Mar 02 2010

Consumer Impact

Since moving to Brooklyn, I’ve been eating more chocolate than ever.  I’m surrounded by local small-batch chocolatiers such as Mast Brothers, Nunu, and Fine and Raw.  It’s easy to feel spoiled! Each chocolate maker’s product is rich, unique, and something to be savored.  Beyond supporting local artisans, I believe it’s equally important to support the global economy, specifically countries in which a particular crop is their livelihood, like  coffee beans in Guatamala or cocoa beans in Ecuador.

If you shop around for chocolate, you’ll stumble across a variety of products and labels.   90% of all cocoa beans originate from about 3 million small farming families.  Fair Trade initiatives guarantee that small farmers and cooperatives receive a minimum price for their product.   The Rainforest Alliance Certified label guarantees that the product was made according to criteria that balance economic, ecological, and social considerations.  Goods must be produced without depleting the natural resources or the surrounding community.  USDA Organic, although an expensive and often controversial label, means that products have been grown and processed according to the USDA’s organic standards.

The current chocolate bar we’ve been snacking on is Kallari.  We sampled a number of different pieces in Whole Foods a few weeks ago and we were excited to learn about what makes Kallari unique.

1)    The Kallari Association is a cooperative of 850 families, both artists and cocoa producers, in the Ecuadorian Amazon.

2)    100% of sales profits on all Association items go back to the cooperative.

3)    The Kallari cacao beans (Cacao Nacional) spend only three months between harvest and destination; these beans come from a single source (unlike some dark chocolates that blend multiple beans).

These days, more and more products are becoming certified as ‘Fair Trade’ or ‘Rainforest Alliance'.  As a consumer, it’s important to learn where your purchases come from and what impact your purchase might have on a community.

Sometimes the small act of purchasing a pack of gum can be impactful. Most gum is made with aspartame, so I don’t chew it too often (also because I’ve yet to learn how to chew gum in a discreet manner!).

Yesterday we grabbed a pack of Project 7 gum, specifically Mango Mint with Vitamin B, C, and Green Tea.  I was unsure about how they could pack all of that into a piece of gum, but I was willing to give it a chew and to do some research into Project 7.

Our gum had the label ‘House the Homeless’.  A quick trip to their website reveals Project 7’s platform.  They aim to donate 50% of their profits (a minimum of $105,000) to seven areas of need in the world (founder Tyler Merrick wanted to turn the  7 Deadly Sins upside down):

Build the Future, Feed the Hungry, Heal the Sick, Help Those in Need, Hope for Peace, House the Homeless, and Save the Earth.

Each year, seven non-profit organizations (one from each area of need) are supported by product proceeds.  So, as an example, 50% of my ‘House the Homeless’ gum purchase will be donated to SOS Children’s Villages International.  Project 7 is a two year old organization with a great deal of potential.  They have a creative website, a blog, and a twitter account, if you’re interested in learning more.

Currently, Project 7 manufactures bio-bottled water, gum, mints and T-shirts.