sat in their boxes collecting dust.

I got rid of it all. I gave away boxes to friends and family who visited and liked the tea or who drank it regularly. I schlepped the rest of it to work where it’s been slowly dwindling.

Liquid zen. #greentea

A photo posted by Mandy Ferreira (@treading_lightly) on

When I was done I was left with four teas I loved. Decaf vanilla black, chai, yerba mate, and mint. As the boxes slowly ran out I decided to replace them with loose leaf. It’s insanely cheaper, massively reduces waste, lasts me much longer, and the flavor is incredible.

I originally made the switch to cut back on how much each cup of tea wasted, especially when I couldn’t compost the wrapper or the tea bag. I bought one pound bags each of my favorite loose leaf teas, and I’m still drinking them more than two years later. Based on how much I have left, it seems likely they will last me another year or so.