Our Farm Blog

Tuesday, 23 September 2014

A Question of Certification

A Question of Certification

Rainforest Alliance's recent Follow the Frog week helps to raise the profile of sustainably produced products, but does it go far enough? Are truly sustainable products rewarded enough in the market place? At the moment an often simple one-size fits all mentality is applied to sustainable certifications, but is it time to differentiate and award an elusive A* to the very best sustainable and innovative products?

Consumer research would suggest that products need to be clear in the message they portray to avoid confusion, but the ethnically/sustainably produced consumer is traditionally a 'back of pack' reader, so surely more could be done to demonstrate how an A* product is produced to a higher level.

Take the hugely successful global retailer Whole Foods for example, they use a 5 Step Animal Welfare rating system, clearly differentiating between why one product is better than the next, easy to understand and implement. It would be interesting to do the same for tea! For example Energy could be one category, with the top grade growing their own sustainable energy through renewal timber plantations and utilising solar energy, to the bottom poorest certification using timber from indigenous forest. Consumers could then understand actually how the sustainability of products varies hugely despite appearing to be certified.

What would be even more interesting was if the percentage of the certified blend was revealed. How often does a product state a sustainable certification but when you read the pack only a minimum 50% is actually certified. Surely this should only be awarded an Orange light, or B at best rather than an A grade for sustainability and ability to apply the certification logo in full?! Brand's should reveal the sources on a percentage basis of their blends, removing the temptation to showcase only their A grade sources to the public, implying all of the tea in their packs is from these sources, whilst actually these sources only make up a tiny percentage of the blend.

Food for thought!

Tuesday, 9 September 2014

Solar Tea

Solar Tea

At the moment the world is highly dependent on fossil fuels for energy. There are three major issues which make this unsustainable. First, fossil fuels are very expensive, and only rising in price. Second Fossil fuels are finite and will eventually run out. Third and perhaps most importantly, they release large volumes of Carbon Dioxide into the atmosphere, causing climate change and hazardous weather. They are not a long term sustainable solution for the world.

Solar Power is simple, clean and cost effective. Unlike Fossil fuels, the sun's energy is guaranteed as the sun shines every day and will never run out. In a single hour the sun transmits more energy to the earth's surface than the world uses in a year!

Commissioned in May 2014 our Solar Park at Changoi is the first utility scale solar farm in East Africa. The size of the park is approximately 1.5 hectares, producing 1MWp, which means it produces 1,6000,000kWh of electricity per year. To put this into perspective since just 1kWh is enough to boil water for 40 cups, this system could boil enough water for every Kenyan to enjoy a cup of tea and maybe a second too!

Africa is not only the ideal location for tea but also for solar electricity too! Located on the equator where the sun is high in the sky all day, provides great conditions for getting the most out of a solar system, with 12 hours of daylight every day.

Not only does this renewable energy source play a significant part in meeting Kenya's growing power demands, both large scalar and small scale potential in Africa, but the solar industry creates jobs for skilled workers and labourers too. On Changoi about 60 people were working on site during construction with other involved with logistics in Nairobi.

The solar power system has been built as part of Williamson Tea's commitment to sustainable farming and a greener future for tea production.  The electricity produced at Changoi will prevent an estimated 20,000 tonnes of Carbon Dioxide from entering our atmosphere over its lifetime and the ystem provides enough power to enable the Changoi factory to run from solar produced electricity during daylight hours, enabling a massive reduction in energy use.

#solartea #farmingthesun