It is estimated that 300 football fields of rainforest are cleared every hour to make room for palm oil production. The most critically affected animals are the Orangutan, which findings show could be extinct in the next 5-10 years and the Sumatran tiger, only having 3 years, if drastic changes are not made.
Palm oil is derived from the palm fruit that grows on the African oil palm tree. It is an edible vegetable oil that is used in about 50% of the household products and over 50% of packaged foods sold in North America. These products range from baked goods, shampoos, laundry soap, toothpaste, cleaning products, cosmetics, margarine, dish soap (such as Sunlight and Palmolive), cookies, chocolate and packaged breads. Unless you are very conscious about the products you are purchasing, chances are that there is something in your home that contains palm oil. In terms of vegetable oil consumption, palm oil is number one in the world, being used and consumed more than any other type of vegetable oil. Palm oil is so widely used because of the high yields that come from the oil palm trees compared to yields of other types of vegetable oil. However, there are a lot of problems related to the production and use of palm oil.
Palm oil is not a problem in itself, however it is linked to major issues such as deforestation, climate change, habitat degradation, abuse of indigenous rights and animal cruelty. Since palm oil trees are grown in the tropical rainforest and the increasing demand for palm oil means that more and more forests are being cut down to make room for oil palm tree plantations - places where oil palm trees can be grown and harvested for palm oil. The deforestation is a significant problem for the environment as its destroying valuable rainforests that are rich in biodiversity and the habitat for many rainforest animals. Particularly impacted are endangered species that call these forests their homes, such as orangutans, tigers, rhinos and elephants. These habitats are already particularly sensitive and the deforestation that is occurring to make way for palm oil plantations is dangerous to these habitats and the animals that are living there. In addition, palm oil production leads to animal cruelty because often these animals are killed, injured or displaced during the process of deforestation. It is estimated that 300 football fields of rainforest are cleared every hour to make room for palm oil production. The most critically affected animals are the Orangutan, which findings show could be extinct in the next 5-10 years and the Sumatran tiger, only having 3 years, if drastic changes are not made.
The first thing that you can do to help is to learn about palm oil and all the problems that its demand and production causes. There are many websites displaying research that go in to great detail about the problems related to palm oil production and deforestation. The more informed you are on the situation the better the choices that you will be able to make when you are shopping. Some activist groups recommend avoiding palm oil completely while others recommend that you can still purchase products with palm oil in it as long as the palm oil has been produced and harvested according to sustainable standards. This means that the palm oil is produced in ways that respect the environment and communities where it is grown and that is cruelty free. The activist groups that suggest avoiding palm oil completely say this because they believe that even if palm oil says that it is produced sustainably, that this could just be a green washing scheme to convince consumers to still purchase their products. This is where you will need to conduct more research to determine whether or not you wish to purchase sustainable palm oil products or to just avoid palm oil completely. However, at the very least avoid purchasing products that contain palm oil that is not produced sustainably as this will definitely contribute to the problem. As consumers, you vote with your dollars, meaning that what you spend your money on is what will continue to be produced. You must make a statement against the problems with palm oil by carefully reading all ingredient lists and only purchasing products that are produced sustainably or that do not contain palm oil.
Finally, palm oil can be hard to identify in products because of the various names that it can be listed as. Here is a short list of some of the names that palm oil is listed as, although there are others not included in this list:
Palm kernel oil
Sodium palm kernelate
Please visit PalmOilInvestigations.com and SayNoToPalmOil.com to learn more.