Editor’s note: This post is a Care2 favorite, back by popular demand. It was originally posted on April 18, 2014. Enjoy!
While Easter is of course a Christian holiday, the roots of many Easter holiday traditions actually lie in pagan traditions, as Care2 blogger Judy Molland has written. To determine the date of Easter, the early Christians used the spring equinox, a time of year often celebrated by other ancient cultures. For the ancient Romans, the months of Martius (i.e., March) and Aprilis (i.e., April) were full of festivals honoring agricultural deities to herald the start of spring and the farming season.
Many of us don’t observe Easter for religious reasons but do associate the holiday with the spring, with rebirth and renewal in nature — all the more reason to fill an Easter basket with ethically-produced items sourced from ingredients that are kind to the earth.
What You Don’t Want In Your Easter Basket
My local grocery store seems to be stocking almost as much candy for Easter as it does for Halloween, the only difference being that the candy comes in pastel shades courtesy of Yellow No. 5 and other kinds of artificial food coloring. Even a cursory glance at the labels of most commercially-produced candies will reveal they contain more than a few other things it’d be best to avoid such as high-fructose corn syrup, salt and, of course (we are talking about candy) sugar.
If you’re a vegan, many types of candy are off-limits as they are likely to contain milk or milk fats. Most marshmallows are to be avoided as they get their fluffy, spongey texture thanks to gelatin, which comes from the hides and bones of animals (and most often from those of pigs).
Eggs are also used to make some types of candy. Vegans will want to avoid these but, if you do eat eggs, make sure those in your candy are certified humane.
Soy lecithin is another common ingredient in many types of candy. As most soy produced in the United States is from genetically modified organisms, you’d be advised to skip treats listing this as an ingredient.
If you’re gluten-free, believe it or not, wheat flour is used to make a number of chewy candies, from caramels to licorice — look at those labels.
Last but not at all least, consider not only what is in the treats you’re thinking of filling an Easter basket with but who made it and how. Does the manufacturer have Fair Trade certification? Is the company Bird Friendly? Is the “vegetable oil” in the candy actually palm oil, produced from palm tree plantations on land where once rainforests stood?
Many Easter eggs are elaborately wrapped in plastic and cellophane so not a drop of icing gets chipped, to the point that they may have more packaging than chocolate. Does the manufacturer used recycled, and recyclable materials?
The Eco Easter Basket
Despite these many caveats, you can still fill an Easter basket and make it earth-friendly and ethical.
If you’re watching your sugar consumption or going sugar-free, here are 20 ways to make eco-friendly Easter eggs of the non-edible sort. If you’re organizing an Easter egg hunt, there are quite a few ways to do so without plastic or (real) eggs.
After going to such lengths to ensure that your Easter treaats are eco and ethical, don’t forget about the basket itself! Skip the neon-green cellophane grass and use a green alternative (such as wheatgrass you’ve grown yourself) and, rather than a plastic basket, get one that’s from a Fair Trade organization or made by the person who sells it to you — and that you can use again, once the last egg has been found, the last sweet bunny or egg consumed and the wrappers duly placed in your recycle bin.
Photo from Thinkstock