The chocolate you buy can have a big impact on people’s lives and the health of the planet. If you select with the following in mind, buying chocolate can save the world.

Labor: Many of the large chocolate companies or their suppliers pay wages too low to support families. Children as young as 10 are forced to work in cocoa fields to help the family. They work up to 60 hours a week so school isn’t an option for them. Some chocolate producers actually use child slave labor. Cheap chocolate is cheap for a reason.

Farming methods: Cocoa is a tropical shade crop, with pods growing on understory trees. If it isn’t raised sustainably, larger trees are cut down and the cocoa trees are shaded with tarps. Those larger trees are habitat for many birds and animals. Bird populations are declining and cocoa plantations in South and Central America that don’t use sustainable practices are part of the problem. Chocolate grown in Africa can have the same impact on that continent if sustainable practices aren’t followed.

Other ingredients: Chocolate gets its smooth creamy texture from cocoa butter, a fat. A cocoa bean can be separated into cocoa and cocoa butter. Often cocoa butter is removed and used in other products like cosmetics. Palm oil or hydrogenated oils are then used to replace cocoa butter. Neither are healthy. Palm oil often is produced in ways that lead to deforestation, loss of animal habitat, loss of biodiversity, and displacement of indigenous people. Look for chocolate liquor (the whole cocoa bean), cocoa and/or cocoa butter for a healthier better quality chocolate that’s better for the planet too.

Better World Shopping Guide is a website that rates many companies for social and environmental responsibility. One product category is chocolate. Nestle is one of the worst for sourcing their chocolate from places that use child labor. It earns an F rating. The traditional Halloween candy companies all earn D- or F grades based on environmental impact, fair wages, and social justice. Check out the website to find the chocolate companies that taste great and help the world too!

If you have ideas to share or would like to write one of the weekly columns, please contact Earth Ministry committee chair, Rob Zimmerman.