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“What We Pay Attention to Grows”: 5 Tangible Commitments We Can Make Toward Sustainability

“What We Pay Attention to Grows”: 5 Tangible Commitments We Can Make Toward Sustainability

April is the month of Earth Day (specifically Friday April 22, 2022) and is a time when many individuals and organizations make commitments to sustainability and care for our earth. Here at Cha Community, we believe Earth Day needs to be more than just a day and have been on a journey this past year when it comes to growing in sustainability. Our mission at Cha Community is to bridge cultures and create community. Just as much as we want to create community with people, we also want to create community with the earth and land we are on. 

Our journey toward sustainable practices is inspired by one of adrienne maree brown’s Emergent Strategy principles - “What you pay attention to grows." 

Paying attention to sustainability allows for us to take active steps towards community care. We invite you to join us through these 5 tangible action steps that you can also commit to: 

1. Commitments to Learning From Black, Indigenous, People of Color (BIPOC) Voices on Racial Justice, Sustainability, & Climate Change -

If you have not considered whose land you are on, we invite you to learn more at Native Lands - an online resource to learn more about Indigenous territories, languages, lands, and ways of life. Specifically, Cha Community in Waco is located on the ancestral lands of the Kiikaapoi (Kickapoo) and Cha Community in Temple is located on the land of the Tonkawa and Jumanos.

Long before recent cities, Indigenous Nations have been in relationship with the land and have tended to sustainable practices to care for the land we are on. Today, Indigenous peoples continue to protect and remain in relationship within the land that we gather, live, learn and work on. Commitments we make to centering BIPOC voices include reading resources developed by BIPOC leaders. With a commitment to building Indigenous power, NDN Collective continues to create sustainable solutions and to develop resources like their most recent curated book we recommend - Required Reading: Climate Justice, Adaptation, and Investing in Indigenous Power

To continue your online learning on the topics of racial justice and decolonization along with the intersections of sustainability and climate  change, you can sign up for Asian American Justice + Innovation Lab  (AAJIL) online Environmental Justice Circle and free People’s School for Justice community education workshops

Cha Community Waco Cha boba tea drinks and loose leaf tea in a small white bowl. A shadow of a plant is toward the bottom right of the photo

2. Source your loose-leaf tea and coffee from BIPOC-owned, Direct-Trade Suppliers & Small Businesses -

We have been on a journey this past year to find suppliers that specialize in direct-trade practices with tea and coffee farms. Our plan is to continue increasing our direct-trade suppliers. Direct-trade suppliers are oftentimes more committed to caring for communities because of the direct relationships they cultivate with farmers. Three tea and coffee suppliers we are inspired by include Us Two Tea, Young Mountain Tea and Nguyen Coffee Supply. These three small businesses are Asian American-owned and are also committed to direct-trade, sustainable and ethical practices with farmers throughout Asia and through their tea and coffee productions. 

Us Two Tea, specifically offers Taiwanese teas including oolong and jasmine loose leaf tea-soon to be available starting Friday 4/22 through our loose leaf tea pot service in all our Cha Community tea shops as part of our spring drink collection. 

The founders of these small businesses know the languages, cultures, and  farms they work with. They are also deeply committed to ensuring cultural  integrity for the tea and coffee they produce and sell. So often, in America,  accurate representation and culture is lost in the world of tea and coffee.  Sourcing your loose-leaf tea and coffee from direct-trade suppliers & small  businesses who partner with direct-trade suppliers can be part of creating  community and ensuring that your dollars are investing in sustainable  practices. 

3. Recycling, Reducing Waste & Reusing -

Did you know you can request up to two blue recycle bins and two green yard waste bins as a resident of Waco? If you’re a resident of Temple, you can find more details about Temple’s recycling program here

Since the beginning of Cha Community, we have sought to recycle materials, when possible, when producing our boba tea and dumplings. We have also encouraged guests to bring back their Cha Community reusable mason jar and stainless steel straws through our Mason Jar Club 10% discounts. Starting in May 2022, Cha Community guests will also be able to bring their own personal cups/jars/drink mugs to our tea truck or shops for a 10 cent discount off orders. This was something we discontinued throughout the COVID-19 pandemic and are bringing back! Stay tuned on our social media channels for more details! 

Reducing waste by reusing items is most ideal and that is why we are planning a transition to boba tea drinks in glasses - alongside reusable stainless steel straws - for dine-in guests at our shops with a target goal by the end of the year. When reusing items is not possible, we seek to recycle and compost waste. In Waco, the World Hunger Relief farm picks up our plant-based compost materials biweekly from our food and tea productions for their composting and farm needs and in Temple, we are actively working to set up recycling and to work with the Un-Included Club’s Urban Farm and Urban Agriculture program for our Temple area composting needs. If you are eager to jump into composting within your own household, you can learn more from both the World Hunger Relief farm, Mission Waco’s Urban REAP’s industrial composting program, and the Un-Included Club. 


Cha Community guests inside the shop enjoy tea and sitting in community tables.

4. Support, Share Work By, and/or Join Groups Working toward Sustainability Efforts -

Alongside individual commitments you and your household can make when it comes to sustainability and climate change efforts, individuals can also take steps to join grassroots and local efforts to address policy level concerns. We recognize that sustainability and climate change efforts need to be addressed communally, not just individually. Governments, corporations, schools, businesses, faith communities, and households are all challenged to engage in this arena and the pressure cannot only be placed on individuals. 

Civic engagement through voting in local elections and voicing concerns at local city council meetings is one way to address sustainability and climate change issues at the policy and community level in the U.S. For example, the Sustainable Resource Practices Advisory Board is one local board in Waco seeking to make impacts in policy surrounding sustainability. Our co-owner Jaja Chen has been serving on this Advisory Board since fall 2021. Currently, a Green Business Survey is actively being conducted by the City of Waco and Keep Waco Beautiful to see what the needs are when it comes to potential implementation of a Green Business program in Waco. All Waco business owners and/or business representatives are encouraged to complete the survey here

Local grassroots organizations like Waco Friends of the Climate seek to combat climate change through education and direct action work and continue to provide actionable tips on how to take action through their website. Their annual arts show utilizes the arts to raise awareness about the climate crisis. Keep Waco Beautiful is a local non-profit that organizes park and river beautification and clean-up efforts and you can follow their social media to engage in their Earth Day challenges. 

You can stay on the lookout for continued events with Keep Waco Beautiful for community clean-up opportunities on their website.  In Temple, non-profit organizations like the Un-included Club are looking for both donors, volunteers, and supporters of their mentorship and educational programs for youth; they are also continuing to venture into Urban Farming and selling fresh microgreens to the community and local restaurants. 

5. Engage in REST and nurture deep relationships with those in your community -

A term and value we learned from some of our fellow Filipino team members over the years is “Kapwa” and the importance of our shared humanity and togetherness. Living in the spirit of kapwa is to engage in community care.  

BJ Gonzalvo recently wrote in Inheritance Magazine on the meaning of kapwa: 

Many indigenous Tagalog words, especially those that have lasted through colonial and post-colonial times, are simply untranslatable. “Kapwa” is one of those important indigenous words. It may have evolved in meaning over time, but it is a word that calls for a closer look and a deeper understanding because not only is it core to the Filipino identity, to my Filipino-ness, but it is what I think one of the Filipino culture’s profound offerings to humanity. Kapwa, our core value of shared humanity, is a treasure deeply entrenched in our culture, history, and psyche, commendable of sharing with the rest of the world. To see a shared self and shared space in the other is a vision that had been clouded by divisions and the divisiveness. Revisiting our indigenous values give us the opportunity to clear our lens, reframe, and restore that vision.”

Sustainability and community care can be daunting and overwhelming at times - particularly when learning about all the issues, statistics, and impacts our communities face. Engaging in rest - in the words of The Nap Ministry - is resistance. Engaging in rest and nurturing deep relationships with those in our communities is essential to knowing that you are not alone in your care for the community. We truly agree and are re-envisioned continually in our values of community care when reminded that at the center of our commitments and action steps in sustainability is deep-rooted shared humanity and relationships. 

There is much more to be done in the areas of sustainability and climate change action beyond these 5 commitments. Yet we are continually encouraged by Emergent Strategy principles throughout our journey as it is important to take care of ourselves as we learn more about the issues and needs in our communities. Seemingly small steps matter. And ensuring we are also surrounded by our community is vital so that we do not burnout or grow weary in our commitments. We invite you to venture in the continued spirit of community alongside us as we continue to pay attention to sustainability this year.

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