- 4 minute read -
Did you hear the great news? The Easter Bunny is considered an essential service! Phew...
While we are at home celebrating this Easter, we have extra time to relax and create some epic low waste Easter Treats.
There's two sections to this post...the first is everything you need to know about Chocolate, the second gives you other creative ideas and activities to do from home during Level 4.
Part 1: All About That Heavenly, Scrumptious, Mouth-watering Chocolate
We won’t beat around the bush: the environmental impact of Easter is a touchy subject. 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 hibernation 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 present day 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 most brands farm cacao beans, 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 (often the result of pressure from huge global chocolate brands) 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, order yours now to arrive for 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.
- 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 with a cardboard outer is better than plastic, as it can be rolled into a ball and recycled
- Eggs for the kids - a fun egg hunt with multiple foil-wrapped eggs can be a fun alternative to the giant eggs that come in plastic...it's a numbers game right?!
- 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
Part 2: Second hand + Recipes + Eco Celebrations Ideas
- 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 Eco Warehouse, and find extra decorations from around the house (like fairy lights, reused ribbon) and the garden (like Leaf Confetti)
- Like our PM Jacinda Ardern has encouraged, get the kids to colour in their Easter Egg and stick it to your window for this weekend - see her post here.
Be the best egg in the land...and make your own!
If you're feeling especially creative and want to dip your Bunny toes into the world of a Chocolatier; try making your own chocolate Easter eggs from scratch. It's a lot easier than you think and the process is great fun for kids and adults alike.
Vegan chocolate can be made from three ingredients:
- Cacao butter: This is the rich natural fat that comes directly from the cacao bean. It is solid at room temperature and is what forms the structure of high quality chocolate. Health Post sells organic cacao butter which can be found here. As cacao butter is quite expensive, it can be bulked-out with coconut oil. More coconut oil will however mean that the chocolate melts easier (like in little hands).
- Cacao powder: Derived from the cacao bean and full of a great range of antioxidants and vitamins, cacao powder is what gives chocolate its distinct flavour. Organic cacao powder can be found from Maretai Organics.
- Liquid sweetener: As cacao has quite a strong bitter taste in its raw form, it is far more appetising when a sweetener is added. liquid sweeteners are by far the easiest option when it comes to chocolate making as no high heat is required and the creamy chocolate consistency is maintained. Good options include maple syrup and liquid honey.
An awesome chocolate recipe that we have been experimenting with recently can be found here. You can get creative and make Easter eggs (or other shapes!) from this chocolate using moulds found at home including ice trays, silicone baking moulds, mini cupcake trays and egg cups. Once solid, they can be wrapped with tin foil and decorated.
A recipe for home-made chocolate vegan creme-filled eggs can be found here.
This Easter, get creative, innovative and where possible support local, fair trade eco-friendly businesses to show that extra respect for our planet and people.
We have high hopes the Easter Bunny brings you a sunny weekend and perhaps a fair trade bundle, in a second hand basket, with no palm oil or plastic packaging in sight. Easter Bunny: we hope you’re listening!