The Easter season is upon us and has been since February 15th- , if the holiday aisle of our local chain pharmacy is to be used as a trusted marker of the passage of time. Just as Halloween’s orange and black are replaced by Christmas’ green and red on November 1st, the day after Valentine’s day sees romantic reds and pinks unceremoniously replaced by Easter’s sickeningly sweet pastel palette. It is as though these stores are giving us a visual aid to reveal just how disposable our consumerist driven society really can be- it would be more shocking if there were not so many cute fuzzy stuffed animal bunnies lining these aisle, distracting us from these harsher realities…aww this one sings “Here Comes Peter Cottontail“!

Luckily, once we leave these bear trap like displays-with their hypnotizing Spring inspired hues and themes- we can come back to our senses and plot how to make this Easter the one wherein we refuse to listen to the seductive siren song of these disposable holiday items once and for all. This will be the Easter that you, yes you- with your ravishing eyes and daredevil attitude- make conscientious decisions on how you choose to celebrate your holiday. Free yourself from the shackles of your Easter Bunny overlord and take heed to these easy to follow steps that will make you wonder why the heck you ever paid your hard earned cash on a gob of colored plastic grass ever before!

Easter Baskets:

I generally think back fondly on the Easter’s of my youth, but my memories take on a cringe worthy feel when I recall that part of my family’s Easter Sunday ritual involved my siblings and myself placing our Easter baskets from the previous year at the foot of our bed, only to awake and discover that the Easter Bunny had crept into our room while we slept overnight to replace these  baskets with new ones! Not only new baskets, but baskets wrapped in colorful cellophane and filled to the brim with candies and other treats! No, I am not cringing at the idea of a bunny rabbit the size of an adult male, who often sports an unfashionable vest coupled with an even more unfashionable bowtie, creeping in my bedroom at night- I am cringing at the wastefulness of brand new baskets wrapped in plastic (What up, Twin Peaks fans!?).

In my parent’s defense, it was the 80’s. People thought cigarettes were a healthy alternative to breast milk for babies in those days. Oh, they didn’t? Well, either way, we now know better. You should learn from history, or you will be doomed to repeat it- so,  step one: reuse your Easter Baskets!!!

If you are in need of a new basket for some reason, seek out baskets made from sustainable  items, such as these handsome Fair Trade bamboo baskets.

Better yet, make a project out if it for you an your youngin’s and make your own baskets with recyclable goods. Search online for a plethora of handy how-to guides, such as this one from funroom.com.

Other lessons you can learn from my parent’s mistakes (which crazily enough is the title of my upcoming self-help book) include: skipping the cellophane altogether and either forgoing the fake grass at the bottom of the basket  or opting  for shredded, recyclable papers or natural items; such as hay.

Easter Eggs:

A classic Easter activity for children is the dying of hard boiled eggs and distributing them to your disappointed family members. A hard boiled egg, no matter what color it may be, is not the most awesome gift on the planet, but as with many things in the world, it is really the journey that counts…in  this case the act of egg dying, that makes it an American favorite.

First up on your Easter activity Eco makeover is the eggs themselves. If  buying eggs, try to make your purchase  from a local organic farm.

If you are making this a vegan holiday, you may want to try obtaining wooden eggs that your child can paint and can be used year after year as a decoration. Even the White House is using wooden eggs for this years Easter Egg Hunt, way to send a sustainable message, Mr. President!

Now that you’ve decided on more ethical and eco-friendly eggs it is time to choose your palette. If you have decided to go the traditional egg dying route, check out this handy guide on crunchydomesticgodess.com that informs you how to dye your eggs using simply vinegar, fruits and vegetables.  For wooden eggs, use non-toxic paints and recycled supplies found around your home.

Candy:

Let’s face it, this is what the holiday basically boils down to for children and the young at heart alike: an excuse to receive and eat a basket of candy. Similarly, Halloween is an excuse to beg for candy and Valentine’s day is a time to enjoy assorted chocolates out of a heart shaped container. I am not here to judge or to tell you to enjoy your candy in moderation, I am here however to remind you to make ethical choices when choosing which sweet concoctions to gorge yourself on.

Fulfill your need to be on theme this holiday season without abandoning your ethics; Chocolates at Sjaacks.com and divinechocolateusa.com are available in Easter style shapes and packaging and are also 100 percent Fair Trade and organic!!!

You could also consider filling your loved ones Easter Baskets with homemade candies and treats. Check out this delicious vegan fudge recipe Autonomie Project posted for another holiday- that shall remained unnamed, as not to make Easter jealous.

When it is all said and done, the sap in me wants to say that holidays are about spending quality time with the ones you hold nearest and dearest to your heart. The chocolate lover in me, however, thinks it is all about the yummy treats. We’ll let those two sides of myself figure it out like any mature personality would: cage match style.

Until the results are available, remember to enjoy your holiday in the most ethical and environmentally friendly way you possibly can. Come April 5th, regardless of whether or not you buy every plastic egg or rapping Easter bunny available, your local chain store’s holiday aisle will be already sporting July 4th’s patriotic red, white and blue. This time you can smugly walk by, knowing that you have the ability to celebrate any holiday without pledging allegiance to the disposable trinkets they want you to believe make or break its success.  You can still feel free to set off all the dancing, animatronic doo dads on the shelf as you pass by- you know that you have a soft spot in your heart for that Santa that wears sunglasses and tears it up on the saxophone and all his robotic pals.

Happy Easter, everyone!

-Meghan Hurley

Ummmmmmmm. Yuuuuuummy, yummy chocolate! Recently I’ve been thinking about chocolate a lot especially with Easter around the corner.

Did you know that chocolate has mystical powers? Eating chocolate increases the levels of endorphins released into the brain. Endorphins are hormones that the body uses to lessen pain and decrease stress. Another common neurotransmitter affected by chocolate is serotonin. Serotonin is known as an anti-depressant and guess what my friends? Yep, you guessed it: chocolate helps us release serotonin because it contains tryptophan.

But enough of these 12 syllable words. Did you know that chocolate comes from the cacao tree? The bean used to make chocolate is called the cocoa bean (red bean in picture).
Chocolate  also has a cool history. It is believed to have been introduced into Central America by the ancient Mayas, and cultivated in Mexico by the Olmecs, then by the Toltecs and later by the Aztecs. Montezuma II, emperor of the Aztecs, dined on no other beverage than chocolate, served in a golden goblet and eaten with a golden spoon. It is reported that Montezuma II may have consumed no fewer than 50 portions each day, and 200 more by the nobles of his court. At some point in history before the Spanish Conquest, it was used as a currency throughout Mesoamerica and the Caribbean.

Now the not so cool history of chocolate

Where does cocoa come from? Well, the main cocoa exporting countries include: Cote d’Ivoire, Ghana, Indonesia, Cameroon, Nigeria, Brazil, Ecuador, Dominican Republic and Malaysia. A UNICEF study reports that 200,000 children are trafficked yearly in West and Central Africa for the cocoa trade. These children are used as plantation labor.  The trafficking occurs across many countries including Cameroon, Nigeria, and Ghana. Some countries are mere transit points, while others are either the suppliers or receivers of the children. The 2005 International Labor Organization report estimated that up to 6% of the 200,000 children involved in cocoa production could be the victims of human trafficking or slavery.

The good news is that people like you and me: consumers, can and are making a difference. For example, Cadbury Dairy Milk – the leading chocolate bar in the UK – has announced plans to begin using Fair Trade cocoa this summer!!!  This is great news! Cadbury’s switch to fair trade cocoa  will boost Fair Trade Certified™ chocolate up to a full 15 percent of the chocolate market in England.

Ok, now that we know almost everything we can digest about chocolate, I would like to leave you with one last thought.  In 2006 US chocolate sales estimated at close to $16 billion through all channels and is forecasted to grow to $18 billion by 2011, according to the U.S. Market for Chocolate. The UK has taken the lead on demanding fair trade chocolate, now, it’s our turn.

So, before you go buy your holiday chocolate, check out this report called the Chocolate Scorecard to see what companies you would like your hard earned dollars to support. The chocolate trade can be ugly but it can also be empowering and Fair Trade chocolate companies like Divine Chocolate (makers of the Fair Trade Chocolae Easter Eggs to the right) and Equal Exchange are really proving this to be the case. There are some great companies out there to get Fair Trade chocolate from.   Check out some of the other companies that make eating chocolate, 100% heavenly!

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