When Feroz Majeed began work as a tea planter 25 years ago, he knew exactly when Sri Lanka's south-west monsoon would begin.
"Normally the rain would start by mid July," he says. But this year was different. "This July there was a severe drought. Now we're in the middle of August, it's just started raining, but I don't know how long it will last."
Bogawantalawa Tea Estates, of which Feroz is the chief operating officer, is located in the Golden Valley of Ceylon Tea in Sri Lanka's hill country. Startled by the country's increasingly extreme weather, including this year's devastating floods, and believing this to be climate change in action, they have spent several years taking their business to carbon neutral, using techniques such as hydro, solar and wind power.
Previously, the company was emitting 1kg of carbon dioxide per kg of tea produced, including from 'hotspots' such as electricity use, transportation and fertiliser.
Producing its own organic fertiliser, using renewable energy, integrating the road network and re-evaluating packaging are just some of the ways the plantation managed to cut these down, while a major tree planting programme helps preserve native species and protect delicate areas of the landscape.
Any remaining carbon produced is offset using carbon credits generated on its own plantations through hydro, solar and wind power.
The fact that no credits have been bought from outside the company in order to offset emissions is significant, according to the plantation's head of sustainability, Thusitha Bandara."[Buying credits] facilitates some countries or companies emitting as much greenhouse gas as they want, purchasing carbon credits and then saying that they are carbon neutral," he says.
Gaining carbon neutral status means Bogawantalawa's tea adds no carbon dioxide into the atmosphere from when it is grown to the point of shipping, but now the company wants to produce more renewable energy than it needs. This would spin them into a carbon negative organisation.
"We want to do more for the environment, so our next plan is to act as a carbon sink," explains Thusitha. "Without producing that electricity using hydro power, it would be produced using diesel or coal. According to an international standard, 1 kilowatt produced through hydro power saves approximately 2.3kg of carbon dioxide."
With a PHD in climate change, Thusitha is fully aware of the price of not investing in sustainability. The company's tea yields are already down by 25 per cent due to unpredictable growing conditions, and he says some producers in Sri Lanka can no longer grow tea at all.
"We have realised that if we are not working to mitigate the bad impact of climate change, the entire industry will collapse. We face floods in one part of the country, and in another part, we face drought."
"The sadness is that many people do not accept there is ongoing climate change. They say this was happening in 1980s, this was happening in the 1970s, this isn't climate change. And they say that some developed countries try to control developing countries by talking about this. There are a lot of misconceptions."
Nonetheless, sharing the message is an important part of Bogawantalawa's ethos, and the company is visited regularly by others seeking to copy its initiatives.
For sustainably-minded tea drinkers, Bogawantalawa's own brand is already available in Europe, while in the UK it is soon to be stocked by a premium tea brand, and it is included in some own-label Twinings lines.
"We still have a good opportunity to protect the environment," continues Feroz. "These are all things that other people should look at, whether that's government departments, private sector or overseas. The question for them is if Bogawantalawa can do it, why can't we do it. That message has to go out."
Photography courtesy of Nicola Ridley