Photo courtesy of Andie Gilmour
I generally do not buy my Halloween candy too far in advance of the holiday, since it is next to impossible for me to keep my hot little hands off the treats. This can cause several problems: I don't get the best deals on candy because I'm shopping as close to October 31st as possible, I find myself eating too much candy anyway, just in the shortened period between unloading the goodies and the first ring of the doorbell, and if I find out something I'd rather not know about the candy that I'm planning on purchasing, I don't leave myself nearly enough time to do something about it.
Last year, I learned on the day I planned to purchase my Halloween candy about the unethical practices of the chocolate industry in harvesting cocoa from the Ivory Coast. Cocoa farms there use forced child labor to harvest the beans, and the children work in deplorable conditions. Since most commercial chocolate companies mix their beans from all over the world, it's basically impossible to buy chocolate that was not in some way connected to these awful practices.
(I know. Way to ruin a fun holiday, Mensch.)
I decided to simply ignore this information last year. It was too late for me to really do anything about it, and I had been so looking forward to the chocolate, the costumes, the fun of Halloween. I didn't want to spend one of my favorite secular holidays thinking about things happening on the other side of the world that I could do very little about.
This year, however, I decided I would be more deliberate. I decided to hand out Fair Trade chocolate if I gave out chocolate treats.
Unfortunately, there seems to be two types of advice on the internet: how to shop ethically and how to shop frugally. Very rarely do you see information on how to do both. (This is why I wrote a post last year on how to afford an organic or sustainably raised turkey . I knew where to find them and why it was important. But no one [and I mean NO ONE] seemed to have any advice on how to make it fit in the budget).
So, in the spirit of trying to make ethics more affordable, I wanted to give my readers an idea of what they can do to feel better about their Halloween treats, even if they are on a tight budget. Here is what I found out:
1. Experts agree that just boycotting could hurt more than help. According to the site Stop Chocolate Slavery, "people from Anti-Slavery International and UNICEF and cocoa industry analysts say that if lots of people stop buying chocolate, it could drive down the price of cocoa. That means less money for everyone involved in cocoa production, especially the farmers. Farmers who use slaves already say it's because they don't make enough to pay the boys. If the farmers make even less money, more boys may work for nothing."
So, if you want to enjoy your traditional Halloween Kit Kats, Snickers, and Reese's Cups, know that your money is at least keeping the child laborers from having a worse life. And that's an okay place to be.
2. You can still offer non-chocolate candies if you feel uncomfortable. One household's decision to pass out Dum Dums or Smarties will not make a difference. And if it eases your conscience, that means you can focus on the fun of seeing all the neighborhood ghosts and goblins.
3. Handing out Fair Trade Chocolate is an expensive option, but it is doable. This package of Fair Trade Milk Chocolate Minis costs $35 for 150 pieces. At $1.47 per ounce, it is certainly much spendier than the commercial chocolate you'll find at your local mega mart, which will only set you back $0.20 or less per ounce.
One possibility is to buy one package of the expensive stuff (since 150 pieces will only get me through about half of a night of trick-or-treaters) and supplement with regular candy.
Another option is to reduce your overall Halloween spending by $35 (or $70) in order to afford the chocolate. Dave Ramsey reports that "according to the National Retail Federation, the average family spent $72 on
Halloween last year, up from $66 in 2010. They spent an average of $26
on costumes, $21 on candy and $19 on decorations." If you plan on making your own costumes and decorations from what you already have around the house, then you can potentially afford to hand out Fair Trade Chocolate.
4. Take part in Reverse Trick-or-Treating. I'll tell you that I personally am not totally comfortable with this idea. Global Exchange came up with the idea six years ago to have people spread the word about the ethical implication of commercial chocolates by handing out small leaflets or flyers with their candy. This year's flyer includes a coupon for Fair Trade chocolate, but I'm still not entirely certain I will take part in this. I remember seeing neighbors inserting politics into fun holidays when I was a child, and I would really prefer not to taint the Halloween experience of my neighborhood. On the other hand, I do recognize that only companies like Hershey's and Cadbury's have the political might to make any changes to the ethics of chocolate, and they will only make changes when their customers force them to.
If you are comfortable handing out the reverse trick-or-treat flyer (and the fact that it does include a coupon really does help to make me feel more comfortable--at least people are getting something for it), I would suggest you hand out the candy to the kids and the flyer to the accompanying adults.
Halloween is such a fun time. The costumes, the decorations, the chill in the air, and the candy all add up to a night of real wonder and joy. This year, while I don't want to politicize something we all take for granted, I have decided to try to make my actions match my beliefs.
Here's hoping I can keep myself from eating $35 worth of Fair Trade chocolate before the trick-or-treaters arrive.
I realized after posting this that the easiest way to have a frugally Fair Trade Halloween is to get your chocolate for free. So I'm offering up a free box of the Fair Trade Chocolate Minis (your choice of milk or dark chocolate) to a random commenter on this post. Comment by noon on Thursday, October 25. Good luck, and enjoy the flavors of the season!