By Hailey Colbrunn.
Being recognized as a “green champion” is not an accolade given as recognition for a single green act. Rather, it’s a way to shine the spotlight on people throughout our communities who are not only changing their own lifestyles but also finding ways to educate and inspire change in others.
Founder of the Maya Tea Company, Manish Shah, is doing just that by taking his Tucson-based tea business and expanding it into a project that will implement and draw on different notions of what it means to be green. “It seems more like I’m a green explorer,” said Shah. “I’m looking at what can be done.”
Shah is in the planning stages for the building of drive-throughs that will sell tea, soda, and coffee. Every drive-through will be made out of repurposed shipping containers, giving them a second life. These containers will include solar panel roofs and other sustainable features. “I have some strategies that are really specific that I know we’re applying,” said Shah. “On the other hand, there are some unknowns.”
Shah is also looking into programs to manage the compost that comes from the tea and coffee grounds left over from production, while also seeking ways he can reuse excess water through different filtration systems. The company also plans to integrate compostable cups and refillable containers. When it comes to being green and bringing sustainable elements into a business, Shah is considering that those unknowns will be what drives the company to continue pursuing and developing a sustainable business. However, sustainability to Shah is more than reusable shipping containers and compostable cups.
Shah’s family derives from Jain lineage. Jainism as a religion upholds the central teaching of ahimsa, which is the practice of nonviolence. “I was raised in that environment, around ahimsa,” said Shah. “I have a heightened awareness about how my actions affect others. I’ve always been sensitive to that.”
For that reason, Shah’s vision for sustainability is a comprehensive one. “My original approach to sustainability was not based on the actual tangibles but more the intangibles. Things like having better relationships within the workplace, being mindful of things like workload… it was more driven by people than product,” said Shah. “True sustainability begins because we look out for each other, we care for each other, we are mindful of each other. Creating a work environment that fosters that [sustainability] feels like it leads to the rest of the story.”
The rest of the story for Shah and the Maya Tea Company is something that will continue to grow and spread its roots, bringing sustainability to not just a business but to the impact that business has on the community and its people.
“Sustainability is not the end result; it’s a practice,” says Shah.
Hailey Colbrunn moved to Arizona from Minnesota two years ago and finds continuous inspiration from the eclectic landscape and the opportunities for exploration.