In 2004, I took my family to visit the Makaibari tea garden in Darjeeling, India, the supplier of our oolong tea. My oldest son Jonah, who was 11 at the time, was complaining that human pollution and environmental abuse was destroying the earth. But the owner of the garden, Raja, was much more philosophical. He corrected Jonah: "You don't have to worry about the Earth—it's not going away. Human activity and abuse may cause temperature changes and catastrophes that kill off species including humans, but the Earth will still be here. So don't feel sorry for Earth, feel sorry for the way we live because that is sure to change."
Raja is an unusual person. He grew up and lived in a privileged background as the son of a tea garden owner. A few decades ago, he was nearly killed in a horse riding accident. It was then that he got serious about leading a life of meaning. He made Makaibari one of the first biodynamic gardens in the world, creating an environment in which the whole system lives as one organism—feeding and fertilizing itself. One day when our son Elie was taking a shower after a long hike, he screamed because he found a scorpion in the corner of the bathroom. Raja calmed Elie down and showed Elie the scorpion that made its home in Raja's shower behind the door. Raja told Elie, "I don't bother him and he doesn't bother me," and indeed the scorpion seemed quite at home.
Though Raja's scorpion may not seem appetizing, it can be a great metaphor for one way to think about nature. The scorpion was perfectly at home in a moist, warm environment and as long as it wasn't disturbed, Raja and the scorpion were able to live in harmony. In the same way, the phrase "Nature Got It Right" speaks to the fact that the taste of natural ingredients are best when made as nature intended. Nature's ingredients are healthiest without all the artificial chemicals and of course our air, water and land are better off when they are able to do what they're supposed to do.
Many of nature's short-term actions may not always please us—just ask our lawyer who is stuck in Europe due to the Eyjafjallajokull volcano in Iceland (though having a lawyer stranded in Europe isn't always a bad thing!). But in the long term, trying to outsmart or out-technology nature doesn't work. "Nature Got it Right" can also be understood as a warning—we may think we know better but in the long-term, nature will do what it wants and we can either respect it now or pay for the consequences of our actions later.
Whether we spend Earth Day selling organic tea, lighter-weight bottles or reusable shopping bags, every transaction we conduct at Honest Tea helps support an effort to take our economy and our ecosystem in a more sustainable direction. It's a philosophy I'm proud to live by.
SETH GOLDMAN is the President and TeaEO of Honest Tea, the company he co-founded in 1998 with Professor Barry Nalebuff of the Yale School of Management. He's preparing the September release of a graphic novel titled Mission in a Bottle. @HonestTea