How to Avoid Palm Oil in Your Products

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.

August 2016 Challenge: Go Without Plastic Straws

Few items beat the plastic straw in terms of pollution.

With plastic straws, you only use them once and they go immediately in the trash.

Some estimates say that over 500 million straws are used in the US every single day. That’s just the US. I can’t even imagine the numbers if the whole world was included.

I never even recognized this problem until I worked for a glass straw company.

Then, I realized how often plastic straws are used in the day to day world. At every fast food place, many restaurants, schools, sports stadiums… Everywhere.

Rarely are the straws available biodegradable. Instead, the plastic straws just break down over time into smaller plastic that generally ends up in our oceans and waterways.

Along with the plastic pollution from straws, it also requires oil and gas to create these straws in the first place.

Hot straws can cause the plastic to leak certain chemicals into your body as well. This isn’t always the case, but it’s something to keep in mind if you choose to drink something like coffee or tea through a straw every day.

Here are some more reasons that plastic straws shouldn’t be in your life.

What to Do Instead

There are so many alternatives to the cheap, common plastic straw.

There are some biodegradable straws on the market. Although those still require a whole process to create, they’re still a better alternative.

There are so glass, bamboo, and stainless steel straws.

As I mentioned earlier, I worked for a glass straw company and still use my glass straws every single day. I know it seems strange to spend $10+ on a reusable straw, since we have been conditioned to believe they’re cheap/free everywhere we go, but one straw can last years. Most companies also have a return policy if you break them.

It’s a small price to pay for the benefit of making my small, small, small dent of helping the planet.

So, for August try to avoid using a plastic straw all together or better yet, invest in a reusable one.

Feel free to share this with your friends and challenge them to go plastic straw free this month!

Also, subscribe and get easy tips right to your inbox for helping the planet. No spam ever! Just actionable, easy tips.

Do The Best You Can

After my last grocery haul, I got home and realized some of the products were not products I really meant to buy.

Some were from companies I don’t support.
Some were not nearly as “healthy” as the label claims.
Some of these foods have ingredients I always try to avoid.

After being upset and debating walking all the way back to the store to return everything, I took my dog out and thought about it for a second.

Here’s the thing, sometimes we need to just relax.

Yes, it’s important to continue to give money to amazing companies and healthy products.

At the same time, we’re all just trying the best we can.

Some days everything goes well, and some days it doesn’t.

All that matters is that you never give up.

Microbeads: What You Need to Know

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Microbeads are constantly making headlines these days.

With California electing to ban microbeads in products sold in their state, people across the world are wondering what’s the big deal?

What are microbeads?

Essentially, microbeads are tiny little bits of plastic that have been put in our hygiene products to convince us they somehow “clean” better. They provide a bit of a rough feeling, which makes people mentally convinced that they’re better for cleaning. However, they don’t clean any better than natural alternatives like sand, and on top of that, they’re terrible for the environment. You’ll often see them in things like face scrubs or body wash.

Not only are they clogging up our oceans, marine life eat them when mistaking them for food, which ends up getting plastic into our food chain.

Microbeads ended up in our oceans, waterways, and our food for no other reason than money. They’re cheaper to produce than the natural alternatives, so companies jumped on board to save on manufacturing costs.

For a more scientific approach from the Story of Stuff:

The composition of microbeads can vary and often include polyethylene (PE) or polypropylene (PP), polyethylene terephthalate (PET), polymethlyl methacrylate (PMMA) or nylon. Bottom line, it’s all plastic!

A great video for reference: click here.

Why are they a big deal?

According to the Washington Post, around EIGHT TRILLION microbeads pollute aquatic habitats every single day. That is an insane amount of pollution entering our waterways.

These bits of plastic have invaded our toothpaste, body wash, face wash, and other various bathroom products.

The problem comes from the fact that most water treatment plants are not equipped to clear microbeads from the water, and as a results they end up in our oceans, lakes, streams, and our seafood. We end up eating the fish that eat the microbeads, which is how the plastic and chemicals that make up the beads get into our bodies.

During all my research, I could not find one good reason why microbeads exist. Exfoliation is wonderful for the skin, but that’s not what these are.

Are microbeads safe?

Great marketing campaigns have convinced us that microbeads are “better” for scrubbing, however, dentists have come out saying that these beads are getting stuck in people’s teeth and causing more damage than originally thought.

It ends up looking like this:

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Yeah, not exactly something you want in your gums.

As mentioned earlier, these are not just in toothpaste, they’re in a ton of household  and self-care cleaning products.

The best we can do is to actively spend our money on companies and on products that do not have microbeads in them.

How to avoid microbeads:

  1. Read the labels. If it has polyethylene, polypropylene, or polyethylene terephthalate in them, it’s plastic. You’ll want to avoid any products with this one the list. Not to mention, do you really want to scrub your face with plastic?
  2. Download the free PDF from beatthemicrobead.org to know what products to buy instead.
  3. Sign the petition from 5Gyres to ban the bead.

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10 Ways I’m Helping the World This 4th of July

Ah, America.

I love this country so much I get teary every single time the Star Spangled Banner song comes on. It’s pretty embarrassing, actually, but it happens.

It isn’t a perfect country, but no country is perfect. Every day we can all make an impact in a positive way no matter where we live.

Small changes to our lives can help improve our local economies AND the world. There is no lose-lose situation, unless we all stop supporting each other and become extremely selfish.

Instead, I thought I’d share my top 10 ways I try to help my community every day of the year:

1. Buying used when I can

There are so many cool thrift stores in Denver that are locally owned. I’m not a huge fan of buying “new” stuff all the time. I know everyone says shopping is incredibly patriotic, but I disagree. I think it’s better to support local companies that make things here or buy used from local thrift shops.

Plus, buying used keeps things from going in the trash.

2. Switching to glass

Plastic sucks. Period. Yes, it’s cheap. Yes, it can help some manufacturing processes. Yes, it’s everywhere.

When my choice is between glass and plastic, I choose glass. It’s better for the planet, and when I can buy from a local company, it helps my community.

3. Buying American

Insert your local economy or country into that sentence.

I fully support American companies who manufacture their goods here as well. Some of the things may cost more (but a lot don’t!), but the long-term benefit on the local economy and supporting small businesses outweighs any initial cost.

4. Donating

Throwing perfectly acceptable items away without donating them is a complete waste. Not to mention, most of these things end up in landfills and take thousands, upon thousands of years to decompose.

5. Voting

The amount of people who take their right to vote for granted is appalling. We can all do things on a micro level to help each other, but putting the people in place that support our values is essential as well.

If you haven’t registered to vote, please consider registering.

6. Supporting GOOD companies

Look companies up on the internet. Some pollute horribly. Some use slave labor. Some have inhumane practices. Always, always check where your money is going, especially if it is a company that you buy from often.

7. Donate to non-profits that get stuff done

Some non-profit organizations are more action-oriented than others. Along with point #6, look into the non-profits you support. Make sure they spend more time getting things accomplished than marketing.

8. Consuming less and focusing on minimalism

I have always believed that owning less and doing more helps the world better than we know. We have more time to garden, volunteer, help friends, and anything else we say we never have time for.

When we have time to be there for our friends, family, and community, we create a better world. I have created a lot more time in my day by needing less materialistic stuff, thus needing less money.

9. Focusing on less processed food

Farmers markets > grocery stores.

Buying from local organic farmers is important when it comes to helping to change the world around us.

10. Better eating habits

Eating organic vegetables is one of the best habits I ever started introducing to my diet. There is little debate that factory farms for either animals or plants is a good thing for the planet. One thing I always recommend is to eat vegan at least one day a week. If you can do more, that’s awesome, but at least start with one day a week.

If you’re curious on the statistics behind factory farms, meat eating, and the planet, read: THIS.

 

The narrative within our society is that we have lost any power to change anything around us. The mainstream media talks about the environment, the economy, and politics like it is somehow something out of our control.

By changing little habits and our lives and making sure our money goes to sources that help the world instead of hinder it, we would realize that we have WAY MORE power than we’ve been told.

 

What small habits do you do every day to make this a better world? Leave a comment below!