OUR FOUNDERS & FARMERS
Amongst all that we share, our steadfast commitment to conservation is paramount.
After joining forces with local communities of the tea-growing Assam region of India, Elephant Origins™ founder Lisa Mills recommended a certification process for Elephant Friendly™ Certified Teas be developed by the Wildlife Friendly Enterprise Network. This process started with research-backed recommendations and standards from the University of Montana and a team of expert advisors -- but would not be possible without the cooperation and dedication of tea growers working for a better future. In 2016, the very first Elephant Friendly™ Tea growers were recognized under a pilot project -- and in 2019, new standards for certification were released. By April of 2020, 6 tea gardens were recognized as Certified Elephant Friendly™.
Elephant Origins™ Founder Lisa Mills has been a wildlife conservationist and educator for over 30 years. She discovered her passion for elephants while living in the Kingdom of Bhutan in the Himalayas in 2010 with her wildlife biologist husband and two children. After learning about the high risk of mortality for elephants in the tea regions of India just south of the Bhutan border, Lisa embarked on a community-based conservation project with her husband and Bhutan and India partners, with funding support from the US Fish and Wildlife Service Asian Elephant Conservation Fund.
As part of this project, Lisa and her collaborators established a conservation award program to encourage elephant-safe approaches to tea production, and set out to identify the hotspots of peril for these endangered creatures. The tea estates of Assam, India, were rife with hazards to elephants, and conflicts between tea growing communities and elephants were escalating to the point of desperation. As the India project coordinator, Lisa led the charge to track these issues and identify the causes of elephant deaths and injuries by location. Potential solutions that could be adopted by tea communities for a more sustainable and elephant-safe approach to tea agriculture were collected and developed.
The certification program for Elephant Friendly™ Tea was established, providing a market-based incentive for tea growers willing to apply elephant-friendly practices. The certification was instituted through a partnership with the Wildlife Friendly Enterprise Network, which now oversees the certification of tea farms annually. Lisa and her husband Dr. Scott Mills (Wildlife Biology Professor and Associate Vice President of Research for Global Change and Sustainability at the University of Montana) continue their work on endangered elephants, and contribute additional resources to help the program scale up for impact.
Lisa founded Elephant Origins Tea as a social impact enterprise -- with the vision of introducing tea buyers across the globe to high quality teas sourced from Certified Elephant Friendly™ Tea farms and helping farmers help elephants, one cup at a time.