8/30/16

Sweet Tooth: The cost of Chocolate.


I love chocolate. Despite my sensitive teeth, I really, really love chocolate. I like to bake with it, I like chocolate ice cream…. hot cocoa, chocolate bars…. Chocolate chip pancakes, banana bread with chocolate (I love excuses to add chocolate to recipes!)… you name it! However, with that being said, I also have a conscience and I am aware that not all chocolate is full of good juju. Unfortunately, a lot of the mainstream chocolate available is produced through very questionable means. It is estimated that about 160,000 slaves work for the cocoa industry in Ivory Coast, a popular region for cocoa growing in Africa, and a source for many large chocolate companies. It might be 2016, but slavery is still very much a problem within our global society. The chocolate industry is just one of many who rely on such labor. Given that chocolate is such a popular product, and one, which I happen to love; I wanted to explore the issue deeper.

As a bit of a chocolate addict, I have tried a few different fair trade certified chocolate products in the past. I understood the basic premise and benefit that comes from the fair trade seal, but I hadn’t really understood the full picture of what it can mean when the chocolate I purchase isn’t fair trade. It can sometimes feel overwhelming to try and do good in every choice, and purchase that you make and I’ll admit that there are many aspects of my life in which I fail. We’re all human though and there is always room to evolve and improve. We can do better. We should do better.

Unfortunately much of the chocolate that I do purchase on a regular basis, comes from brands that source their chocolate from places like the Ivory coast, and are not fair trade or organic (which also prohibits the use of slave labor). Some companies have committed to sourcing fair trade in the future, like Hershey’s who says they will have fair trade chocolate by 2020, but here’s my question: If others can do it now, and are doing it now, why can’t they? Why must we wait another four years before they commit to eradicating slave labor from their products? I’ve also found it interesting that there are many companies (like Cadbury and Mars) for example, which offer some fair trade options in other countries (like in the UK) that are fair trade, but not within the US market. That one just seems wrong to me…

See, we don’t need chocolate to survive (though trust me, there are many instance in which I have truly felt that way). We may love it, but we can live without it, so it can be argued that we can pledge to buy fair trade chocolate because when we don’t, we are support child slave labor, violence, corrupt practices and greed. I know now every battle can be won, and sometimes it can feel like a losing battle. But no $0.99 bar of chocolate is worth the child labor – slave labor that is often involved. At least not in my opinion.


According to Fair Trade USA, “Fair Trade certification ensures that farmers receive a fair price, allows farmers to invest in techniques that bring out the flavors of the region, and strictly prohibits slave and child labor.” Fair trade benefits the farmer, the worker, and the consumer. It allows us to purchase chocolate guilt-free.





It might be difficult to let go of some of your favorite chocolates, but I encourage you to try and accept the challenge of doing so. It can be done. Need some inspiration? The Harry Potter Alliance challenge Warner Brothers when they found out that the Chocolate Frogs they sold weren't produced fair trade. They felt that the idea of slave labor, specifically child labor, went against everything that Harry stood for (which, it does). Through hard work they eventually got Warner Brothers to commit to fair trade chocolate frogs. Change is possible and voting with your dollar can make quite the impact!

So from now on, I am going to do everything I can to only purchase fair trade, or organic chocolate. I will think twice before I purchase from companies which I know to be offenders.  Looking for some brands that are fair trade? This post provides 17 companies which are fair trade. If you've got some favorites, I'd love to hear them in the comments!

8/28/16

#ImWithHer

I remember when I was younger, my grandfather used to ask me if I wanted to help him go campaigning. I don’t remember what age I was exactly, but I remember going door-to-door with pamphlets for Chuck Schumer for representative.  This was before his time in the Senate, and following his work as a New York Assemblyman. I remember the pride, and the importance that my grandfather held in working on Schumer’s campaign, and all of the other political endeavors he became involved with over the years. There were many trips to Albany…and to Washington D.C. in his lifetime. There were other door-to-door adventures as well. In his downtime, there were political books – biographies and political memoirs.

At home, my mother has always been outspoken when it comes to politics. My sister, mother and I are essentially the black sheep in our family as we are proud democrats in a family of ultra-conservatives. I have no shame in this fact, but instead pride. I am proud to have voted for President Obama twice. I remember during Obama’s first election campaign, I was working in a small town retail store, and I felt like I again, was out of place in my political leanings. I specifically remember our boss saying that if Obama won, that he would have no choice but to fire people. I’m not sure if that was just an overdramatic reaction to his (Obama’s) supposed threat to the economy as many conservatives claimed, or if it was merely in response to anyone supporting the candidate he very vehemently did not. The day after the election, which was my first voting experience, I remember my boss shuffling around angrily; and the excitement and happiness that I felt (and perhaps a level of satisfaction at my bosses disappointment...).

During Obama’s reelection campaign, I again felt out of place as I was attending a community college in a rural conservative town. Nevertheless, I did not hide my support. I had a sign on my lawn, and stickers plastered on my car. The evening of the election, my sister and I had a little viewing party together as we watched election coverage. We cheered and blared Bruce Springsteen’s We Take Care of Our Own perhaps a bit too loudly. It was an exciting evening!

Fast forward to this election cycle, I can safely say that it is unlike anything I have experienced or seen. I follow politics regularly, whether it is an election year or not, and this election has at many points felt like we are being punked, or like a caricature of reality. As a liberal democrat, it is not strange for me to find what a republican says as out there or idiotic, but this election cycle has made me feel like republicans of the past, were completely grounded, and sane individuals. Donald Trump however, is a bigoted, racist, bullying asshole with an apparent Napoleon complex.

While the republicans were running their 20 ring circus during the primary season, the democrats were divided primarily between two individuals: Bernie Sanders and Hillary Clinton. I liked Bernie. I donated to Bernie. I voted for Bernie in the primary. However, I can honestly say, that there were many areas in which I did not feel like he was the ideal candidate for the general election, or the presidency. I live in New York State – so I knew that Hillary was going to win, regardless of whether I gave her my primary vote or not. I liked much of what Bernie stood for, and I felt like giving him my vote, was in some small way, saying something. With that being said, I can confidently say that I have no issues, with supporting Hillary Clinton. I am a proud and excited Hillary supporter. 




There isn’t too much point to sharing this little story other than to say, that I am with her. I am proudly with her. I am not going to hide my support for her. I don’t like that there are Clinton supporters being shamed for their support of her – from both sides. There are still people who say they will vote for Bernie. Something I do not understand, or see as anything that will help matters. I think we are at a point where voting for anyone other that Hillary Clinton (don’t even get my started on Jill Stein), is a vote for Donald Trump. It is a vote for hate and bigotry. For sexism. For billionaires. It is a vote for the white supremacists that support, and now – even run his campaign. This is 2016 – I should not have even had to write that last sentence. 

So with all that being said, I will say it again: I am with her. If that offends you, then this absolutely is not the blog for you. I will not make apologies. If you’d like to have CIVIL conversation, or talk about why you are also, with her, then by all means – share your thoughts in the comments!!