What would Halloween be without chocolate? Typically, 90 million pounds of candy is consumed during Halloween. In one year, the average American eats 12 pounds of chocolate. Yet, have you ever wondered how the chocolate you eat affects the earth?
Let’s consider the agriculture behind chocolate. First, cacao beans require rainforest conditions in order to grow and must be grown near the equator. With chocolate consumed all over the globe, the typical bean will travel far, not to mention all the other ingredients. While the cacao tree’s specific growing requirements may be seen as a negative, a positive is that cacao trees grow best under the dense canopy of the rainforest. The benefits provided from a rainforest canopy encourage some farmers to protect the rainforest where they grow. Unfortunately, this rainforest benefit is often negated by the use of palm oil in many chocolate products. Palm oil plantations destroy our rainforests. Luckily, awareness is on the rise and some corporations are noticing investing in sustainable palm oil can boost profits.
While most of your typical Halloween candy bars will contain palm oil, the good news is that Mars has pledged itself to sustainability. For example, one of its goals is to have 100% of its ingredients come from sustainable sources. Mars is also participating in discussions on using sustainable palm oil.
A great way to improve your “chocolate ethic” is to treat chocolate as a luxury good and purchase organic and free trade bars with high quality ingredients. The higher quality the bar, the more likely sustainable practices are used. Of course, it is always important to do your research. One place to start is with Theo Chocolate, available at Whole Foods. Theo is considered a leader in sustainable chocolate, and I’ve heard their concoctions are delicious. With Halloween just about over, I know I’ll need another excuse for chocolate soon!