The full moon is waning and Halloween 2016 will be here next week. The day will come rolling in, along with all the ghosts, goblins, and super heroes arriving at your door, asking "Trick or Treat?" This popular tradition of donning a disguise and asking homeowners for candy bars and treats has been around for about 100 years. It's said that Halloween is based on the Celtic New Year, Samhain, which was celebrated by the Celtic pagans on October 31st, which is the halfway mark between the autumn equinox and the winter solstice. The term "Trick or Treat started becoming popular in the early 1950s, thanks to Charles Shulz and his popular Peanuts cartoon strip. Of course, we all love to watch the classic episode of Peanuts each year and always feel sorry for Charlie Brown. While everyone else in his clan got something fun in the Trick or Treat bag, this poor kid got a rock.
I loved the year my boys dressed up as girls for Halloween. Brendan, my younger son, was part of a talent show and came up with this crazy idea. We headed to Goodwill and found all sorts of hilarious girly-girl garments that would work well. The best friends also raided their little sister's closet and...voila!... came up with these amazing outfits. I personally love the Go-go boots, and those wigs are just to die-for.
When it came time for the kids to take the stage for the talent show, the teacher in charge told Brendan that he needed a costume, in order to be a part of the contest. That's when my hilarious child took off his wig and showed his true identity...the teacher literally thought Brendan was one of the girls!! He took first prize and a bag full of candy as his reward. Hindsight is 20/20. Looking back at that day, I am quite sure that the candy he was given was tainted with slave labor, but back then, I just didn't know any better. I was simply part of the unawakened mainstream America, someone who just went along with the norms of society. I was unaware that slavery exists in the chocolate industry and that little children on the Ivory Coast of Africa, more than likely, suffered, all because we Americans must have our candy fix. Now, I question every little purchase. "Was this made at the hands of an exploited worker?"
When I was in Costco a few weeks ago, I cringed at the sight of these pallets which hold hundreds of pounds of mainstream chocolate...and I know - at least most of it - it is not fairly traded. To be fair to Costco, I am very impressed with the steps they have taken to ensure that many of their items are non-GMO, organic, produced in a socially-conscious manner or even fairly traded. I have bought their Kirkland Signature Dark Chocolate-Covered Turbinado Almonds, which are ethically produced and environmentally sustainable. While I can no longer eat these delights, they are delicious, even though they contain soy, an ingredient I steer clear of when shopping these days.
That said, alongside the fairly traded chocolate items they offer, including Bark Thins, the fact remains that many of their chocolate offerings are not fairly traded, Ghirardelli, Lindt truffles, Hershey, Mars, and other mainstream brands.
As I left the warehouse that day, I did notice the large box of Nestle Chocolate Morsels I used to haul all of my purchases was labeled UTZ Certified. This little fact made me breathe easier...who doesn't use chocolate chips in their baking? It's good to know that Nestle has made a concerted effort to offer ethical sourcing of their chocolate. Kit Kat is one mainstream brand that has, thankfully, received the UTZ certification in the United States. UTZ Certifed products go through a rigorous program, similar to the Fair Trade certification process. When shopping for ethically-sourced chocolate - or other commodities, such as coffee or tea and the like, look for these Fair Trade logos:
So what can you do this Halloween to create change in your home? If you're anything like me, you will want to make sure that the candy you are offering was not made by the hands of a child. The dark secret of child labor within the chocolate industry is masked by the colorful labels which entice us all to want to partake of these treats and to buy them - often. Before you offer mainstream chocolate to your Trick-or-Treaters, please take a look at this short documentary about the Dark Side of Chocolate and decide for yourself if it's really worth it to buy "cheap" candy. Is it really cheap? Will you be able to sleep at night, knowing children clear across the Atlantic Ocean were treated like slaves in the production of your treats? My guess is that you won't, or at least I'd like to think that if you are reading this, you're somewhat awakened and conscious of the fact that we human beings are all connected, and what happens to one affects us all.
Some ideas on what you can do:
~ Seek out fairly traded chocolates in your local grocery store. In my neck of the woods, Whole Foods has the widest selection.
~ Of course, tolearn more about Fair Trade and why every purchase matters, click here. Fair Trade USA has a full listing of all the best brands of chocolate.
~ Visit my Shop With Consciousness page for some great brands of fairly traded or ethically sourced food, clothing and electronic items. Some of the goods are even made by survivors of human trafficking, helping them get their lives back and to end the viscous cycle of poverty.
Happy Halloween, everybody, and thank you for being mindful of the candy offerings you put out this year.
Dorina Leslie is the founder of Shine the Light Project, a grassroots movement to prevent things like human trafficking and labor exploitation, through the arts, education, and awareness. She welcomes the opportunity to collaborate with artists, musicians, authors, survivors, and activists who are passionate about creating a better world, one in which all people are living free of exploitation. Please feel free to contact her and join in the movement. Follow along on Facebook. If you have a story you'd like to share, please feel free to contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org.