Although it’s one of the most commonly used oils on the planet, palm oil is threatening sensitive habitats.
Palm oil only grows in tropical places, and it’s essential to the health of our planet to keep such places alive and thriving. Palm oil has been linked to the destruction of rainforests and also to destroying habitats for endangered species such as orangutans, tigers, elephants, and rhinos. WWF outlined other ways the palm oil industry hurts the environment, you can read: here.
According to Greenpeace’s in-depth report on the palm oil industry in Borneo, titled Cooking the Climate, the incineration of South East Asia’s peat forests has released 1.8bn tonnes of greenhouse gases into the atmosphere. In statistical terms these gases count for 4% of climate-change emissions globally, from only 0.1% of Earth’s land. Most of the cleared land was used to grow palm oil plantations. Source
Any environmentalist should want to reduce their use of palm oil, or at least switch to only ethically-sourced options. (Side note, some sites say there’s not really a lot of truth behind sustainable options, but we’ll see what happens with more research.)
WWF has a great resource that breaks down all the possible products palm oil is in (it’s a lot!). You can find it in bread, cookies, soap, chocolate, detergent, ice cream, instant noodles, pizza dough, and more.
Avoiding palm oil is not only good for the planet, but it’s good for your waistline, too. “Alarmingly, chips made with palm oil contain 75 percent more saturated fat than chips made with sunflower or canola oil.” Source.
You’ve probably heard stories floating around the internet of how orangutan’s are treated on plantation properties, although climbing trees are part of their natural habitat. It has been such a problem that the International union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN) have been put on the “critically endangered” list. At the rate it’s happening, orangutans are likely to be extinct within 10-20 years.
How to Fix This and Avoid Palm Oil
One of the biggest goals of this blog is to not simply just give you the facts, but to give you easy ways to fix the problem.
In 2010, the biggest user of palm oil was Unilever. Following close behind were companies like Kraft, General Mills, HSBC bank, Cargill, and Nestle. However, the unfortunate part is that even if you read the ingredients on everything you buy, companies don’t always have to list palm oil as an ingredient.
In come countries, such as Australia and New Zealand, palm oil can be labeled as “vegetable oil”.
One way to get around this is to see the saturated fat content in what you’re buying (if it’s food). If the saturated fat content is around 50%, it is most likely palm oil.
Most pre-packaged snack food made by a giant corporation is likely to have palm oil in it.
Keep an eye out for foods that have the oil type labeled such as coconut oil, sunflower oil, olive oil, etc.
Here is a list that is specific for Australian purchases.
According to WWF, here are all the different names that palm oil can be listed as:
INGREDIENTS: Vegetable Oil, Vegetable Fat, Palm Kernel, Palm Kernel Oil, Palm Fruit Oil, Palmate, Palmitate, Palmolein, Glyceryl, Stearate, Stearic Acid, Elaeis Guineensis, Palmitic Acid, Palm Stearine, Palmitoyl Oxostearamide, Palmitoyl Tetrapeptide-3, Sodium Laureth Sulfate, Sodium Lauryl Sulfate, Sodium Kernelate, Sodium Palm Kernelate, Sodium Lauryl Lactylate/Sulphate, Hyrated Palm Glycerides, Etyl Palmitate, Octyl Palmitate, Palmityl Alcohol
CONTAINS: Palm oil
Say No To Palm Oil has a great 28 Day Challenge to get you started on right right foot, you can check that out: here.
This is also another list of products that agree to not use palm oi.