Trick-or-treating, the hallmark sugar haul of Halloween, is a favorite aspect of the holiday for costumed kids everywhere. Dumping out the plastic pumpkin at the end of the night to inventory Reeses and M&Ms, Snickers bars, Tootsie Roll Pops and the like is a definite highlight of the hallowed night (and for weeks after). At the Texas State Aquarium, we hope to impart this same excitement with our Halloween candy, but with a green twist.
In the animal world, the manufacturing of candy and similar food and even household items like cosmetics and cleaning products can have big repercussions. Palm oil, a product used to make all of those products and more, is grown and harvested in plantations – unsustainably and largely unchecked – around the world.
The oil palm trees produce is extremely versatile, making it a highly demanded commodity. Unfortunately, it only grows in the tropics, where its cultivation can have disastrous impacts on people and the environment. To compound the problem, palm oil plantations are expanding more rapidly than almost any other agricultural product. Much of this expansion is taking place in countries like Malaysia and Indonesia. In fact, in 2000, those two countries accounted for just over half of the world’s total plantation area, then 9.7 million hectares. What else are Malaysia and Indonesia home to? The Asian elephant, tiger, Sumatran rhinoceros, and the orangutan, all of which are highly endangered animals.
Palm oil is harvested via large scale deforestation, pushing many of these species and more ever closer to extinction. In addition to deforestation, habitat degradation, and climate change, often indigenous people, plants, and animals are abused in the world palm oil trade.
How can you help? Pay attention to what products use palm oil and even consider making a few swaps for those products that don’t. A few simple lifestyle changes for your family could mean big changes to animals affected in the wild.
Take for instance Halloween candy; at the Aquarium we choose to serve our guests candy produced by Yowie and the Natural Candy Store, two companies that make organic, GMO-free, gluten free, Fair Trade, and Rainforest Alliance Certified foods. The Rainforest Alliance is an international nonprofit organization that works to conserve biodiversity and ensure sustainable livelihoods. Products bearing the seal (a little green frog) originate on or contain ingredients sourced from Rainforest Alliance Certified farms or forests. These farms and forests are managed according to rigorous environmental, social and economic criteria designed to conserve wildlife; safeguard soils and waterways; protect workers, their families and local communities; and increase livelihoods in order to achieve true, long-term sustainability.
Not only do these organizations help cut down on the palm oil production, they are also simply healthier. With no GMOs (genetically modified organisms), trans fats (artificial additives that make food more solid), or gluten (found in many grains), you can feel good about your children enjoying candy and chocolate that is natural, made sustainably, and best of all – green!
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