Palm oil is used in about 50 percent of consumer goods, yet most people do not even know that it exists. Known for its versatility and low-cost, palm oil can be found in everything from lipstick to cookies. Unfortunately, this oil has some other, less than desirable, attributes that come at a high cost to the planet.
The majority of the world’s palm oil is harvested from the tropical forests of Borneo and Sumatra. To make room for the ever-popular palm plant, a large majority of this native forest has been slashed and burned. It is estimated that 300 football fields worth of forest are cleared every hour to make way for palm oil plantations. While this is a tragedy in and of itself, it is made even more grave by the fact that this loss of forest also means to the loss of countless animals.
The orangutan species has been hit particularly hard by palm oil related deforestation, around 90 percent of their native habitat has been leveled for this single commodity. As a result of this loss, the orangutan population has dropped drastically in the last two decades and experts fear that if nothing is done to protect these animals, they will go extinct within our lifetimes.
Well, good news, Green Monsters! It looks like something finally IS being done to help protect not only the orangutan but all the other animals who call these ancient forests home!
Oh please, oh please, let it be good news!
Teams of scientists and engineers from the University of Bath and University of York are developing the palm oil substitute from yeast. This yeast-based alternative has the potential to replace palm oil on an industrial scale – meaning deforestation for palm oil can finally come to an end!
In a report for Herald Scotland, Dr. Tim Mays, head of the University of Bath’s department of chemical engineering, said that “The work will have significant positive impact in sustainable energy, food and personal care technologies.”
While this alternative is not yet on the market, it is an amazing sign that innovation is starting to surface in the industry. With the survival of the orangutan hanging in the balance, this is certainly a welcome change!
Thanks, nice people!