Thursday, February 5, 2015

Fair Trade Chocolate: The Sustainable Gift for Valentine’s Day

Valentine’s Day is just around the corner, and it’s safe to say that couples everywhere will be showering each other with jewelryflowers, and especially; chocolate gifts. But have you ever stopped to think about where your chocolate is coming from? Or what kind of impact its production has on the environment?

You could buy chocolate from a major corporation without any sustainability measures in place despite their large profit and buying power. Or you can choose chocolate that supports farmers and communities, is grown sustainably, and doesn’t use child labor in production. This alternative is fair trade chocolate or organic chocolate.

What is Fair Trade?

Fair trade chocolate, coffee or other products is a trading partnership that seeks greater equity in international trade, by ensuring more money from the sale of these good reaches the hands of the farmers and their communities. Fair trade helps build sustainable businesses in developing countries that positively influence the community.

To earn a license from Fair Trade USA to use the Fair Trade Certified™ label on their products, companies must buy from certified farms and organizations, pay Fair Trade prices and premiums and submit to a rigorous supply chain audits. This process entails a high level of transparency and traceability in their global supply chains. If chocolate is certified as fair trade, it signifies that the nonprofit agency TransFairUSA has traveled to the producer site at least once per year to guarantee that farmers are working in healthy and environmentally sustainable conditions.

These rigorous standards of quality ensure delicious chocolate and coffee as well as additional benefits to buying fair trade products:
  • Consumers who purchase fair trade goods support the farmers and producers who are struggling to improve their lives. 
  • You are also supporting the environment when purchasing fair trade products. Fair trade rewards and encourages farming and production practices that are environmentally sustainable. 
  • Producers are also encouraged to strive toward organic certification. (remove sources from post and have all sources linked at the end)
  • Shoppers can buy products in line with their values and principles. 
  • They can choose from an ever growing range of ethical and delicious quality products. 

Fair Trade Chocolate vs Organic Chocolate

Fair trade chocolate and organic chocolate are not the same.

Fair trade chocolate is produced using ethical harvest practices that don’t negatively impact the environment and wildlife.

Organic chocolate is made only from ingredients that were produced without the use of pesticides, herbicides or fungicides. The use of these harsh, toxic chemicals used on or near edible plants is of concern to many people because they end up on our dinner plates. Food that is labeled as organic does not contain any of these toxic pesticides.

Wonderful news is most organic chocolate and fair trade chocolate really go hand in hand! You will find that many organic products are also fair trade products and vice versa. In fact, most organic chocolate manufacturers ensure that they only buy from fair trade producers.

Dangers of Traditional Cacao Farming

Cacao farming that isn’t regulated has a negative impact on our environment and wildlife. According to non-profit organization Green America, when farmers are in economic crisis, they are forced to increase productivity regardless of the environmental impact.

This often means cutting down trees on their land to make as much room as possible for planting more cocoa plants. Trees provide critical wildlife habitat and prevent soil erosion, so when they are removed from the land many wildlife habitats are destroyed and the plant species diversity is drastically reduced. Our wildlife and environment are such valuable parts of the Earth. This Valentine’s Day make sure you support the environment and explore fair trade chocolate and organic chocolate options.

Child labor is another tragic concern about buying chocolate that isn’t fair trade certified. According to the International Labor Organization, over 284,000 children work in hazardous tasks on West African cocoa farms. This includes using a machete or applying pesticides unprotected. 66% of children working on cocoa farms in the Ivory Coast don’t attend school. Some farms even use child slave labor (See CNN Freedom Project).

However, if you’re buying fair trade chocolate, farmers are required to be paid a living wage. The Fair Trade certification on chocolate also prohibits abusive child labor. Plus, monies from the sales of these good feeds back into the community to support programs like education and clean water.

What To Look For

There are several seals of approval to look out for.

Fair Trade Logo, fair trade federation, equal exchange logo, fair for life, USDA organic certified, or look to see if the product says Kuapa Kokoo, a fair trade cooperative.

Fortunately, the market for fair trade chocolate and organic chocolate is gaining momentum! You can find fair trade chocolate at many large grocery stores, neighborhood boutique stores and even Amazon!

When you’re shopping for chocolate for that special someone, make sure it has one of the seals of approval, so you know its production was regulated and you can feel good about the gift you will be giving. The FAIRTRADE Certification Mark on a product provides consumers with the assurance that fair trade cocoa producers are regularly audited against the strict child labour standards that prohibit the worst form of child labour. Not only is Fair Trade almost certainly your best option when it comes to buying chocolate that is slavery-free and environmentally sustainable, it also provides the best guarantee that a significant portion of the money you spend will go towards improving the communities in impoverished countries where the cocoa was produced.

Fair Trade Chocolate and Organic Chocolate Retailers

To make buying fair trade chocolate and organic chocolate easy for you this holiday, here are some of Little Critterz favorite online retailers that sell FAIRTRADE certified chocolate and organic chocolate.

Chocolate Chocolate Chocolate Company
Camino Cocoa
Deans Beans
Divine Bars (Day Chocolate Co.')
El Rey
Equal Exchange
Frontier Cooperative
Seventy %,
Shaman Chocolates
Terra Nostra Organic
Theo Chocolate
Endangered Species
Nirvana Chocolates

There are also many options for buying fair trade chocolate and organic chocolate in-person.
Eating Evolved
Whole Foods Private Label (365 Organic Chocolate, Whole Kids Organic')
Green and Black's
Health by Chocolate
Amano Fair Trade
Clif Bar
Trader Joe's
Dagoba Organic Chocolate
San Francisco Chocolate Factory

Image from
A Sustainable Choice

This Valentine’s Day Little Critterz encourages that you show your love for that special someone as well as for the environment and wildlife within it. By looking for fair trade chocolate, you are making a difference in the lives of the people who grow the food you eat and products you use, their communities and the animals in their habitat. We challenge you this Valentine’s Day to opt for fair trade chocolate or organic chocolate.

Equal Exchange
Green America
Fairtrade International
Fair Trade USA
Vision UCSD

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