Going through a chocolate bar a day on your period? What’s that you say? TWO a day? Three? No judgement from us! We’ve all succumbed to those PMS chocolate cravings, but if you’re downing it on a regular basis you may be wondering… how ethical and eco-friendly is my chocolate habit? Good question.
We’re looking into how our nationwide obsession with chocolate affects our planet, how it can be more sustainable, and picking out the best chocolate brands-to-watch who are making us all feel less guilty. Let’s go!
Whether you’re chowing down on white, milk or dark chocolate, it’s all made using cocoa beans, and these much-sought-after beans can cause quite a few problems down the supply chain. An estimated 70% of the world’s cocoa beans are grown in West Africa, and it can take a whole year for one cocoa tree to produce enough to make half a pound of chocolate. You know what that means… more trees.
Cocoa farmers commonly clear tropical forests to plant new trees instead of reusing land, which causes a lot of deforestation, particularly in Ivory Coast. Good agricultural practices in the industry are vital to protect the environment and animals, as well as avoid child labour, which is often used to help grow, harvest and transport cocoa beans. In the 2013-14 growing season alone, an estimated 2 million children were used for hazardous labour in Ghana and Ivory Coast - a major problem.
Did you know… chocolate is the UK's number 1 confectionery product? We are the 6th highest-consuming chocolate country in the world, with the average Brit eating around 8kg (17.6 pounds) of chocolate a year. Is our PMS out of control?!
One of the biggest environmental issues in the chocolate industry is packaging. Chocolate is often sold in plastic or paperboard containers, sometimes inside multiple layers, and products are then carried home in plastic bags. Aluminium foil is also a common chocolate covering, and chocolates that come individually wrapped cause even more waste. Many types of packaging production can lead to excess greenhouse gas emissions, and water and land pollution. But what’s the answer?
The entire chocolate industry has a long way to go to improve, but positive changes are already being made, and many new brands are popping up and taking their ethical responsibilities seriously. Experts have identified farming techniques that could make existing cocoa farms more productive and reduce deforestation. And super-brand Mars has only gone and mapped the cocoa genome, identifying trees that are 3-4 times as productive and more climate resistant than the varieties typically used - exciting developments all round!
If you want to make a change at home, one of the best ways to avoid supporting child labour is to buy fair trade. Many brands now sell Fairtrade certified chocolate, and it’s much easier to find out how your favourite treats rank in terms of sustainability and ethical practices, as the Good Shopping Guide provides all the info you need.
Another easy solution is to stop buying products with unnecessary packaging, like fun-size, and individually wrapped chocolates. Yes they’re great for Halloween, but avoiding these could cut down on wasteful packaging and force brands to change.
There’s no shortage of companies trying to make the chocolate industry a better place, and you can start in your local supermarket aisle. Many shops now have own-brand Fairtrade chocolate, including M&S, Waitrose, Co-op and impressively, Lidl, where a premium from every bar sold will support a living wage for cocoa farmers in Ghana. If you want to help out a charity at the same time, you can grab your choco treats from your local Oxfam shop - they always have Fairtrade snack brands like Cocoa Loco and Divine.
Want to try something new? Other brands to watch are:
Are you a BIG chocolate fan? Do you have more ideas on how to make your chocolate addiction more sustainable? We’re all ears! Shout out in our private Facebook group or drop us a note on Insta @itsyoppie. Don't forget that our personalised period box can get organic tampons, PMS supplements and more delivered easily and regularly through your letterbox with eco-friendliness built in. That's one more thing for the sustainability guilt-free list, at least.
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