Eco-Living Magazine

Sustainable Chocolate

Posted on the 13 December 2011 by 2ndgreenrevolution @2ndgreenrev

Sustainable ChocolateThe holiday season is a great time to give chocolate as a gift, especially when you don’t know what else to give.  But what is that box of chocolate actually representing?

Chocolate come from cacao trees- specifically cacao beans, which typically grow in tropical regions.  “About 70% of the world’s cacao is grown in [West]Africa,” according to  This means most of our chocolate is shipped half way around the world to end up in America.  This leads to transportation costs and green house gas emissions.  Then add in production of the beans, sugar, milk, wrappers, and transporting the final products all across the U.S.  All these little steps can add up to massive impacts.  Especially when chocolate production and consumption is constantly growing.  Demands for cacao have been increasing 3% for the last 100 years.  As for the U.S. we are a big factor in the increasing demand.  In 2001 we consumed over 3.1 billion pounds of chocolate, which was half of the world’s total chocolate production for the year.

To make sure your chocolate is  more sustainable, follow these guidelines:

  1. Buy fair trade chocolate.  Sustainability has three components (economic, social, environmental), by buying fair trade you are making sure the social and economic components of sustainability are met for the cacao bean farmers.  Also look for Global Exchange chocolate to make sure workers are being treated fairly.
  2. Buy organic.  As usual, buying organic is healthier for you and the environment.  As for chocolate, fair trade is often on the label of a chocolate bar that is organic as well.  Organic cacao trees are more likely to be shade grown, which means less deforestation for cacao tree farms.  Cacao trees actually do better with shade, but clear cutting became a common practice in order to keep up with growing demands.
  3. Buy Rainforest Alliance Chocolate.  This insures that your chocolate was shade grown and kept the farmers and environments needs in mind.
  4. Limit your consumption.  Chocolate is a wonderful thing but is not completely sustainable (since it come from the tropics).  One thing you can do to help is reduce your consumption; make it a treat instead of a daily snack.
  5. Avoid mass production chocolate.  If you don’t know where it is from or how the worker’s are paid/treated, most likely it is not good.  It is best to avoid the large corporate companies that we all know and occasionally love.  Too often they do not ensure their workers are fairly paid, the environment is being preserved, and children are kept out of the labor force.
  6. Support the WCF.  The World Cocoa Foundation is trying to make sustainable practices the norm for cacao production.

Click here for a related article about the sustainability of another staple, coffee.

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