23rd Oct '21 - UKTIA

Use your mug and boil just what you need when it’s time for tea.

New research [1] shows how the humble cuppa could help save the planet. And the good news is that you will also save cash, time, and enjoy a better brew every time you make the nation’s favourite beverage.

The new research [1] commissioned by the UK Tea and Infusions Association (UKTIA) reveals that simply altering the way we measure the water needed for a cup of tea can help cut per day 618 tons of carbon emissions — the equivalent of 1.5 million miles in journeys in the average family car and reduce energy bills by £455,764 [2] per day across the UK as a nation. With tea being the nation’s favourite hot drink, and a staggering 100 million cups consumed each day, the sustainability experts at Carbon Intelligence who worked with UKTIA to carry out this research, have calculated that if everyone in the UK made this easy change, we would collectively save 2,649,792 kWh per day of electricity — enough to provide all the energy needs for 74.7 households for a year. [3]

Dr Sharon Hall, head of the UKTIA says, “It’s very easy to feel powerless when faced with the enormity of climate change, but as our research shows if we all make small changes it can add up to a significant impact — and real change. That’s why we are launching the Smart Boil Campaign to spread the word on this simple and achievable step that will deliver immediate benefits — for consumers and the planet.

“In fact, our Smart Boil campaign hits one of the nine goals prioritised by climate and environment experts at Imperial University. Reducing energy consumption is number 5 on their list of important changes we can all make — behind cutting back on flying and leaving the car at home.”[4]

The Smart Boil initiative aims to make the UK’s tea loving Brits ‘Smart Boilers’. That means getting everyone to only boil the amount of water needed, once, and if people can, switch to renewable energy in their own homes.

Dr Hall adds: “The independent research we commissioned from Carbon Intelligence shows that we all have the power to make a real difference. In fact, for every mug of tea boiled, using exactly the amount of water needed would save per day:

  • 0.026 kWh in electricity
  • 0.5p on energy bills
  • 0.000006 tCO2e (tons of greenhouse gases)

“And if we only boiled the water we needed and all the electricity we used was generated from renewable sources, it would save 2,649,792 kWh of electricity per day [5], that’s 1,236 tonnes of greenhouse gases – the equivalent of planting 20,438 seedlings over 10 years or switching 46,846 incandescent lightbulbs to LEDs.”

UKTIA members including PG Tips, Pukka, Tetley, Twinings and Yorkshire Tea [6] all support the new Smart Boil campaign and will be encouraging consumers to boil – ‘just what you need’ when making your favourite cuppa.

Dr Hall continues, “There is no doubt that reducing greenhouse gases will require action on all fronts, and this should be led by Government’s around the world. The real strength of our Smart Boil Campaign is that everyone can do their bit. It doesn’t involve any major changes or having to give up anything we enjoy. In fact, quite the opposite.

“Boiling only the amount of water you need and only once will reduce energy bills and improve the taste of your tea. In fact, to draw the best flavour out of the tea, the water must contain oxygen to ‘energise’ the leaf and extract all the character of the tea. If you top up the kettle, water is repeatedly re-boiled which drives out the oxygen and makes the tea taste dull. So using the right amount of freshly drawn water will deliver a great-tasting cuppa.” [7,8]

SMART BOIL FACTS: Every day in the UK we drink 100 million cups of tea. If all were by made boiling only the amount of water needed, it would save per day:

  • 2,649,792kWh of electricity per day
  • £455,764 in energy bills per day
  • 618 tCO2e in greenhouse gas emissions per day

That’s the equivalent of:

  • All the electricity needs from 112 average homes for a year
  • Emissions from 134 passenger cars for a year
  • 1,553,156 miles in passenger car journeys a year.

Want to do more?

  • Help spread the word on social media using #SmartBoil #JustWhatYouNeed
  • Think about switching to Renewable Energy in your home.
  • Walk, ride a bike, use public transport or car share.
  • Trade your diesel or petrol car in for an electric or hybrid model.
  • Draft-proof your home.
  • Plant a tree in your garden or add pot plants to your windowsill or balcony.
  • Ask your pension provider or bank if you can opt out of funds investing in fossil fuels.
  • Avoid single-use items and fast fashion.


Smart Boil and Carbon Intelligence’s calculations are based on these underlying assumptions:

  • 0.106 kWh energy required to heat one litre of water in a kettle (with 85% efficiency)
  • One mug of tea is 250ml; we estimate that people will boil at least x2 as much water than is needed when making tea, so our calculations are based on this (but it could be more than x2 if the kettle is overfilled)
  • Each kWh of electricity consumed costs 17.2p
  • Water is boiled from room temperature (21°C) to boiling temperature (100°C)

The statistics spell out the threat: [9]
You probably only have to look out of the window to see the effects of climate change. The UK is already experiencing rising sea levels, heavier rainfall, and higher temperatures than ever before, and this will continue.

  • 2020 was the 3rd warmest, 5th wettest and 8th sunniest year on record in the UK.
  • Since 1884, when detailed records began, the top ten warmest years have all fallen within the past 20 years.
  • The average temperature from 2011 to 2020 was 0.5°C higher than the average in 1981 to 2010, and 1.1°C warmer than in 1961 to 1990.

The climate emergency will take centre stage when COP26 [10], the United Nations annual climate change conference, comes to the UK in November. UN Secretary António Guterres warns we are already at “code red for humanity”. But he believes, “If we combine forces now, we can avert climate catastrophe.” [11] And it’s clear that UK consumers want action, not words. Research undertaken by Cardiff University last year found that climate change was already firmly on the radar of most people in the UK. The 2020 study found a quarter (23%) of Britons already thought climate change was the most pressing issue we will face in the next two decades, second only to Brexit (26%).

Climate concern has doubled since 2016, with 40% of those surveyed reporting they were very or extremely worried. “This is a remarkable shift in British public opinion,” said the lead researcher, Professor Nick Pidgeon. [12] The Cardiff research confirmed widespread support for taking personal action, such as turning down winter heating, travelling more by public transport, flying less, and eating less meat.

Green campaigners Greenpeace admit, “Its easy to feel overwhelmed, that climate change is too big to solve. But we already have the answers, its just a question of making them happen.” [13] And scientists at the Grantham Institute at Imperial College, London, say, “Many people ask us what they personally can do about it? And how does this fit into the bigger picture?” [14]


  1. UKTIA; data in file; October 2021 (available to journalists on request to GHG experts from Carbon Intelligence, a sustainability data and consulting firm, calculated the findings reported by the UK Tea & Infusions Association
  2. Note the figure is per day as a UK nation collectively
  3. See editor’s notes
  5. Data based on 100 million cups of tea per day using the exact amount of water per boiled cup of tea.
  6. A full list of UKTIA members can be found here:
  10. COP26 stands for the Conference of the Parties. It is the supreme decision-making body of the United Nations Convention on Climate Change. The 1st Conference was held in Berlin in 1995. COP26 is hosted by the UK in partnership with Italy and takes place in Glasgow from October 31 to November 12.


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