Mother Earth Monday: Halloween Candy – A Deforestation Horror Story!

As if the empty carbs and extra fat don’t make you feel guilty enough, now we know candy bars destroy the environment too!  Well, palm oil, really, is the suspect ingredient that that comes from palm plantations.  They require a great deal of clear-cut land to produce the oil, mostly in Indonesia and Malaysia. This means deforestation and the massive amounts of carbon released into the atmosphere that comes with it, but also the loss of peatlands and as Harrison Ford discovered in the documentary “Years of Living Dangerously,” peat contains much more carbon than tropical forests do. When plantations drain peatlands a lot of carbon gets released into the atmosphere.

So what’s a party mouth to gobble down – twigs and leaves?  Well, maybe there is a sustainable way to have your chocolate and enjoy it too!

Check out the Rainforest Foundation U.K. for the palm oil product guide’s chocolate manufacturers “ethical score.” Ethical Consumer, which did the research for the guide, says that top scores mean the company uses no palm oil or 100 percent Fairtrade palm oil.  Mars – who makes most of the popular candy bars in the USA – only reached a seven. Nestle was rated a bit better with a twelve, Lindt hit 14, and Booja Booja and Divine Chocolate got perfect 20 ethical scores.

The El Paso Zoo lists a few dozen candy brands that contain palm oil and several dozen more than contain none. But caveat emptor:  Cheyanne Mountain zoo’s palm oil webpage contains a comprehensive list of possible palm oil ingredient names. Some of the most common ones are “vegetable oil,” “stearate,” or “stearyl.”

The Director of the Center for Food Safety’s Cool Foods Campaign, Diana Donlon details four chocolatiers who use ethical palm oil or no palm oil at all:

  • Endangered Species Chocolate: uses a high certification for its chocolate and donates 10 percent of net profits to conservation groups
  • Justin’s: uses palm oil from highly-ranked climate- and conservation-friendly palm oil producer Agropalma
  • Equal Exchange: doesn’t use palm oil at all, and works with small farmer co-ops
  • Alter Eco: uses organic, fair trade coconut oil