Posts in Category: Conscious Living

My Sweet Devlish Two-Faced Piece of Chocolate

I love chocolate – No I mean really love chocolate. I have a sweet tooth that would make a pregnancy craving look like a minor hankering. It’s sweet, it brings back memories of Mom’s cookies after school and Grama’s peanut butter balls at Christmas (and well pretty much anytime I wanted them!).

But Chocolate has a horrifying side! Most of what you see at the checkout aisle and in front of the counter at the convenience store is harvested on the backs of child slaves.

Thousands of child slaves work in the cocoa fields across the developing world. In Africa, the Ivory Coast alone has more than 15,000 children working in ghastly conditions, most transported from poor villages across the continent and sold into slavery to work the fields.

Here is a Preview of Semisweet Life in Chocolate. It features 3 Continents, 4 Stories, and 1 Connection – Chocolate

You can watch the full documentary for free here

If you’re looking for documents that prove, beyond a shadow of a doubt, slavery in the cocoa fields click here (A Taste of Slavery), or here (The CNN Freedom Project), or here (From the organization of Economic Co-Operation and Development), or well…you get it…

Another great documentary – The Dark side of Chocolate focuses on the nefarious methods of the big chocolate producers.

Exposing the intricate network of slave-chocolate is dangerous work.

Journalist Guy-André Kieffer got too close to exposing the corruption at the highest levels and his body has never been found – for more on the Canadian Journalist see: Kieffer was deep into the investigation of the Ivorian Government involvement in the Cocoa industry.

There is an easy answer: Fair Trade Chocolate


Medécasse is a wonderful brand that stands on the same principles as Oliberté. Founder Tim McCollum said it best – “Care authentically and good things will happen.”


Even better if you order with Oliberté’s discount code oliberte15 you’ll get yourself an additional 15% off on your guilt free delicious chocolate. I ordered mine!

Some of the big manufacturers are also making a move that way. Cadbury and Mars announced that by 2020 their entire chocolate bar lines would be fair trade. It has to be difficult moving a behemoth of a company like that.

Even if I wish they would move quicker, when I’m craving milk chocolate I try to pick up this one!


When we feed our insatiable sweet tooth with non-fair trade chocolate, we’re willfully ignoring the plight of those children. We’re telling the world your life is less of a concern than my immediate need for sugar. It’s one of my biggest weaknesses. Just last week I had a few Peanut Butter Cups. Given my youngest is deathly allergic to peanut butter it’s a treat to have when I’m away from her.

My urges will have to play second fiddle to this horrifying global atrocity. And it really isn’t that much more effort to make sure the Cocoa beans have been picked properly. The ethical options are in every major grocery store – it’s just a matter of looking for the Fair Trade symbol…

That’s my commitment – with my wallet I’m going to help the UN end Child Slavery by 2020


My Journey to a Sustainable Existance

I tried to start this written journey almost a year and half ago…and then life got in the way.

Living a life wearing clothes made in a sustainable way, eating food grown and nurtured on organic pastures, travelling around the world by car, plane and train without a carbon footprint  – well it seems virtually impossible and a massive inconvenience in a world where we barely find time for dinner let alone actually understand the supply chain of our clothes and roots of nourishment.

But I have a thirst for knowledge

And over the last three years I’ve been unable to ignore the nagging inner voice that demands responsibility for the dollars I spend.

What do my purchases say about me? Am I merely supporting a perverse form of 20th Century Slavery that hides behind clothing and electronics?

You’re not going to find fair trade shoes at basement bargain prices – though they do have sales all the time – but as Globe and Mail writer Sujeet Sennik asked – Shouldn’t a T-shirt cost more than a Latte?


In the wake of the disaster in Bangladesh the imagery is haunting, the loss tragic, real and avoidable. I hesitated to put this photo up but I think only images of people can allow us to understand the impact of our financial choices. Bangladesh is only the most recent horror show in the long road toward the modern economy.

I’m not perfect  – and I won’t pretend to be – but this blog is an outlet for you to join me on that journey.

Right now I find myself in the market for business clothes – head to toe but I’ll start at the toe.

There are two great companies that I have found so far that offer a variation of what I need

I love everything Oliberté stands for. They make premium leather shoes and gear in Africa. Their mission is simple: “We believe in pride and creating Long-Term Change. We dig the outdoors, smart people, and quality goods with a purpose.” That’s the short story


The long story – Oliberté, led  by founder Tal Dehtiar, believes in nurturing and contributing to the growing African middle class. A thriving middle class is the single most important stabilizing feature of a democratic and successful society. In August 2012 they opened their first factory in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. Their plant pays fair trade wages and women comprise about 60% of their workforce. They ensure their supply chain across Africa – in Kenya, South Africa, Muritius and Liberia – adheres to the same ethical practices.


Visual from

They don’t stop with ethical practices though… – Their water is certified, their animals have lived a long free range, hormone free life and their rubber is sourced straight from rubber trees. Once you’re finished with your shoes they will recycle them for you. Right now they are working on how to decrease their carbon footprint.

Oliberté has a stylish selection of boots and shoes (and a wallet that is just awesome!) but only a few pairs that “could” pass in the corporate world.


Nisolo follows a similar model but in Latin America. Their team, full of social entrepreneurs, are hoping to inspire what they call the “growing culture of conscious consumerism” by bringing together a group of talented and hardworking artisans and helping them gain access to US Markets, to understand sound business principles and what goes into creating a Brand.

If you have time the founders talk at the Clinton School of Public Service it is worth engaging with.

In essence, the path forward is not about giving our old clothes or fixing wells. It’s about a holistic approach to the problem and looking at the whole before attempting to “fix” one small part. Between 1980 and 2000 – It is estimated that the cause of a 50% increase in unemployment came from the huge surge of clothing donations from “Developed World.”

At the risk of moving too far off course – It is why I love the philosophy of the Me to We foundation who insist on a holistic approach while inspiring kids – like my young Hailey to build a school in Kenya. She raised the full amount and having just returned from helping to build a different school with her mother and grandfather they witnessed first hand the sustainable approach.

The old adage remains true. “Give a man a fish you feed him for a day. Teach a man to fish and you feed him for a lifetime.”

Back to Nisolo – In their current line-up they don’t have a black shoe but through Ethical Ocean (more on their site in another post) I was able to get this shoe – they look even better on my feet. (even if they did come with a $63.00 customs, tax and handling additional charge)


I’d much rather buy a product (or give a gift) with a story I can stand behind.

The next step is to find a suit with a story I can be proud to share. If anyone has any suggestions I’d love to hear them…