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Sustainability Quiz 6: Palm Oil

Sustainability Quiz 6: Palm Oil

Sustainability Quiz 6. What is the problem with palm oil?

Palm oil is an effective emulsifier & surfactant, found in around 50 percent of all packaged foods in supermarkets and other stores and 70 percent of all cosmetics.

Palm oil is an effective emulsifier & surfactant, found in around 50% of all packaged foods and 70 % of cosmetics. But what is the problem with palm oil?

     Palm Oil is unhealthy
     Widespread rainforest destruction
     Palm Oil replaces egg in ice cream
     Palm Oil has more than 640 names

The problem with palm oil is what we have to do to get it. Palm oil itself is actually quite healthy and while the other three statements above are actually true, the big problem with palm oil is where is grows and what is destroyed to establish palm oil plantations.

Palm oil and its derivatives are possibly one of the most useful ingredients on the planet and that is where all the trouble starts. Palm oil is in nearly half of all packaged products found in supermarkets and around 70 percent of cosmetics. Cosmetics, shampoo, ice cream, detergent, soap, bread, dough, chocolate.

There is nothing technically wrong with palm oil as a sustainable vegetable oil. It is in fact an extremely productive crop, yielding more per plant than any other vegetable oil, with a much lower cost of production.

Widespread deforestation and habitat destruction

The problem is what happens to grow the palm oil. To make way for palm oil production, many rainforests are cut down illegally in uncontrolled clearing and killing, leaving many endangered animals such as orangutans, elephants, tigers and humans; homeless or dead, as the natural habitat disappears. 

In the last 25 years, nearly 32 million hectares of forests have disappeared from the face of Indonesia alone. The destruction of these forests and everything in them is both an incredible toll on life & habitats as well as a driving a massive amounts of emissions.

Rain forests are also huge carbon sinks so when they are destroyed, they release enormous amounts of carbon dioxide. (After fossil fuel burning, deforestation is the biggest emitters of carbon dioxide.)  And all that is before you even start to count the consequences of the loss of the rain forest's future oxygen production and CO2 sinkage. 

What can you do?

Look for Palm Oil Free declarations and accreditations. Become familiar with at least the common alternative names for palm oil and it's derivatives so that you know what you are avoiding. Don't buy products containing palm oil - or at the very least choose those with Sustainable Palm Oil. 

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