It is estimated that 40% of the waste we produce comes from packaging. Creating minimal waste is one of the values I believe in and wanted to instill it in my business.
Inspired by the bottle deposit & refund system used by Straus Family Creamery and St Benoit Yogurt, I decided to use glass bottles that can be reused. Even though glass is recycled, reusing them is more environmentally friendly. Almost seven months after the Chai Brews were on shelves of Whole Foods, I finally got the approval from their regional office for the bottle deposit & refund.
All stores that now sell the Chai Brews take a $1.50 deposit for the Chai Brew bottle and refund it back to the customer when the bottle is returned to the store. We collect our bottles from the stores, sterilize them and reuse them. We recycle the caps, as we haven’t yet figured out the best way to sterilize them.
There are other ways in which we minimize waste. We do our own production and we make small batches of the Chai Brews every week. As I actively manage the inventory, I make sure we don’t over produce. We literally never have excess inventory to discard due to the expiration date.
We use freshly milled spices to infuse the Masala Chai Brew. I dehydrate the spices after production to reuse them for other purposes (they still pack a lot of flavor; so if you are interested in buying it at a low price, let me know). The tea leaves cannot be reused once brewed, we compost it.
The loose tea and the spice blend are packaged in tin containers. We don’t expect customers to return this, but we do hope they reuse it to store spices / jewelry or other small stuff.
Just as my decision to not use preservatives, using glass bottle & collecting them back from stores, limits my distribution options. Yet I feel proud that I have not compromised in the core values as I build this business. I remind myself what I wrote last summer - if we remain true to our values and work hard to improve every single day, profits will follow.