Nowadays there are so many factors that are contributing to environmental damage and personal health. We all talk about the basic ways to reduce Climate Change, whether it's recycling more, turning off the lights when you leave a room and even going vegetarian / vegan to reduce our carbon footprint. Here in Canada, some people are outraged about the pipeline that is going to be built from BC to Alberta and one of the reasons I've heard the most of why they are against it is they don't want the animals in the surrounding areas to be affected, that they are losing their habitat. I completely understand that but what you don't realize is while you are busy focusing on that, you are also contributing to deforestation and animals losing their habitat on the other side of the world.
How you ask? Palm Oil.
What is Palm Oil? It is a vegetable oil that is found in a palm fruit on the African Oil Palm Tree. It is currently being grown in many places in the world including Africa, South America, North America and Asia.
Why is it so heavily used? There are a couple main reasons as to why palm oil is most commonly used in products, because when grown it's a very high yield, it's extremely versatile in how it can be used in different items and it's a fairly cheap ingredient.
What is Palm Oil in? It is shocking at how many products palm oil is in, some include : Cosmetics (holds colour), Laundry Detergent, Chocolate (prevents it from melting), Instant Noodles (used to precook the noodles), Store bought Bread and Soap, the list goes on! Go look at your own pantry or toiletries, it's everywhere.
How is it really affecting the environment? Up to the size of 300 football fields of forest is being cleared every hour to accompany space for Plantations which releases a lot of carbon dioxide into the air as well as displace animals. Due to the deforestation, the Sumatran Orang Utans are on the critically endangered list, dwindling down to only 6,300 of them left in the wild. Not to mention tigers and rhino's are also critically endangered. These are all amazing creatures that shouldn't become extinct from our own selfish gain.
How do I know if Palm Oil is in a product? It's all about label reading. Nowadays the industries are deceiving, they claim that something is healthy, no extra sugars, vegan etc but sometimes that's not the case, you have read the ingredients to be 100% sure. There are so many derivatives that Palm Oil Falls under and some of those names include : Vegetable Oil, Sodium Lauryl Sulfate, Glyceryl, Stearic Acid, Palm Kernel, Palm Kernel Oil, Palmitate, Palmate, Palmitoyl Tetrapeptide-3.
How do I go about shopping? The best way is to label read, there are some items which are easy to convert to something that is more eco friendly but it's unrealistic to avoid absolutely everything with Palm Oil. The great news is there are sustainable palm oil options, look for a RSPO label on the product (this is supporting growers harvesting it sustainably), if you can't find that look for the Green Palm Label (which helps fund growers transition to harvesting sustainable oil).
It's never too late to step into action, better late than never right? If you want to learn a little more about palm oil there are many great links out there and I will attach a couple for your convenience!