About 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.
- 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.
I 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.