My Five-Minute Vacation: Organic, Fair and Delicious

“There is no such thing as a socially responsible business because that term
suggests that an enterprise has reached a destination and there is no more work to be done."

Honest Tea co-founder and TeaEO, Seth Goldman.

(3BL Media/Just Means)- There's that moment all of us modern-living people experience now and again. It's the moment when we find five minutes to stop and enjoy a refreshing drink.  We take five minutes to sit, move out of the busyness and maybe even pay attention to what it is we are drinking. We all define refreshing in very different ways, but we probably drink our chosen beverage because we like it. Some of us pop open a can of lime-flavored, high-fructose corn syrup. Others slurp on a quick dose of potent caffeine and maybe a few of us open a bottle of water made from the really noisy, crackling-type of plastic. However, maybe we don't drink it because we like it. Maybe we drink it because we've never drunk the crème de la crème: Honest Tea.

Something miraculous happened to me when I discovered Honest Tea. Those short, five minutes turned into the weekend I spent in Savannah, Georgia with my best friend.  Just a few sips of the Peach White Tea and there we were in Savannah, counting how many times we caught ourselves saying 'ya'll.'  On another instance, just as I realized my five minutes were up and I must face the craziness again, I began to smell the orange trees outside the bed and breakfast I stayed in during a college, spring break on Sanibel Island. I was spending my five minutes with a Berry Good Lemonade; now sweetened only with fruit juice.  

The reason these beverages take me into a place of total peace and contentment is because not only do they taste pure and make me feel good and healthy because they are made of organic ingredients and are free of fake sugars and additives, but also because I know they are crafted and produced with purpose:  to nourish and uphold the planet and the people who live on it.

I started drinking Honest Tea products because of the company's commitment to the fair trade movement. (I was also blown away by the high quality and their affordable price point). In 2012, Honest Tea paid 7% of its total cost for tea, $126,304 in fair trade premiums. These premiums provided Indian tea workers with the installation of biogas units in their homes that trap methane emitted from cow dung and transfer it into useable electricity, powering their kitchen stoves. In China, the fair trade premiums maintain high levels of medical supplies in hospitals of tea-producing communities.   Since 2003, Honest Tea has contributed over $397,000 in Fair Trade premiums, reinvesting in education, agriculture and community projects where the tea is sourced.  From 2012-2013, the company increased the amount of its fair trade premiums by 19%. I drink Honest Tea because I know the person who picked the leaves, the person responsible for my five-minute vacations, is being paid and treated fairly.

Honest Tea also recognized their need to motivate consumers to recycle in order to minimize their environmental footprint. The Great Recycle campaign, featuring a 30-foot tall blue recycling bin, expanded since their inaugural event in New York City and by May 2013 had traveled to seven states collecting more than 70,000 beverage containers.   Honest Tea also invested into a program called the Terra Cycle Juice Pouch Brigade which collects children's juice pouches and turns them into upcycled products like totes and bags. Honest Tea collected over 182 million juice pouches in 2013.

Perhaps one of the most laudable achievements Honest Tea reported in their 2013 Mission Report was their increase in organic ingredients.  Using data for the calendar year of 2012, the company increased purchases of organic ingredients by more than 500,000 lbs. for a total of 4.9 million lbs., which is 13% more than the previous year and more than six times the amount purchased from 2007 which equaled 790,000 lbs. of organic ingredients. And as always, Honest Tea continues to source non-GMO ingredients in every variety of beverage. The Coca-Cola buy-out in 2011 did not and will not change this principle, according to Goldman.  He states in a blog from last August, "there are bound to be moments when our enterprise does not share all of the same ideas as our parent company. But there's never been any pressure to compromise Honest Tea's products or our ingredients."

Honest Tea is by no means a perfect company. Goldman makes that statement in his opening letter of the 2013 Mission Report: "We strive every day to decrease the gap between our values and our practices, but we also have to recognize that if we are being honest with ourselves and continually challenging ourselves to do better, that contradiction will never go away. " They recognize they are still bottling single-serving beverages which create waste and contribute to pollution. However, they are striving to come out of that 'shade of grey,' as Goldman puts it, to truly leave a more positive impact on this earth than a negative one.

So, yes, I've drunk not the Kool-Aid, but the Honest-Ade. And I've drunk it with pride and commitment.  I would even go as far as to say (and maybe it's the Honest-Ade talking) that when you hold an Honest Tea product, it is as if you are holding an American flag. Because Honest Tea represents the America we need to become, the nation we are ever so slowing becoming: a people recognizing the urgent need to 'nourish' and 'uphold.'  That's the vision of the future America I often visit during my five-minute vacations—usually, I so clearly see that nation because I'm drinking an Honest Fizz organic root beer. 

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