It’s the time of year we can hardly walk through the supermarket without tripping over stands of chocolate eggs or stumbling through mountains of hot cross buns. We’re holding out for that gloriously long weekend too.
Winter IS coming. Cracking ourselves up here, what we really mean...EASTER IS COMING!
We won’t beat around the bush: the environmental impact of Easter is a touchy subject. But it’s important that we acknowledge the negative impact our Easter rituals have on the environment. We’re not about to tell you to give up your beloved chocolate (we couldn’t part with it either!), but there are ways to celebrate Easter in a conscious and low impact way.
If you’re a newbie to the ‘eco world’ and celebrating your first sustainable Easter, or even if you’ve done this all before and need some fresh inspo, here’s how to celebrate Easter in sustainable CaliWoods style.
First, a little history lesson on our Easter snacking staple: chocolate.
The History of Chocolate:
Chocolate is a food of the gods, a constant pick me up, the critical ingredient to end a long day, the magic maker, happiness grower, and life giver. You won’t be surprised to hear that cacao (the main ingredient that makes chocolate chocolate) has been considered a ‘sacred plant’ since as far back as 1500 B.C. The Olmecs of Mesoamerica, the original cacao founders, thought cacao was a key source of life too. It was used primarily as a food, a frothy hot drink, and traded as a valuable commodity within only elite groups, as it gave them superpowers- you know that warm, elated feeling you get after popping a piece on your tongue? Back in the day, you couldn’t grab a bar from the shops, oh no: Chocolate was gold.
How did something so sacred and sought after, turn into a product we carelessly stuff our faces with?
Joseph Fry was the first to mix the cacao bean with cacao butter in a mould, and create what we now know as chocolate. He brewed up this magic in 1847, and chocolate grew in popularity so much, that it was even included in soldiers' rations during the Revolutionary War in America.
Chocolate these days is a far cry from the original cacao beans savoured by the Aztecs. It’s filled with additives, dairy, and a generous helping of sugar. Chocolate has been diluted to fill our sugar cravings, and the way cacao beans are currently farmed, is unsustainable for our planet too.
Unsustainable Chocolate Farming:
Cacao farming has switched from a respected art form, to a commonly unsustainable practice. The low revenues of chocolate farming result in farmers planting cacao crops on new land, instead of maintaining and repairing their current crops, or replanting on the same soil.
The intensive farming practices wear down the soil, so farms are forced to cut down even more precious forests to make way for fresh cacao plantations. Chemical use in cacao farming is also common. Education around pesticide use is poor, and there is very little consideration around the impact of pesticides on the surrounding environment, the consumers, and the farmers dealing with these chemicals daily. All this, so we can have our precious chocolate treats at the speedy rate we demand.
And then… there’s palm oil.
Without digging too deep into a very complex topic, palm oil is a vegetable oil extracted from the palm fruit. This oil, commonly found in chocolate, is the talk of the town for sustainable chocolate eaters. The cultivation of palm oil generally involves the mass destruction of ecosystems, including burning rainforests, and subsequently the dislocation of many species, particularly orangutans, from their homes. For all your Kiwis, you might remember the very abrupt decline in popularity of Cadbury a few years ago after it was discovered they switched cacao butter for palm oil - sales plummeted.
With all this in mind, let’s recognise our growing sustainable chocolate future! Luckily for us: we have fair trade, palm oil free, and low waste options.
Sustainable Chocolate Exists
- Forty Thieves: Their one-off peanut butter filled Easter eggs are flying off the shelves, but they’re open for backorders to arrive before Easter!
- Trade Aid: Home compostable packaging, organic, fair trade chocolate made in Christchurch.
- Loving Earth: Dairy free, plant based, organic, sustainable, compostable packaged choccies made in a solar powered factory. As well as your standard chocolate bars, their Boobook chocolate eggs are perfect for Easter.
- GoodFor: Fill up your own jar with mini eggs perfect for gifts or munching on Easter morning.
- Bennetto: Organic, Fairtrade small scale cacao farm, vegan and gluten free.
If you’re standing at the supermarket, without these options in sight, always opt for Whittakers. Made in Porirua, New Zealand, Whittakers are a huge step above Cadbury’s when it comes to sustainability. They’re palm oil free, locally made, and they offer fair trade options too.
When stocking up on Easter chocolate, consider:
- Sustainable packaging: is it compostable, plastic, or foil? Compost is best, and foil is better than plastic, as it can be rolled into a ball and recycled
- Palm oil free
- Less dairy: the higher the percentage of cacao, the better
- Fair trade
- Will it go to waste? Only buy what you need
Second hand + DIY + Eco Celebrations
Chocolate is not the only way to celebrate Easter! Why not try your hand at homemade hot cross buns with ingredients only from the bulk bin store (check our handy bulk bin shopping guide to help you shop plastic free here), decorate boiled free range eggs with eco-friendly paints from Flora Art Materials, and find extra decorations at the second hand store.