Halloween is one of my favorite holidays of the year – with the caveat that I have a lot of “favorite holidays.” Nonetheless, any time you get to dress up and eat candy meets with my hearty approval.
Unfortunately, not all candy is created equally on the ethics front.
In particular, Hershey’s is a huge human rights offender, getting the majority of their chocolate from West Africa. Much of West Africa relies on modern-day slavery and child labor to grow cocoa. And it’s not as if Hershey’s doesn’t know that – when Global Exchange, a very reputable organization, asked them for sourcing information, Hershey’s straight-up refused. Similarly, they will not certify any of their chocolate as Fair Trade or organic, systems that have very specific criteria. Even though Kraft, Unilever, and a number of other chocolate companies have some serious ethical problems, they’ve all made commitments in some form or another to have their products labeled. In essence, Hershey’s is telling consumers, “Child slaves help produce your chocolate, but we’ll bet you won’t figure it out if we don’t tell you.” (Much thanks to Awakened Aesthetic for a great run-down of this issue.) For more information, check out Green America’s report, Time to Raise the Bar.
So if you can’t give out Reese’s or Kit Kats at Halloween, what’s left? Although you could go with one of their big competitors, you can do your part to support sustainable systems with treats from some smaller companies.
This year, I bought a couple of bags of Endangered Species Chocolate from Whole Foods, which sells bags of 25 candies for $7.00 each. Their online store also has them available in larger quantities. Their Bug Bites are especially adorable for kids, as each has a trading card inside featuring a different insect. Best of all, Endangered Species chocolate covers nearly all of the ethical bases, by purchasing Rainforest Certified, organic chocolate from cooperatives that pay fair wages.
In addition, I also purchased a multi-pack of Annie’s organic fruit snacks, which are a little like gummy bears if gummy bears were bunny-shaped and made of real food. Unfortunately, it seems as if only the boxes, not the individually wrapped multi-packs, are available online. Annie’s products are all organic and the fruit snacks are made with real juice. I figured it would be a good supplement to the chocolate.
If you’re into lollipops, YummyEarth organic lollipops taste pretty great. However, they do look a bit much like the ones from the dentist’s office. Last year at Halloween, I had them in a basket on my door at work, and while I know chocolate would have been gone in a flash, the lollipops overstayed their welcome. Another interesting alternative is Glee Gum, but I’m not into gum myself.
If you don’t need to worry about everything being individually wrapped, you’ve got a lot more options. For chocolates, Divine is one of my favorites, and they’re not only Fair Trade, but owned in part by the farmers themselves. I’m also personally fond of them because they donated a lot of candy to us when I volunteered with People and Planet in grad school. Also, if you’re looking ahead for stocking gifts or Dreidel coins, they have a lot of Christmas and Hanukkah options. If you’re hankering for a chocolate-peanut butter fix, the Newman’s Own Organic Peanut Butter Cups are perfect. They have a different texture than Reeses, but are still quite satisfying. Their chocolate is Rainforest Alliance certified and they pay their farmers according to the Fair Trade market price. They also have cups with caramel and peppermint – which is particularly good, because York Peppermint Patties are also a Hershey’s brand.
In addition to these options, this article seems to have a very extensive list of alternatives to specific Hershey’s candies. I’ve never had many of them though, so I can’t speak for their taste.
With all of these ethical options, you can make your Halloween and that of the workers who produce cocoa so much sweeter.