Recently I was inspired by a conversation with a friend to think about some simple moves everyone can make tobegin beinga more ethical consumer. Because as we simplify our lives and work toward lifestyles of generosity we often start to think about where the money we do spend is going. But this can become a bit overwhelming. In the US we are, in general, very far removed from the producers of thethings we buy or at least their component parts. And although there is a plethora of information online and elsewhere it still takes a fair amount of work to track a store, a product or an ingredient to determine whether slavery, child labor, unsafe work conditions, discrimination or other objectionable practices were a part of the production process of whatever it is we intend to purchase.
It reminds me of that poem about the starfish on the beach …
An old man walking along the shore sees a little girl in the distance. She appears to be dancing. As he gets closer he sees the sand all around is covered with stranded starfish. He realizes the little girl isn’t dancing, she is picking them up, one at a time and throwing them back into the ocean.
“Don’t you realize,” he says when he is close enough, “there are thousands of starfish on this beach and the tide is going out. You can’t possibly make a difference.”
The little girl looks at him for a moment before bending down again and throwing one more back. She smiles and says simply, “It made a difference to that one.”
(Story adapted from The Star Thrower, by Loren Eiseley)
Sometimes ethical consuming can seem like a beach full of stranded starfish. We don’t know how we could possibly save them all. Maybe we can, maybe we can’t, but we can make a difference. To one, to some. And a place to start, or a place to stop, can be with chocolate. Because the lines are clear and the solution fairly simple.
First of all chocolate could be considered a luxury (although I will admit I would want to list it under necessity in my life!). Something we could give up altogether if we needed to. And without an ethical option that would be what we would suggest because most of the chocolate we find on our shelves in the US is produced using child slaves. This is one of those well-kept yet openly acknowledged secrets. The use of slave labor, in particular child slave labor in the cocoa industry, is very well documentedfact. For more background see also hereand here
Children arelured from their homes and their lives, their health andchildhoods arestolen so that we can eat cheap chocolate. And the only reason the chocolate companies can do this, the only reason they keep promising and then reneging on those promises to change these practices is because they believe we do not care. Let us prove them wrong. Now. Please.
Because there is an alternative to slave chocolate. Fairtrade chocolate. These days it is available all over. Supermarkets, stores like Target and even Wal-mart have begun to offer Fairtrade options. And they are good too! An argument can be made that Ghiardhelli chocolate is also an acceptable alternative because their chocolate is sourced from regions without issues with child slavery.Judge for yourselves.
There are many ways we can make a start as ethical consumers—avoiding slave chocolate and choosing to spend on Fairtrade instead is a great way to begin.