One thing that made me excited about moving to the Nashville was that they had organic-y stores in a decent driving distance from my house. It’s odd that having a Trader Joe’s and a Whole Foods nearby would make me excited b/c I’m really not that into buying organic. However, I have recently been convicted about buying chocolate after reading this blog, and I have decided to
buy start trying to buy fair trade chocolate. I know, I know, it sounds crazy, especially for a penny pinching, coupon clipper like myself, but I just have this thing about child slavery. I just don’t like it. Like, at all? And hearing about the child slavery used by the major chocolate brands kind of led to a little crisis of conscience. I know that there is so much I don’t know about the chocolate industry, and so many systemic problems involved that I don’t know how to fix. I know that one person buying fair trade chocolate doesn’t make any kind of difference.
But here’s what it came down to for me:
The whole purpose of my life is to bring God glory.
God loves children. (And all people, but it is clear that children have a special place in his heart, both because of their vulnerability and because of their trusting nature.)
I also love children.
I will answer to God one day for all of my choices.
So…if I knew beyond a reasonable doubt that there is a high probability that the chocolate I purchased was made in part by children who were forced into slavery…
…and I knew that there were alternative brands of chocolate that cost a few dollars more, but were not made using child slaves…
…and I still bought the slavery chocolate to save a few bucks…
…could I answer to God for that?
The answer I came to was no. I tried to mentally weasel around it in a thousand different ways, but my conscience would not play ball. To knowingly buy the slavery chocolate was simply unjustifiable in my mind, and I would fully expect God to hold me accountable for my willful selfishness. Like I said, I love children, and the thought of one of them being hurt because of my casual purchase of a (let’s face it) luxury item was just unconscionable.
So that’s how I found myself in Trader Joe’s for the first time on this rainy Tuesday.
I walked in and wandered around aimlessly for a minute or two, honestly a little overwhelmed, before I ran into a sales rep. Of course, I could not think of how to say what I was wanting, and it came out like this:
“Excuse me, I’m looking for the…you know, the…the non-child-slavery chocolate?”
She blinked, but didn’t miss a beat: “You mean the fair trade chocolate?”
Yep, that’s what I mean.
I was mainly looking for chocolate chips, and I told her that. Surprisingly, she said that she wasn’t sure if they had any, and went to ask a manager. A few minutes later, she came back with the news that they had NO FAIR TRADE CHOCOLATE. What??? It’s Trader Joe’s!!! Man, I thought, if Trader Joe’s is not with me, then how hippie am I?
They also don’t have sales. Did you know that? Nothing ever goes on sale at Trader Joe’s. What kind of place is that? As someone who literally plans her family’s whole menu around the weekly grocery ad, that just made my heart hurt.
Thankfully, they did have a good selection of fair trade coffee, which I was also looking into, and she told me that the nearby Whole Foods would most certainly have the chocolate.
On the way out, I did find some crunchy green beans and tried them out:
I was actually looking for something more like these
which my neighbor, Molly, had at her house. They were uhhh-mazing. The green beans weren’t as great (too green-beany, if you can imagine), but they were an okay substitute.
Next it was off to Whole Foods. They did have one brand of fair trade chocolate chips, but it was quite small and cost *sniff* $5.69. They had all these other brands of chocolate chips, including the Whole Foods brand, which were cheaper. Were they seriously not fair trade? I was beginning to think that I really had these stores on too high of a pedestal. I found a worker and asked him about it. Together, we scoured all the bags for some sort of indication that they were fair trade. The big mystery was the Whole Foods brand. I mean, I just couldn’t imagine Whole Foods using slavery chocolate, not necessarily b/c of innate morals, but b/c of their clientele. Aren’t they supposed to be super ethical and conscientious?
It’s sad, considering the magnitude of the evil involved in child slavery, but I really did not want to pay $5.69 for a tiny bag of chocolate chips. This was where the rubber met the road for me. It’s one thing to think, “Oh, I love the children! I want to be like Jesus! I want to stand up against slavery!” It’s another thing when you are actually standing in the store holding the outrageously priced bag of, like, seven chocolate chips while living on a youth minister’s salary. Especially when the Ghiradelli’s brand is on sale for *sob* $2.79. Get behind me, Satan!
I told the guy my qualms and concluded with, “I mean, if this is all you have, I’ll buy it for the good of humanity, but is there any way I can find out if the Whole Foods brand is fair trade?” He had already talked to a couple managers and came back with nothing. But he said, “You know? I really want to know, too. Let’s look it up.” He went to the computer and searched the Whole Foods website. While he couldn’t find anything definitive, he did print out their brand’s official commitment to ethical standards and such. It was comforting, but if I’m going to pay extra for chocolate chips, I really want to be certain. Before I left, though, he asked if he could see one of my fair trade bags. He used a marker to “x” through the bar code and said,
“I’m going to sample this one out to you. You can just have it. You know, for the good of humanity.”
That was so nice, and it made my purchase a lot easier…because I also had (yes, had) to have some fair trade cocoa mix, and, shockingly, it was not super cheap, either.
As I drove home, I pondered my emotions, especially the fact that I was feeling a little guilt at spending so much for chocolate chips and cocoa mix. Yes, I know they are luxury items, but right now, they are not something we are willing to give up. Plus, one of the benefits of Nashville is the superior grocery situation: better coupons, better dairy prices, and the presence of Kroger stores. I figure that if I double down on my couponing efforts, I can make up the difference in price between the fair trade chocolate and coffee. And even if I can’t, I see this new purchasing move as one tiny step closer to living fully in God’s kingdom. I want His kingdom to come, His will to be done, on earth as it is in heaven. And surely it isn’t His will that other children suffer so that my children can have chocolate chip cookies. Surely taking the time and money to buy fair trade advances His Kingdom and His will on earth, even if in the tiniest bit.
What do you think? Am I crazy? Do you make any purchasing decisions for moral reasons?