Palm oil: How (and why) to make responsible choices

palm oil burnAbout eight months ago I wrote a post about palm oil, the destruction of crucial rainforests to make way for these plantations and the devastating effect on wildlife (Palm oil is commonly being used as an ingredient in everyday products including margarine, shortening, baked foods, cookies, candies and even soaps, candles and personal care products. Its main purpose, aside from its “binding properties”, is to replace trans fat that we’re all trying to avoid.) Before that post, I truly didn’t know a lot about palm oil, but now my eyes are wide open.

If you’d like to read the original post, click here, but in a nutshell, this is the concern:

  • Rainforests are being cleared at alarming rates to make way for palm plantations and to keep up with the demand for the product.
  • Malaysia and Indonesia account for 83% of the production and 89% of the export of palm oil.  Within these countries the threat is enormous for endangered species including orangutans, tigers, elephants and rhinoceroses.orang mombaby
  • The threat is the greatest for the orangutans, as they live ONLY in these areas that are being cleared to make way for the palm oil plantations.  The occurrence of hunting and poaching these poor animals has dramatically increased as well, and it is estimated that 50 orangutan are being killed each week.  At this rate, their existence is limited.
  • When this deforestation occurs and the rainforests are burned, they release decades of stored carbon back into the atmosphere, contributing to the tragedy of global warming.
  • All this considered, the demand for palm oil is expected to double in the next 10 years.

During a recent trip to our beloved Cleveland Metroparks Zoo I noticed a sign on one of their food carts.  It read:  “We use only sustainable palm oil products.”  I respected the fact that they’re taking responsibility and using only palm oil from plantations established on land that was not recently deforested and has been well-managed with good environmental, social and economic standards.

plmI also found their online resource for understanding the use, and misuse, of palm oil.  And as we “label readers” find more and more products containing palm oil, they’ve also assembled a fabulous list of responsible companies (that have committed to using only sustainable palm oil in their products) to help us make wise choices.

Hopefully, if you haven’t noticed it before, you’ll notice it now and decide that unless you see “Made from Sustainable Palm Oil” on the label, you’ll set it back down and walk away.

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4 thoughts on “Palm oil: How (and why) to make responsible choices

  1. Pingback: » Simple tip: aluminum blinds are wise window treatments! - Mom Goes Green

  2. Unfortunately another clear sign that our “global” economy is hurting the enviroment. Prior to the fall of communism, Russian immigrants who came to the US were suprised to see spring and summer on the same plate. Would waiting untill fresh apples matured in the fall be so hard to live with? Bit of info apples store better than most fruit in its whole state. We as consumers may have to concider drying, freezing, preserving and canning of local produce. Send a clear message that maple syrup or local honey are prefered on your table instead of sugar cane. They burn the cane to harvest sugar, talk about carbon foot print. Granted maple sugar/ syrup are heated for evaporation but efficient fuels can be used to reduce emmisions and carbon foot print. Also consider that even Hawaii produces little local sugar cane. Transport of materials and products is also added to the convinience and carbon foot print of our “global” economy. The human cost of under paided and or over worked people also should be concidered. The article either didn’t take into account or concider that those noble creatures being killed were most likely made to be bush meat.

  3. Hey Doreen – Stephanie and I read about palm tree oil in a “Time For Kids” that she had for homework last month. She’s been looking at labels and now actually refuses to eat one of her favorite cookies: OREOS!! We’ll continue to look at labels for this ingredient. Thanks for keeping us informed!

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