A Summary of the Problem
The fashion industry is well-known as one of major offenders in terms of unethical production (I will go into this more in a subsequent blog about the fashion industry), but seasonal items like Halloween costumes seem to be at the top of the list, as they are the epitome of “fast fashion”. Miriam-Webster defines fast fashion as “an approach to the design, creation, and marketing of clothing fashions that emphasizes making fashion trends quickly and cheaply available to consumers.” Costumes are typically purchased so inexpensively that Americans view them as disposable (either to pitch or donate). In fact, the average family only spends $27.33 on costumes for the whole family!
Most of these costumes come from China (according to data collected in the late 1990s), where garment workers don’t have rights to free speech or unions. The garment industry is known for human rights violations, including employees working up to 18 hours during peak seasons, limited access to water and restrooms, and sometimes even abuse. A 2015 article from MTV stated that buying costumes from fast fashion outlets makes it quite likely that you are supporting sweatshop labor. To make things worse, polyester, commonly used in cheap Halloween costumes, is made from coal and petroleum, destroying habitats while being harvested as well as spending 30+ years in landfills before finally starting to decompose.
I just recently learned of some of the issues wrapped up in chocolate. A couple weeks ago I purchased American-made chocolate for Halloween, thinking I was doing something good. Wow, I should have done more research before purchasing! Even though chocolate may be finished/packaged in the US, it says nothing of where the cocoa came from.
Most cocoa beans come from Africa. Child slavery in the cocoa industry is a huge problem and reports within the past couple of years estimate between 15,000 and 20,000 African children are enslaved in the cocoa industry alone. Most of the cocoa used in the US is imported and 40% of that imported cocoa is slave-labored. Use of GMOs and multi-continent deforestation is also pushed by big chocolate companies. To learn more about the ignorance claimed by the world’s biggest chocolate makers, check out the 2010 documentary The Dark Side of Chocolate.
Chances are that if the beans came from somewhere besides Africa, they were produced in a much more ethical way. Of course there are many small companies that make slave-free chocolates but below I listed a few brands I am actually familiar with. And since I am about naming names, the monsters are listed too.
Companies/Retailers Making Imperfect Progress (Where to Buy…)
Land of Nod: (affiliated with Crate & Barrel) In addition to their environmental initiatives, their code of conduct is based on the SA8000 global social accountability standard that is overseen by SAI.
Pottery Barn Kids: under the umbrella of the Williams Sonoma family brand, this company has some select certified fair trade products, and appears to making many strides in this area. They also offer many 100% organic cotton options for bedding, etc.
Little Baron Costumes: made in the US, great for our little boys wanting to dress up as American everyday heroes (their website is down at the moment, but check out their facebook page! https://www.facebook.com/Capitol-Clothing-Corp-123644717698491/)
Etsy: assuming sellers are abiding by Etsy’s rules, these hand-made items are ethically made, though sometimes it is hard to find sourcing information for their fabrics. Thankfully, it is easy to ask the seller and some even note if their fabrics are organic or environmentally friendly (especially for materials like felt.)
Goodwill or Other Second-hand Shops
Aldi: Can you believe it?! My favorite discount retailer sells ethical chocolate! I feel comfortable buying all Aldi-branded chocolate (even if it is not certified) because of Aldi’s commitment to convert all their private label chocolates and cookies to certified sustainable sources by the end of 2020. (https://corporate.aldi.us/en/corporate-responsibility/supply-chain/cocoa-and-coffee/)
Newman’s Own Organic Chocolate: Great brand in general – already over $400 million donated to charity!
The Endangered Species: My hubby’s favorite.
Trader Joes: Their chocolate bars are organic (organic plantations rarely use slave-labor and are always located in South America rather than Africa) and have received multiple certifications, increasing the chances that this chocolate is actually slave free. I also had a private conversation with a Trader Joe’s staff member who assured me that all chocolate Trader Joe’s carries is fair trade but to keep prices down, they only certify a few of their products.
The Complete Slave Free Chocolate List: http://www.slavefreechocolate.org/ethical-chocolate-companies/
The Chocolate Naughty List
Kraft (including Cadbury, Nabisco, Toblerone)
General Mills (including Häagen Dazs)
Lindt and Sprungli (including Ghirardelli)
Unilever (including Breyer’s Ice Cream)
Ferrero (including Nutella)
Sources and additional information: