Maybe Easter isn’t the number one most offensive holiday for inspiring reckless consumption, but it has it’s share of eco-maybe-not-so-friendly traditions. For starters, it’s the second top-selling candy holiday (after Halloween). Picture this: 90 million chocolate Easter bunnies, 16 billion jelly beans, and five million marshmallow chicks and bunnies (AKA Peeps) are produced for the holiday. All that candy! All that unfair labor in the cocoa industry, all that environmental havoc caused by growing sugar crops! Now I’m not here to grouse and Grinch about Easter–I am fun, really, I am–but there are some easy steps to take to make it a little kinder.
Buy Child-Loving Chocolate
It’s ironic that while millions of American children are filled with glee as they indulge in the ears of a chocolate bunny, elsewhere, approximately 284,000 child laborers work on cocoa farms, and are either involved in hazardous work, are unprotected, are deprived of liberty, or have been trafficked, according to the International Labour Organization (the specialized agency of the United Nations which seeks the promotion of social justice and internationally recognized human and labor rights). Opt for Fair Trade chocolate and cocoa products, they’re marked with the “Fair Trade Certified” and Fair Trade Federation labels, and assure consumers that economic, social and environmental criteria have been met in the production and trade of an agricultural product. Fair Trade Certified chocolate might be more expensive than the five-pound bag of crummy chocolate you can buy in a big-box store, so, you buy a little less. I mean, we’re talking childhood slavery here. Right?
Find (Then Hide) Candy with a Conscience
If you’re kids are cool with the health-food Easter bunny, that’s great–but it doesn’t have to be all raisins and almonds. You can buy bright, fun, yummy candy that’s been made with a conscience, and without high-fructose corn syrup and artificial colors. I have a favorite source for candy that meets any number of requirements: Vegan, organic, fair trade, gluten free, non-allergenic, kosher and Feingold. Imagine! It’s a mom-and-daughters Website called NaturalCandyStore.com–they have a terrific selection of natural, organic and fair trade Easter candy. And no Easter candy mention would be complete without tackling marshmallow Peeps–all five million of them produced annually. I thought I’d recommend a homemade version, but honestly, Peeps are essentially gelatin and refined sugar, and I just haven’t found a way around healthy marshmallows. If anyone has any suggestions, I’m all ears.
Color Happy Eggs
For me, there is a major disconnect between frolicking Easter chicks and hens, and the image of a factory egg farm. At any given time, according to the HSUS, nearly 280 million laying hens in the United States are confined in battery cages–cages so restrictive the birds can’t spread their wings. Sixty-two percent of mothers purchase at least two dozen eggs for Easter, wouldn’t it be great if they were all from happy hens? There are a number of choices, look for these options: Certified Organic, Certified Humane, Free Range or Free Roaming, and Cage-Free. (See Organic Eggs: Easy Greening for more on these definitions.) And to sweeten the pot, you can make a great array of natural Easter egg dyes with kitchen cupboard ingredients, see how here.
Scrap the Plastic
I confess I have fond memories of Easter at my grandfather’s and the thrill of bright plastic Easter eggs filled with treats. But my memories of Easter at my grandfather’s would be no less magical without the plastic! Unless you use the same set of plastic grass and eggs every year, why not create traditions that don’t require plastic grass and eggs? You can make your own felted Easter eggs. Wrap treats in wide ribbon that can be re-used, or colorful tissue that can be recycled. Use dyed shredded paper to line a basket, or use living grass. Invest in nice baskets that can be used year-after-year, or make your own. There are endless ways to be creative–and it makes it all the more meaningful.