February 1, 2012

Febuary 2012: Fair Trade Chocolate

   Okay, who doesn't love chocolate? I know I sure do! But underneath the sweet, sugary goodness, chocolate has a dark side: poisonous pesticides, child labor, and underpayment. Here are some ways you can help eliminate the dark side of chocolate.
   Show extra affection this Valentine's with the gift of fair-trade chocolate.

Look for this on packaging
to tell if something is
certified fair trade.
1.) Go Fair Trade. Okay, this is the most simple thing you can do. When you buy chocolate from a non-fair trade company, such as Hershe's, that means that the cacao farmers are not getting a fair price for their product. This can mean that the company buying the dried cacao seeds may be only paying a few cents per pound, or less. The Cacao farmers don't get a good price for their product, so they have to find cheep labor in the form of children, and use pesticides in abundance to prevent any crop loss.
   Child labor is cheep. Families desperate for money will send their children, as young as ten or eleven years old. It is not that the cacao farmers are cruel people, they just don't get payed enough. The makers of the documentary Black Gold found out that the average American coffee drinker will pay as much as $2.90 for a cup of coffee. Coffee bean farmers would have to sell 20 kilos, enough to brew 1,600 cups of coffee to make the same amount. Cacao farmers have similar problems.
Another logo to look
for when shopping
fair trade.
   By buying fair-trade, you don't only help support poor farmers, but also their local community. In order to tell if an idea is fair trade, look for the fair-trade certification image on the packaging. Bonus: if you buy organic fair trade chocolate, you are also eliminating the need for harmful chemical fertilizers and pesticides, and helping save forests. Cacao trees naturally grow best in the shade of larger trees. Because of this, organic cacao farmers usually leave the natural forests intact, and plant the cacao trees around the other trees growing naturally.

2.) Go Reverse Trick-or-Treating. Next halloween, don't just get candy, go go reverse trick-or-treating! Hand out samples of fair trade chocolate as you make your rounds, and a card explaining reverse trick-or-treating.

3.) Take Action! Start your own youth group to help poor cacao farmers in Africa and South America! For tips on starting a club, or to find one already formed, click here.

4.) Get a Pen-Pal. Wanna meet some of the kids working for fair-trade cacao farms? Log onto http://equalexchange.coop/fair-trade-fundraiser-program-pen-pals, and get started!

5.) Host a Fair Trade Bake-Sale. Bake yummy recipes using all organic, fair trade ingredients. Sell the treats with cards attached explaining why they're so special. Donate the money to a charity that helps fair trade farmers or children in need.

For more information, check out these websites:

Next Month: Cruelty-Free Eggs

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