When a food like chocolate is seasonal but not local, questions of ethics are involved in making shopping selections. Choosing ethical chocolate is an answer to the problem of sustainable food sourcing this Valentine’s Day. Most people reading this post do not live where chocolate is produced. So, we must address the question of carbon footprint when we consume chocolate. The average chocolate bar, regardless of how ethically it is produced, has a carbon footprint of 85 grams/ounce. Compare this to local lettuce, which has an average local carbon footprint of 2 grams/ounce.
Hey, wait a minute! What IS a carbon footprint?
Carbon Footprint is the amount of greenhouse gasses produced to support human activity. It is usually expressed in equivalents of tons of Carbon Dioxide (CO2) produced per unit of measure. The less fossil fuel required to produce something, the lower its carbon footprint. Greenhouse gasses are indisputably affecting climate change, and so we have an ethical dilemma in consuming goods with a large carbon footprint if we want to be a part of creating positive environmental change. Otherwise, we inadvertently participate in harming the natural environment. That’s not consistent with creating a seasonal life.
Wait, there’s more…
We have this astronomical carbon footprint as a cost of our chocolate consumption. However, there are documented practices of forced labor, child labor, and unsafe working environments associated with most of the chocolate on the market. This documentation goes back a decade and can be traced back to the origin of the trade.
Modern Day Slavery
Slavery in cocoa (the natural source ingredient of chocolate) production? Yes, here are examples, with sources, to help us all wrap our heads around the human cost involved with growing and harvesting cocoa and producing chococlate:
- In John Doe et al v. Nestle et al, child plaintiffs argued that Nestle, ADM, and Cargill aided and abetted enslavement (and numerous violations of international and US law) in the companies’ cocoa supply chains. The former child slave laborers were allegedly trafficked by cocoa growers into Cote D’Ivoire. Then, forced to work in fields that supplied cocoa beans to the defendants in the case. The court held that they could bring the action under the US Alien Tort Statute. (Oxfam)
- The impoverishment of cocoa farmers forces them to find ways to reduce production costs as much as possible. One unfortunate consequence of this is that children are working on plantations under abusive or hazardous conditions. There are over 2 million children working on cocoa plantations in Ghana and Ivory Coast alone, more than 500,000 of them working under abusive conditions (Source: Tulane report 2015). (Make Chocolate Fair)
- More than 70% of the world’s supply of cocoa comes from two countries nestled on the southern shore of West Africa: Cote d’Ivoire and Ghana. There, whole communities universally grow the crop. It is lucrative for governments and international traders. Unfortunately, it also brings below-poverty wages for the farmers who produce it. Low wages mean farmers cannot hire the labor needed to harvest the crop and perpetuates the child trafficking and worst forms of child labor that have plagued the industry. (International Labor Rights Forum)
Chin up! There’s a solution…
We, you and I and all our friends and family, spend $83 BILLION dollars a year on chocolate. That is tremendous leverage against workplace injustice in the cocoa industry. The growing demand for ethical chocolate is changing the unjust production practices mentioned above.
Look at this infographic from Slave Free Chocolate to understand the current supply chain.
You will see 9 multinational corporations listed as the primary producers of chocolate products and the primary owners of cocoa farms. Your role in creating positive change while consuming your Valentine chocolate is to choose alternative sources. Lucky for you, I did your homework, and you can download my list of Ethical Chocolate Producers from the Free Resource Library. (If you don’t have the password, the sign-up form as at the bottom of this post.)
What’s behind your chocolate cravings, anyway?
Now that we know we can eat seasonal, non-local foods ethically, aren’t you curious about why the chocolate industry is so big? What drives their profits is our cravings. So, what’s going on with that?
Dopamine, serotonin, anti-oxidants, and magnesium. These are the nutritional contents of chocolate that are behind your cravings.
- Dopamine, the feel-good neurotransmitter: Though chocolate is known for its ability to increase levels of the calming neurotransmitter serotonin, it also contains small amounts of a compound called phenylethylamine, which acts like an amphetamine, stimulating your brain cells to release dopamine. (SFGate)
- Serotonin is a neurotransmitter that can improve mood, enhance sleep and reduce the sensation of pain. (LiveStrong)
- Anti-oxidants: raw, unprocessed cocoa beans are among the highest scoring foods tested. (Health Line)
- Magnesium: 58% of the daily recommended allowance of this difficult to source trace mineral in the diet. (Health Line)
Chocolate, a Super Food!
Source it well and know that you are truly caring for your loved ones when giving chocolate this Valentine’s Day!
Let me help you with your shopping…
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