Monday, April 27, 2009

Does your chocolate bar damage rainforests?

Seems like with thinking green you really do have to rework your choices on just about everything ... even down to the chocolate bar, unfortunately.

Why chocolate?

Chocolate comes from a cacao tree that is grown in the tropics -- oftentimes in the same places as rainforests, largely in Central and South American countries. Because of this, there has been widespread destruction of ecosystems and forests to grow cacao, alongside heavy use of toxic agrochemicals to kill off pests (the cacao is particularly susceptible to pests). Additionally, there have been widespread labor abuses.

How can you buy more responsible chocolate?

You can buy more responsible chocolate in three ways --
  1. Buy organic chocolate. This means that the chocolate will not have the toxic agrochemicals as part of its growing process. Look for the USDA Organic seal.

  2. Buy Fair Trade Certified chocolate. You can go to this link to find Fair Trade Certified chocolate. Over the past year, the list of fair trade certified products, including chocolate, has grown immensely. Fair trade certified means workers and farmers will receive a fair price for their goods, the products are purchased directly (without a middleman who can often be unethical) from farmer-owned cooperatives, and the certification also means that crops are grown in ways that conserve the soil and water, does not certify genetically altered crops, as well as reduce agrochemical use (but does not certify organic, so it is better to choose fair trade certified and organic)

  3. Buy Rainforest Alliance Certified chocolate. There is not an easy link for consumers to find out what products are Rainforest Alliance certified.

I wish the Rainforest Alliance were as transparent as Fair Trade Certified and has as high of standards as Fair Trade. As a result, I believe Fair Trade Certified is stronger -- if you have a choice. Here's more solid info for you.

This is a great story from MSNBC about small farmers in Ecuador for Kallari chocolate who benefit from selling their cacao beans through a cooperative while still preserving the rainforests in the process.


3 comments:

Abby said...

Hi Terra - I work for the Rainforest Alliance in New York - thanks for including us in your post. Rainforest Alliance certification is a transparent process that requires farms to meet strict criteria on environmental, social and economic standards of the Sustainable Agriculture Network. Here's a link to some of the criteria Rainforest Alliance Certified farms must meet: http://www.rainforest-alliance.org/agriculture.cfm?id=main. Rather than regulating the way goods are traded, we work at the farm level to make sure farms are efficiently managed, that workers get decent wages, housing, health care and education for their kids, and that ecosystems are protected. Let me know if you'd like more info! aray@ra.org

Abby said...

Also, I forgot to mention that the Kallari cooperative (the group in your video) is Rainforest Alliance Certified!

Christine said...

Hi, I'm a chocolate maker in the UK and I have recently switched to an ethical chocolate from Costa Rica which is certified by the Rainforest Alliance. Firstly I'd like to say that both RA and Fair Trade organizations are great. Fair Trade supports the workers ensuring they receive a good price for their product. Whilst the RA is their to protect the Ecology and Ecosystems in which the product is grown i.e. the protection of Rainforests. Through their sustainable program the RA also helps with farm management, working conditions and health and safety. Not only that they ensure a good price for the farmers product. So I believe no one organization is better than the other. They just have a different approach to the same problem. If you're looking for a good chocolate maker in the States check out the www.grocersdaughter.com