When my parents emigrated to the U.S. from Iran, they brought their Persian culture along with them. Part of that involved drinking black tea at least 5 times a day. 30 years later, that tradition is still going strong, and I don't even want to know how many used teabags they've thrown in the trash.
Today we realize that there are so many different ways to reuse a teabag (other than obviously making another cup). Here are some favorite reuses that you can incorporate into your tea drinking ritual.
1. Feed the Plants:
Tea bags do wonders for the garden. They enrich the soil by increasing nitrogen levels, and also give earthworms (fertilizers) something yummy to eat.
Lots of people add their used tea bags to a compost to help reduce garbage and cultivate their plants. If you don't have a compost, you can just steep a tea bag in water until the water slightly changes color, and then use it to water your plants. You could even just bury the tea bag outside to help your garden grow. Don?t worry-the tea bag will decompose.
2.Under Eye Circles:
Got puffy under eyes that no cream can fix? Do a tea bag compress. The tannin in tea bags has been proven to reduce swelling (baggy under eyes) and discoloration (dark circles). Either put your used tea bag in the fridge or let it cool down for a half hour. Then damp the tea bag over your eyes for 10-15 minutes.
If you're looking for that extra oomph, try using a caffeinated tea bag. It will reduce the inflammation even more. Green tea bags work best because not only do they have caffeine, but they also contain EGCG (another anti-inflammatory). According to Dermatologist Andrea Kunin, coauthor of the DERMAdoctor Skinstruction Manual, EGCG helps remove under eye fluid buildup (the main culprit for under eye circles and bags). Plus, green tea's packed with antioxidants. So why not kill two birds with one stone?
3. Art & Crafts:
Tap into your artistic side and get creative with tea bags. The possibilities are literally endless. One really common hobby is Tea Bag Folding. It basically involves folding tea bag envelopes, and combining them to create a geometric pattern. It's sort of like a combination between a kaleidoscope and paper origami. With tons of design patterns to choose from, you can create beautiful greeting cards and decorations. For basic step-by-step instructions, click here. Here's another option: Use tea bags to stain furniture. The dye gives a nice antique finish, and works on fabric and paper too. If you feel like channeling your inner Van Gogh, mix the tea leaves with acrylic paint-it will give your painting a unique texture. There's also Original T-Bag Designs—a fair trade organization comprised of artist women and children in South Africa. They live in some of the poorest conditions yet create some of the most beautiful original art out of recycled tea bags. After drying tea bags under the sun, the women empty the leaves out and iron the bags together to create a canvas for hand painted designs. They sell everything from coasters, dishware, jewelry, and greeting cards. Here's the best part: all the proceeds go towards improving the conditions of the artists' residence Mandela Park. For more info on how to help and donate your used tea bags, click here. 4. Odor Control Tea leaves absorb surrounding odors, even if they've already been used. Here are a few ideas for how you can freshen things up a bit: Put a used tea bag in the fridge. - Dry a used tea bag and put it in your potpourri. - Empty the used tea bag, and sprinkle your leaves in your vacuum cleaner. Next time you vacuum, it will make your carpet smell nice. - If it's a green tea bag, you can make Chagra. Essentially, it's dried out green leaves from a used tea bag. You can sprinkle it onto a variety of spots in the house to take bad odors away. Here are some ideas: the cat's litter box, a wooden cutting board, stinky feet, or your very own mouth. It not only deodorizes, but it's also anti-bacterial. 5. Sooth the Skin Tea bags can be used on so many skin maladies. Because of tea's tannic acid (an anti-inflammatory), it can reduce the size of (and even eliminate) a wart, sty, or mosquito bite. Just make sure the bag is still warm and that you compress for 10-15 minutes. My mother used to always get styes and a tea bag compress was the only thing that ever seemed to help. It also helps bruises heal much faster, and sooths a painful sunburn. Need proof that it's possible to balance being green and still be a supportive partner and parent? See how Ed Begley, Jr. does it on Planet Green TV's Living with Ed.