No matter how you look at it, palm oil is an incredibly dastardly plant product. Sneaking its way into nearly every consumer good you can imagine, the palm oil industry has a net worth of over $44 billion dollars. As you can imagine, this hefty pay out has not exactly fostered an industry that is particularly responsible or even ethical.
Because palm oil is cheap and incredibly versatile, over 50 million tons of palm oil are produced every year to make everything from dog food to laundry detergent. The downside of this high demand is that farmers will go to any length to produce high-yields of palm oil for big corporations. What this means is thousands of acres of tropical rainforest are chopped down every year to make way for palm plantations. According to the WWF, an area of forest equivalent to the size of 300 football fields is cleared every hour to make way for palm plantations.
Effectively destroying entire ecosystems, pushing orangutans to the brink of extinction, and releasing unprecedented amounts of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere, the price the world has paid for this cheap oil is unquestionably greater than the $44 billion net gain.
So, as you can see, we have a serious problem on our hands, but thanks to the action of animal, environmental, and human rights organizations, many corporations have made a commitment to clean up their palm oil supply chains. The Roundtable for Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO) has set a number of guidelines and standards for corporations to follow to ensure that the palm oil they purchase for their products is grown in a sustainable, ethical manner. These guidelines include measures to prevent deforestation and improve transparency along the supply chain: basically, corporations can no longer pretend they “do not know” that their palm oil came from a field that was illegally cleared and harvested with the help of child laborers, etc. (as crazy as that sounds). Whether or not these improvements will make a significant change in the dirty palm business is still yet to be seen. However, most corporations that signed on with the RSPO have made pledges to make their supply chains 100 percent sustainable by 2015, so fingers crossed!
Until that wonderful day when palm oil gets off the environmental black-list, there are a few simple things you can do to make sure the products you buy are not unintentionally funding deforestation and other terrible unethical crimes.
So, take a deep breathe and get ready to kick palm oil out of your life!
1. Get Educated
Knowledge really is power when it comes to understanding how palm oil effects not only your life, but the lives of people and animals all across the world. Here are a few awesome resources that can help you understand the complex problems surrounding palm oil, and even help you identify which of your favorite brands source sustainable palm oil and which ones do NOT:
- World Wildlife Fund Palm Oil Campaign
- Say No To Palm Oil
- Greenpeace Palm Oil Campaign
- Rainforest Action Network Palm Oil Campaign
- The Orangutan Project’s Palm Oil Campaign
2. Ditch Palm Oil from Your Daily Routine
Like I mentioned earlier, palm oil shows up in everything from your shampoo, to make up, and laundry detergent, so cutting it out of your daily routine can be a little tricky. But do not worry, this is not an impossible task, all you need is the right tools and you won’t even notice a difference in your routine (except your conscience might feel a little lighter!) The World Wildlife Fund composed a consumer scorecard that provides a detailed run-down of every major consumer goods company, giving them a score to illustrate the sustainability of their palm oil policy.
You can download the scorecard here, be sure to avoid poor ranking brands while shopping to eliminate harmful palm oil from your products.
3. Look for Alternatives
If you really want to go cold-turkey with palm oil, then your best bet is to look for palm oil-free alternatives to all the common products you use everyday. Check out this list for a simple DIY guide to selecting some animal and planet friendly alternatives to palm.
4. Spread the Word
Once you have experienced the wonderful, liberating experience of cutting palm oil out of your life, you MUST share your knowledge with your friends! Get those social media skills buzzing and tell all the people in your life what you’ve learned about palm oil and how great you feel post-palm breakup. You can even start a friendly competition with Facebook friends seeing how many creative ways they can come up with to cut palm oil out of their lives.
5. Give Back
Once the environmental havoc wreaked by palm oil has subsided, there will still be some repair work that needs to be done. Replanting forests and helping to restore endangered orangutan populations will take decades. It is never too early or late to start lending a hand to help heal the wound left in palm oil’s wake.
Check out these amazing organizations to find out how you can help, be it volunteering, donating, or even signing a petition. Every little bit you contribute can make an incredible difference!
- Save The Orangutan
- Nature Conservancy: Plant a Tree in the Amazon
- Take the Say No To Palm Oil Challenge
- Become an EcoWarrior
- Sign the Rainforest Action Network’s Palm Oil Petition
- E-mail or send a letter to the companies you buy and tell them to cut conflict palm oil out of their products!
Image source: Wikipedia Commons