Ranked very high amongst my human-environment-behavior pet peeves is littering. Right around the corner from Buy Nothing Day, Halloween gives society another festival in which to be completely environmentally irrational. This annual feast of junk food is but a mere segue into the psychotic frenzy of Christmas shopping and the amount of garbage left over from rejected morsels of sugary instant gratification rivals the Saint Patrick’s day parade.
As someone in a parenting role, I do understand the excitement of dressing up and going door to door in one of the only annual interactions we have with our neighbors, asking whether it is a trick or treat that will be wrought. As a child, I remember feeling totally unprepared to give a trick when asked because I was only given the impression that this was yet another occasion where I would be the receiver, not the giver.
Being annoyed at the amount of waste produced on Halloween is only the icing on the cake. One of the most serious violations incurred on this day of celebrating the dead has to do with human rights and corporate environmental sustainability.
The cheapest place to buy Halloween candy is either the dollar store, or wal-mart, which has been on the “worst corporation list” for over 3 years. According to the better world shopping guide, Wal-Mart has incurred major toxic waste dumping fines, received a grade of “F” (FAIL!) for overall social responsibility, has sex-discrimination class-action lawsuits, documented exploitation of child labor and is the #3 worst company on the planet.
If that isn’t enough to stir you, a majority of the candy many people end up buying on Halloween is made by Nestle, M&M/Mars and Kraft (Altria). These three companies are also on the list of “10 worst corporations” and suppliers for M&M/Mars still use child slave labor. They are currently the target for at least one fair trade campaign.
Nestle is the winner of the “most irresponsible” corporation award and participates in aggressive takeovers of family farms. They are also involved in child slavery lawsuits and the baby food they produce is under a human rights boycott. Kraft (Altria) is named in the list of “Top 10 Greenwashers” and undermines overseas health standards.
Chips are also a fun treat to get in the candy bag, except for when they’re from Nabisco. Nabisco (Altria) is the winner of the greenwash award for public deception and continues to do business in Burma. They have also been named “global climate change laggard”, refuse to disclose information on diversity and have spent over $100 million on lobbyists. Additionally, they are the target of two major boycotts and are part of the #2 worst companies on Earth and have been on this list for five years.
It is a sad indeed when the peanuts we receive as a “healthy” alternative are even under scrutiny for environmental sins. I mean, come on, peanuts?!?! Unfortunately, the popular peanut makers Planters (Altria) are part of the #2 worst company on Earth, and currently the target of 2 major boycotts and the #1 contributor to Washington lobbyists.
some of the companies owned by Altria: This is what happens when you don’t understand that the world actually needs a healthy environment and happy people
I’ve often said that because we have been reduced to consumers rather than citizens in society, one of the most effective ways for regular people like us to participate in politics (even though we live in an *ahem, “democracy”) is to put our money where our mouth is. Shopping becomes a political decision when companies like Altria and ConAgra have so much sway in political offices and can get away with conducting business in such a disgraceful way.
Not participating in their dirty work is as easy as deciding to get your sugary and salty fixes from companies who create business plans that try to make the world a better place. You can find a list here. Please take notes and carry it with you whenever you go shopping, or better, yet, buy the book.
What often discourages people from buying the healthier, environmentally responsible and ethically sound options is the fact that they are usually not as easily found and are more expensive because they can be made from organic ingredients and pay their workers fair wages. All of these add up to make consumers pay what the actual price of the product is.
Large-scale mass production is just like the economics of supply and demand. The cheapest form of labor is slavery and the cheapest resources are from unsustainable practices. Ignorance is one thing, but being passive about where we buy things is like giving permission for these spirit-crushing, earth-slaughtering practices to continue.
Halloween is a time of year when environmentally-kind decisions are pushed to the background. The companies who pay their workers 0.09$ per hour to harvest sugarcane plantations off clear-cut virgin rainforest, then transport the goods using thousands of tons of fossil fuels and package them in non-biodegradable, non-recyclable wrappers to be purchased by us end up making a big profit off the blood, sweat and tears of the earth and its poorest citizens.
Halloween is just one example and the prequel to Christmas shopping. When the festival season comes around, please try to keep in mind that every dollar makes a difference. Will you spend it to help plant a tree and promote education to the underprivileged, or will it go into the already overflowing pockets of corporations who would sell the stars if they were within reach, blacking out the whole universe to make a buck?