If the thought of Valentine’s Day has you salivating for a box of chocolates, consider satisfying your cravings without the guilt by buying fair trade chocolate on campus.

On Jan. 24, Western celebrated their one-year anniversary of becoming a fair trade campus thanks to the work of Western Fair Trade – an organization run by Engineers Without Borders.

According to Hospitality Services nutrition manager Anne Zok, the designation ensures that all non-franchised coffee locations serve fair trade coffee, offer at least three options of fair trade tea and provide at least one brand of fair trade chocolate anywhere chocolate bars are sold.

The anniversary was celebrated with free Doi Chaang coffee, Cadbury chocolate and chocolate fondue at Einstein’s café.

While many students were drawn to the smell of chocolate outside Taylor library, they walked away with more than a satisfied sweet tooth.

Waiting in line to dip a strawberry in melted Cadbury chocolate, first-year computer science student Marco Manuel admits that he doesn’t know what fair trade means and he’s not the only one.

“Fair trade” ensures equal pay and equal treatment is given to farmers and frontline staff. “Sometimes our food systems are not transparent and we don’t know where our food is coming from,” Zok says.

Seventy per cent of the cocoa products sitting on store shelves on campus and around the world are produced in Ghana and the Ivory Coast. There, popular cocoa is often farmed through the implementation of child labor, human trafficking and slavery. 

But how often does this run through your mind when you’re looking for a study snack?

President of Engineers Without Borders, Mikie Allan observes, “The reason student concern is so low is because of a lack of knowledge, not because people don’t care.”

For this reason, Western Fair Trade aims to increase awareness and educate students on the importance of voting for sustainability with their chocolate purchases.

“You’re not changing the world by buying one fair trade chocolate bar but you’re helping shift away from corporate strength,” says Allan.

Third-year biology student, Siobhan Banderkley, is happy to buy her coffee and chocolate from sustainable sources. She adds that she will be doing so more often now that she knows all the options available on campus.

“Cadbury and Camino make fair trade chocolate,” explains Zok. “As well, we get chocolate bars from the Ontario natural food co-op.” All of which are available in vending machines and campus-run eateries.

The sustainability committee recognizes that holidays such as Valentine’s Day create an increase in chocolate purchases, so they plan on holding more events to increase ethical chocolate sales.

However, fair trade campus director, Lac Truong, admits that even informed students aren’t eager to buy ethically.

“I’ve just heard a lot of concerns about cost,” Truong says. “At face value people ask themselves, ‘why would I pay five cents more for this chocolate bar?’ ” Truong is still hopeful though, saying that at many of the events he’s hosted, students have approached him wanting to learn more and help the cause.

Buying a treat for your friends and loved ones shouldn’t be bittersweet, which is why purchasing fair trade makes for a guilt-free indulgence.

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Amy is a second year English and Visual Arts student in Western's faculty of Arts and Humanities. This is her first year as a culture editor at the Gazette. For comments or feedback, email her at amy.skodak@westerngazette.ca.

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