Most “buy this to save the environment” type messages really have to be taken with a grain of salt. After all, buying stuff — even good, green-minded stuff — takes energy and resources, the carbon footprint of which generally overshadows whatever eco-benefit the product promises, be it difficult-to-track carbon offsets, or a hard-to-pin-down “percentage of profits” donated to an eco-charity, or more rarely, some actually substantial eco-commitments.

Guayaki Yerba Mate, however, is one business that claims a negative carbon footprint for its business — with no outside carbon offset gimmicks involved. How? Because the fair trade organic yerba mate Guayaki sells is grown sustainably under the rainforest canopy, sales of Guayaki’s product basically makes environmental conservation and restoration financially viable. Farmers get a monetary incentive to conserve the rainforest that’s there and to restore what’s been lost. Guayaki claims that the forest growth swallows up more carbon than is produced by the processing, packaging, shipping, and other carbon-emitting aspects of the business, thereby making the entire biz carbon negative.

This eco-feat wasn’t achieved just by the work in the rainforests. Guayaki seems very serious about reducing the carbon footprint of its products — the company’s latest eco-innovation being biodegradable bulk bags of yerba mate! Now, you can buy 1 lb packages of San Mateo Mate or Traditional Mate — then put the non-GMO, water-based ink printed, sustainably sourced wood-pulp bio bags into your compost, where it should biodegrade in 180 days.

How do they taste? I had a daily mate drinking friend, Matt Bowen, put them to the test. His verdict: "I really like both of them, particularly like the “San Mateo” roast. It’s the first time I’ve had anything other than the traditional, and I liked what it did…it was a little softer on the palette. The packages both have a list of adjectives I would agree with. The Traditional is: rich, robust, balanced. The San Mateo is: bright, lively, herbal. They’re both just a little more crisp and rounded than most mate…though that could strictly be a result of their freshness."

So it appears that the bio bags are good at keeping the yerba mate fresh! Matt drinks his yerba mate with a healthy helping of honey; he says it helps take off the edge.

Sweeteners do seem to be necessary for most Americans to enjoy traditional yerba mate — which is perhaps why Guayaki’s developing new, smoother concoctions. Previously, I’d had the unsweetened mate — which I found much too bitter. But lately, I’ve been drinking the flavored Guayaki Yerba Mate bagged teas — Pure Endurance (”an orange blossom stamina blend”) and Greener Green Tea (”an antioxidant rich yerba mate green tea blend”) — without sweeteners, and am liking them!

I also enjoyed the flavored bottled Guayaki teas — the “Pure Mind: Pomegranate Clarity Blend” was especially yummy — but those do come sweetened with organic cane juice and other fruit juices. The glass bottles also have a much higher carbon footprint — and will cost quite a bit more per serving of mate — than the biodegradable bulk bags, as you can imagine.

Want the most eco-friendly AND economically-conscious option that’ll make you look like a serious yerba mate drinker-environmentalist? Go for the bulk bag. Just $12 gets you a whole pound that’ll last you a good long time — and provide months of entertainment as you keep peeking in your composter to check on the bag’s biodegrading process….

Images via Guayaki

Yerba mate-fueled rainforest growth
Guayaki Yerba Mate claims a negative carbon footprint -- because its products help restore rain forests.