Sustainability Tip: America’s favorite Valentine’s Day treat isn’t the most sustainable, but here’s how to enjoy chocolate without hurting the planet
Valentine’s Day is Friday, but as everyone runs to purchase chocolate to showcase their love for a significant other (or themselves), the world is rushing to save the cacao plant.
Business Insider reported in 2017 that the natural source of chocolate, cacao plants, may go extinct by 2050. Cacao is a particular plant with a particular growing pattern, and they only grow within a narrow strip of rainforest land that sits 20 degrees north and south of the equator. In this environment, rain and humidity are consistent throughout the year, making it the ideal conditions for cacao to thrive. Half of the world’s chocolate comes from Côte d’Ivoire and Ghana.
As global temperatures increase without rainfall to offset the moisture loss, cacao fields will be forced to move higher into the mountains in countries that grow cacao. However, this vital land has already been preserved for wildlife, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.
This concern is not new to the chocolate giants like Mars, the $35-billion corporation behind favorites like Snickers, M&Ms, Twix, Dove and other non-chocolate grocery store brands like Pedigree, Uncle Ben’s rice and Eclipse gum. Business Insider reports that in September 2017, Mars pledged $1 billion in effort of “Sustainability in a Generation.” This movement will focus on reducing their carbon footprint by more than 60% by 2050, and includes a collaboration with Dr. Jennifer Doudna of Japan.
In preparation for limited chocolate and other vital food sources, geneticist Dr. Jennifer Doudna invented CRISPR, a powerful tool for editing genomes. Live Science,explains that CRISPR allows researchers to alter DNA sequences and modify gene functions to grow and produce food in unnatural environments. CRISPER researchers are also working towards production of food for vulnerable communities around the world.
Unfortunately, there are not always easy tips to fix a problem. In the case of cacao, we can focus on how we buy, how we live, who we support and who our choices affect.
The future of consumption
This doesn’t only apply to chocolate: Threatened commodities include beer, avocados and coffee.
We can still be effective by voting with our dollars and thinking critically about the impact that our purchasing makes.
Fair trade is a well-known certification program for producers of commodities like chocolate that are jeopardized because of a changing climate. The certification incorporates important sustainability factors, like safe practices in biologically-sensitive areas and limits on agrochemicals. While it doesn’t solve all of the associated climate problems, programs like these offer a lot more transparency and tend to support more sustainable and ethical production methods.
For more ways to support sustainability locally, visit walkingmountains.org/sustainability.
Mackenzie Koffenberger, lover of chocolate, is the marketing and communications coordinator at Walking Mountains Science Center. She can be reached at email@example.com.