Guayaki - Leaving a negative carbon footprint
Hippie Dippy Drink?
Yerba mate. Maybe those two words are just gibberish to you. Maybe you’ve seen a friend drinking a bottle of it with its bright yellow label. Maybe you’ve actually tried this earthy tea drink for yourself. Wherever you lie, after learning a bit more about Guayakí’s yerba mate, I think you will agree, it’s an amazing product that you just might want to incorporate as a regular beverage choice. Guayakí was the first company to produce fair-trade certified yerba mate. It was started over twenty years ago by a few college students who fell in love with yerba mate and wanted to incorporate it into their desire to demonstrate a successful sustainable business model. Along with sharing their passion for drinking yerba mate, they set out to prove that a sustainable business that prioritizes the health of the environment and native communities can also be highly profitable.
Yerba mate is made from the leaves of a holly tree native to the South American Atlantic rainforest. It is a centuries-old traditional drink of the Aché Guayakí tribe in South
America, enjoyed for its natural stimulant effect and high nutrient profile. It is actually consumed six to one over coffee in Argentina, Paraguay, Uruguay, and Southern Brazil. Similar to coffee, tea, cocoa, and kola nut, yerba mate contains stimulating compounds including caffeine, theophylline, and theobromine (same feel-good compound you get in chocolate). In 1964, the Pasteur Institute and the Paris Scientific society documented yerba mate to contain fifteen amino acids, abundant antioxidants, and twenty-four vitamins and minerals-practically all of the vitamins necessary to sustain life. It has caffeine in a level between coffee and green tea, but it isn’t acidic like coffee and it’s less bitter than tea. It’s no wonder that Guayakí is working to make it’s yerba mate the mainstream energy source of choice.
Of course, Guayakí is not the only company to be producing yerba mate, but its unique environment-conscious and fair-trade practices result in a far superior product than commercially-processed alternatives. One of Guayakí’s primary missions is the preservation of the South American Atlantic rainforest and the livelihood of the people that live there. Because yerba mate can be shade-grown, Guayakí chooses to cultivate its plants amongst the rainforest trees of Argentina, Paraguay, and Southern Brazil without cutting down any trees. This also provides local communities with an opportunity to use their resources in profitable and sustainable ways without harming their native land and gives an alternative to destructive logging, mono cropping, and cattle grazing. Guayakí works directly with farmers to guide them in cultivating the best organic yerba mate using time-honored traditional methods that allow maximum flavor and nutrient preservation. This involves hand-picking the leaves and stems, flash-heating then low-temperature drying to preserve nutrients, milling, aging for one year to mellow and develop flavor, and finally sealing the finished product in Guayakí’s biodegradable packaging. The shade-grown cultivation actually captures enough carbon dioxide to negate the carbon emission created over it’s production cycle, creating an overall negative carbon footprint.
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Guayakí customers “have become a driving force for conservation by paying a fair trade price for rainforest-grown mate.” With their success in creating a sustainable yet profitable business, Guayakí is working to extend their mission beyond yerba mate alone. They created the Guayakí Foundation to “develop economic models that conserve and regenerate the Atlantic Rainforest while building vibrant, healthy communities.” By propagating their own Market-Driven-RestorationTM business model via technical assistance, grants and no interest loans, they hope to spread their mission of stewarding the land well, creating living wage jobs, and showing the world profit does not have to come at the cost of unfair wages and harming the earth.