Back to Top

Why I Gave Up Chocolate

A couple weeks ago my sister, Danielle Rowaan, approached me to ask me to write a short piece on justice. At first I was skeptical; I didn’t know what I had to say that would be of any importance. Then Danielle reminded me of my commitment to giving up all forms of non-fair trade chocolate and asked me to speak about that. I have not had non-fair trade chocolate for three years this fall.

It all began when I went with my church’s youth group to an annual fall retreat where we gather with other nearby CRC youth groups. It was a weekend event with a band, some fun activities, and a speaker. It was this speaker that changed how I saw chocolate. I don’t remember much about him except that he had a couple tattoos and that he wore a Boston Bruins jersey one day. I do, however, remember his talk one day on why Christians should be paying the extra bucks for fair trade. He talked a lot about clothing, which is always brought up when talking about fair trade, but then talked about a fair trade issue I hadn’t heard of before: chocolate.

He gave us a lot of stats and facts, most of which I forget. What I do remember him saying is that a large portion of the world’s cocoa is grown in the Ivory Coast in Africa which is not able to guarantee safe working conditions for cocoa farms workers. He went on to say that many of the workers are reported to be underage, underpaid, and overexposed to many harmful chemicals and toxins. After hearing this I was shocked and began to take a serious look at what I was mindlessly consuming. By the time I got home that weekend I had decided that I was going to give up all forms of cocoa that were not fair trade.

At first it was a daunting commitment—everywhere I went people were offering me chocolate this or chocolate that. Those around me at first did not understand and some even openly criticized my decision. One great thing was that since I had to decline it so often, I was given many opportunities to explain my commitment. I don’t know if any of the people I have talked to have in turn made the same commitment, but I hope some have.

I’m often asked if it was very hard to give up chocolate, and I can honestly say that it hasn’t been as difficult as most people think. At first it was very tempting to break my commitment, but now that I know where some of it may come from, I was able to say no, and I am glad that I did. After some time I got used to it and I began to really crave it less.

Some of the things that I have missed the most have been my Mom’s Nanaimo bars (if you have never tried these delicious treats then I truly feel sorry for you) and the chocolate letter every member of my family would typically get for Christmas. My Mom has always been very supportive; she would go to Ten Thousand Villages and buy me fair trade chocolate bars and she tried to avoid baking anything with chocolate in it. Even my aunt began to bring fair trade chocolate to family gatherings for me to enjoy.

Strangely enough, after so long I don’t crave any chocolate at all. Right now I have small stash of fair trade chocolate bars that have gone untouched for a while simply because I never think to eat them. Keeping my commitment was difficult at the start, but the decision was never hard. I have never actually regretted my choice because I know that I made it for the right reasons and that I could never go back now.

Several people have pointed out the pointlessness of me boycotting non-fair trade chocolate. I know that me giving up chocolate will not stop the large companies from selling it or change any laws in the Ivory Coast. I just know that I can no longer eat it with a clean conscience and I can only hope that if enough people join me it will make a difference and start to make a change. My name is Alex Rowaan, I have not eaten non-fair trade chocolate for almost three years now, and it was one of the best decisions I ever made.

[Photo: Flickr user j_paxton_reyes]


The Reformed family is a diverse family with a diverse range of opinions. Not all perspectives expressed on the blog represent the official positions of the Christian Reformed Church. Learn more about this blog, Reformed doctrines, and our diversity policy on our About page.

In order to steward ministry shares well, commenting isn’t available on Do Justice itself because we engage with comments and dialogue in other spaces. To comment on this post, please visit the Christian Reformed Centre for Public Dialogue’s Facebook page (for Canada-specific articles) or the Office of Social Justice’s Facebook page. Alternatively, please email us. We want to hear from you!

Read more about our comment policy.