Every time Earth Day rolls around, my first thought is, “every day should be Earth Day”. The health of our planet is the key to our health, happiness, as well as a strong economy. Each year is more important than the last when it comes to taking steps towards environmental responsibility. As the world’s population continues to rise, small things that we once thought had little to no harmful impact on the planet, increasingly have greater and greater ramifications. When time is added to the equation, small things, good and bad, eventually add up to big things.
Here at Ritual, we understand that doing things right in the first place is easier than trying to fix it down the road. From the beginning, we’ve aimed to make environmentally conscious decisions about all aspects of our business. We haven’t always been perfect, but our sights are always set on getting better and learning from our mistakes. When we first got started, we were happy about having 100% recyclable packaging. Even though our packaging was recyclable, we realized that long term the aluminum foil layer inside relies on mining, and that aluminum mining is bad for the environment regardless if the end product is eventually recycled. Now, we no longer wrap our bars in foil and our packaging is 100% compostable.
We’re always taking steps towards improving our environmental sustainability. We made the switch to 100% LED lighting a few years ago. We find ways to re-purpose or compost our cocoa shells after winnowing. Despite what the “experts'' suggested when we first started making chocolate back in 2010, we chose to go with an unrefined, organic cane sugar instead of the white refined sugar. All of our cacao is grown organically. Three out of our four origins are certified organic, with the fourth on its way to organic certification. We work with a local dairy at our cafe so that we know we aren’t buying dairy from all around the country, and therefore reducing our carbon footprint, and we’re supporting our local economy. The list goes on…
Unfortunately, sometimes making the responsible environmental decision is also the expensive decision. Things like LED lighting saves money over time. But things like organic sugar, organic cacao, and compostable packaging cost quite a bit more than the less responsible alternatives. We could probably reduce the cost of all our materials by about 25% if we disregarded environmental responsibility (that would reduce the price of one of our $10-dollar bars down to $7.50). Yes, we want our chocolate to be affordable, but good quality and environmental responsibility are part of our core values, even if they cost more.
As we continue to grow and become more financially capable, we’ll be able to make larger investments towards environmental sustainability. Some of our goals include being 100% organic, zero waste, 100% solar powered, and continuing to fine tune all of our materials towards sustainability. Investing in environmental sustainability is expensive, but that means it’s also good for the economy. As businesses like ours continue to make these investments, we’re supporting the entire sustainability industry, which creates jobs and boosts the overall economy.
We’ve been seeing the negative effects of environmental irresponsibility for over a century now. Time is running out to slow down some of the irreversible damage that we have caused to the planet, including climate change, loss of habitat, loss of biodiversity, permanent extinction, collapsing ecosystems, and so on. We believe that chocolate can be one of the foods that helps to slow down these negative effects. Every cacao farm is one less pineapple or cattle farm, both of which destroy rainforest habitat and create carbon emissions. Cacao thrives in rainforest-like environments where animals and insects can thrive in these biodiverse habitats. Most cacao in the tropics is still grown by small family farms who have a low-impact, symbiotic relationship with their natural surroundings. Wild animals, large and small, can pass freely through cacao farms and in and out of the surrounding rainforest. Small cacao farms never need pesticides or herbicides—making them safe for people and wildlife. Cacao’s biggest natural threat, monillia and witch’s broom, two types of fungus, can for the most part be combated using clever farming practices, even if they are more work.
This Earth Day, think about all the small changes you can make in your life to be more environmentally responsible. Good habits are the key to responsible choices. Once environmentally responsible habits are formed, then the “work” part is done and it just becomes routine. When we all make small, positive choices, it will add up to something big.