Yes, I’m that person. Queue flashbacks of all the horrible things people gave you trick-or-treating as kid (toothbrushes and tangerines anyone?). But before you all start requesting photos of the front of my house covered in rotting eggs, bare with me for a minute.
I gave out books for Halloween…and the kids loved it! It’s worth mentioning that the parents did too – but that’s not so surprising.
Let’s rewind for second. Why on earth would I even want to deviate from the candy-giving Halloween norm? After all I absolutely loved trick-or-treating as a kid. I’d have my giant hoard of candy piled into a pillowcase like everyone else. My parent’s didn’t try to control the amount of candy me and my twin ate or when we had it – unlike some of my friend’s parents who took their candy and stored it a cupboard, saving it for desserts and school lunches (oh how I pitied those kids!). I guess my parents figured that a stomachache from eating too much candy was probably a good life lesson.
I still love Halloween; the dressing up as whatever you want (this year I was a cactus), the pumpkin carving and the fun parties. I also really love hanging out on my front porch giving treats to adorable trick-or-treaters. But a lot has changed this year including some of my fundamental values, that in many ways conflict with the giving out of classic mini chocolate bars and treats.
As October approached, I struggled with what I should do for Halloween. I needed to find something that would align with my values; a treat or item that would not contribute to the destruction of environment, be directly involved in the exploitation of animals or children, or be harmful to a child’s health. A tall order, I know.
So how does Halloween candy affect animals and the environment anyway?
I’m going to touch on a few points very briefly, as these items definitely each need a post of their own (or more…). Let me know in the comments if you’d be interested in reading a post on any of these topics. For now, here’s a brief summary.
Many treats contain unsustainable palm oil, a cheap vegetable oil whose production results in the destruction of critical habitats for many endangered species. Its production is linked to climate change, animal cruelty and also frequently infringes on indigenous land rights.
Candy wrappers are mostly made of plastic and can’t even be recycled. Day-to-day, Dylan and I try very hard not to buy disposable plastic items, or items wrapped in plastic. I couldn’t bring myself to buy over packaged Halloween candies whose wrappers would just end up in landfills.
Lots of treats contain dairy products, arguably one of the cruelest industries out there. I’ll write about this soon, but for now, here’s an article from The Guardian you can check out.
Many candies are not even vegetarian, as they contain gelatin, a protein made from the skin, bones, and connective tissues of animals, usually cows and pigs. Most gummy candies and marshmallows contain gelatin.
How does Halloween candy exploit children?
Big Chocolate has a child labour problem. And the more I learned about it, the more appalled I was at the idea of spending my money on giving children a product that exploited children in it’s production.
Check out this 2013/2014 report by Tulane University on Child Labor in West African Cocoa Growing Areas. From that report:
In 2013/14, 2.26 million children were working in cocoa production, 2.12 million children were working in child labor in cocoa production and 2.03 million children were working in hazardous work in cocoa production in Côte d’Ivoire and Ghana combined.
That is an unimaginable amount of children!
If you’d like to read something a little more easily digestible, check out this article.
Back to the Books
So, there you have it. An overview of why I decided to give out books this year.
As I mentioned above, the kids loved it. They had so much fun digging through the selection of books and choosing the one they wanted. We even managed to stop a meltdown from a tired 4 year old by giving her a Disney storybook. I was so delighted by the kid’s reactions, and really pleasantly surprised by how much it added to the evening. We had so many more chats with parents and kids while they chose their books than we ever had simply giving out candy. It was so successful that we definitely plan on doing this again next year.
Want to join in on the book-giving fun? Interested in how we did it? Read my post on that here.
One final note before I wrap this up:
I’m very aware of, and grateful for the privilege I have; that I could afford to spend a little extra on Halloween, that I could afford the time to gather the books, and even that I have a home with a front porch, that allows to me participate in the trick-or-treating tradition at all. It is not my intention to shame anyone, or otherwise suggest that this idea is a perfect solution for everyone. I merely wanted to explain the choices that lead me to this decision, and answer some of the questions I’ve received from family and friends about this issue.
Thanks for reading; I’d love to hear from you! If you have any questions or comments, leave a message below.