submitted by Zara Zrudlo
In recent times, the quality of certain objects that we buy, eat, enjoy, and rely on every day has downgraded. Something that you could have bought for fifty dollars ten years ago is more expensive and less reliable now! But sometimes it can be worth it to buy things that are more expensive and you know will be better quality because of inequities. Chocolate is a good example of that. Most of the chocolate that you buy in the store was made with pesticides, and in ways that violate human, and environmental laws. Children as young as four might be working to harvest the cacao beans and turn them into the tasty treat that most people enjoy on a daily basis. Most of the kids and teenagers there would love to have some of the things in life that we take for granted, and sometimes even complain about, such as chores and school. However, often their family relies on the salary that they bring in, which is almost always less than one dollar per day.
In most cases, the work that people are doing to harvest cacao cannot be called slave labour, they are paid, but they are only paid meager amounts for long hours of work, much longer than the shifts that most people work, sometimes fourteen to eighteen hours. These people are far below the poverty line and some are even starving, physically, verbally and sexually abused by their bosses. It can be really hard to hear about these terrible conditions that people are working, and it isn’t just chocolate that is made by human labor either! It is estimated that 75% percent of clothes are made in sweatshops, factories that use child labour and have terrible working conditions. People are paid about an average around one cent per hour, which equals about twenty cents per day.
These places that grow food and create clothes are often really bad for the environment as well, using lots of pesticides which all end up in the water and earth, or using dyes and chemicals that are bad for the environment and people who work with them. Most people know that sweatshops and unfair labor conditions exist, but sometimes it’s hard to fathom how bad it really is when we don’t experience it every day. But this is something really important, people are suffering world wide, we need to do something!
Buying clothes from consignment and thrift stores is a cheaper option, and then the clothes don’t come directly from sweatshops. The less new clothes people buy, the less need there will be for sweatshops. Or buying clothes from brands that are certified for having good labour conditions is a great first step! Sometimes businesses that have good labour conditions still buy fabric harvested by people who are working long hours and aren’t paid fairly, but it can be really hard to find out where fabric comes from.
For chocolate, buying from companies that are Fair Trade Certified, UTZ Certified or other fair trade companies is the best way to go! Hershey has committed to transitioning to fair trade chocolate, being eco friendly, and honoring their workers, by 2030, so that could be a good company to support as well.
It’s important to invest in fair trade foods, for the environment and for the workers. My hope is that if we all invest where we are financially able, then eventually companies that treat their workers horribly will be forced into fair trade agreements.
Zara Zrudlo is a homeschooled, fourteen year old resident of Kemtpville. They love writing, art, acting, reading and anything to do with music. Ever since they were little, they’ve cared a lot about activism and social justice, and hoped to make a difference in the world. Zara has written two and a half novels, and ran a newspaper for their friends and family for three years. They love hanging out with their dogs and chickens and spending time imagining having dinner with various book characters.