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Achieving carbon neutrality while sustaining the environment

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The man who urges tea drinkers in New Zealand and the world over to “do try it”, Dilmah Tea founder Merrill J. Fernando, has another message. This one is all about caring for the planet.

Merrill pledged in Sri Lanka this week to make Dilmah carbon neutral by the year 2017. He also committed to spend US$1 million (NZ$1.23 million) each year on the conservation of nature and the environment and community empowerment programmes in his homeland.

Merrill established Dilmah Conservation in 2007 to support environmental conservation efforts in Sri Lanka and to help make Dilmah a sustainable corporate entity.

The $1 million a year will help the organisation with mainstreaming sustainability, conserving Sri Lanka’s biological wealth, restoring ecosystems, supporting environment and nature education and to empower indigenous and traditional communities.

The Carbon Neutral Plan was developed from study done by Dr. Erandathi Lokupitiya (University of Colombo) and Jagath Vidanagama (National Cleaner Production Centre). It consists of comprehensive recommendations for the optimization of the production process and other utilities including transportation, environment and energy management system implementation, conducting training and awareness programmes within the organization, energy and resource efficiency improvement, augmentation of renewable energy sources and the implementation of other emission reduction options.

Initiatives like a 100kw solar unit being installed at the Peliyagoda factory premises to generate power using renewable energy sources, have already taken place.

Reforestation and afforestation projects, such as the Greening Batticaloa initiative, have seen 100,000 cashew plants planted with the aim of restoring ecosystems by improving the forest cover in the Batticaloa District.

A further 50,000 plants are expected to be planted in its current phase this year. Aside from its ecological benefits, this project will also provide a stable and sustainable income generating opportunity for beneficiaries and Dilmah will help facilitate market access.

The project has been extended to Elephant Pass in the Jaffna Peninsula, where 25,000 plants will be distributed among selected communities.

Dilmah has also taken steps to modify its resource consumption practices in order to achieve a state of carbon neutrality in the coming years. The making of fertilizer with refuse tea will be converted to making ‘biochar’.

Although a new word, ‘biochar’ is in fact an old technology that was used by Sri Lankan farmers going back hundreds of years. Biochar is a fine-grained, highly porous charcoal that helps soils retain nutrients and water.

At the Pelmadulla Tea Estate a trial oversees large sections of the tea crop being treated with ‘biochar’, reducing its chemical fertilizer intake by 50%. This has resulted in an improvement in the quality, taste and colour of the tea leaves cultivated.

Dilmah will continue to develop and expand its commitment to serving the community and the environment through best practices and strengthening its tradition of sustainable and ethical business.


For more information on ‘Who Cares about Nature’ and the work Dilmah Conservation does visit

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