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Have a responsible Hallowe’en. October 31, 2009

Posted by ourfriendben in wit and wisdom.
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Silence Dogood here. Happy Hallowe’en, everyone! This post isn’t about keeping your kids and pets safe this Hallowe’en, important as that is. Nor is it about overindulging at some Hallowe’en bash and getting arrested for DUI on the way home. Instead, it’s about chocolate.

Living just hours from Hershey, PA, as our friend Ben and I do, not to mention also living near Lititz, PA, the home of Wilbur Buds, it’s easy to think about chocolate being made here, and just as easy to forget that the cocoa that goes into that chocolate comes from West Africa. But I was reminded of this by an article in yesterday’s local paper, the Allentown, PA Morning Call, about a group of moms who were trying to make a difference this Hallowe’en by emphasizing Fair Trade chocolates and other responsible treats. (You can read the article, “Trick-or-Fair-Trade Treat!”, online at  www.themorningcall.com.)

Fair Trade, a system in which plants are grown sustainably and the workers who tend and harvest them are paid a fair wage, is best known for coffee production. Fair Trade coffee tends to be shade-grown, which means that the coffee trees are grown in the shade of rainforest trees, as opposed to the rainforest being razed to create coffee plantations. It’s also typically organically grown, saving both the environment and the coffee workers from exposure to toxic pesticides and herbicides.

Our friend Ben and I had not realized that cocoa was also typically produced under horrific conditions until I read this article. I quote: “The U.S. State Department estimates that 284,000 children work in abusive conditions—14-hour days with no pay—on cocoa farms in West Africa, and that 64 percent of them are under the age of 14.” The article goes on to explain: “When a chocolate is fair-trade certified, farmers are paid a fair price, their workers are paid a fair wage and no child or slave labor has been involved in growing it. When it’s organic, the environment is not damaged in its production. It is shade-grown in forests, its natural environment. And it’s sustainable, requiring no irrigation, pesticides, or other synthetic output.”

No child or slave labor has been involved. Good God have mercy!

Like Fair Trade coffee, Fair Trade chocolate costs more than its mass-produced counterparts, sometimes as much as three times more. But the moms in this group, the Lehigh Valley Eco-Mom Alliance, are on top of that. Some are offering trick-or-treaters pens or pretzels instead of candy. Others have saved money by participating in costume swaps (brilliant idea!), making their own costumes, getting costumes at yard sales, or finding them free at Freecycle (www.freecycle.org).

The paper informed us that October is Fair Trade Month, and that food isn’t the only thing that can now be purchased under the Fair Trade umbrella: apparently sports balls (www.fairtradesports.com) and flowers (sold by Sam’s Club and 1-800-Flowers) are also available.   

I know that, like us, all of you reading this will already have your Hallowe’en treats on hand. (In our case, Snickers, an OFB favorite, and Butterfingers, one of my own faves; we always buy stuff we actually like just in case we have any leftovers.) Ignorance may not be bliss, but it’s no cause for guilt. We didn’t know, you didn’t know, so enjoy that candy (we plan to!). But it’s certainly food for thought for next year—and for the upcoming holiday season. I know none of us want to enjoy our holidays on the backs of children and slaves!

             ‘Til next time,