If you want to learn of a way to make a positive impact on the world whilst barely changing your behaviour, this is the post to read. We’re going to talk about palm oil. Have you ever heard people talk about palm oil?
Palm oil is derived from the palm fruit of the African oil palm tree. This tree is grown through Africa, Asia, North America and South America. Palm oil is edible and an ingredient in loads of common edible products including pizza dough, toothpaste, ice-cream and lipstick. According to WWF, half of products sold in supermarkets contain palm oil in some way. And it’s easy to see why – palm oil is a high-yielding crop that doesn’t melt at high-temperatures, gives things a nice creamy texture, has virtually no taste and is very cheap compared to other similar oils.
The issue is, palm oil is linked to major environmental problems. The oil palm tree grows in tropical rainforests, and to keep up with the demand for oil the clearing of these forests has led to the destruction of natural habitats for species such as orangutans, tigers, elephants and rhinos. The WWF estimates that an area of rainforest the equivalent size of 300 football fields is cleared each hour to make way for palm oil farms. That’s a lot of special being pushed to extinction because we’re destroying their homes to have tasty ice-cream.
And if you’re not that fussed about animals, what about people? The palm oil industry is linked to human rights violations such as child labour in Indonesia and Malaysia, with children being forced to carry heavy loads on their backs and spend hours bent over and collecting fruit from the plantation floor for little to no pay.
This doesn’t mean you have to give up all of the delicious products you love that use palm oil, though. It is possible to grown palm oil sustainably, and the Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil, or RPSO, is trying to ensure that we do just that. They are a not-for-profit association that is trying to get an industry wide commitment to 100% sustainable palm oil by 2020. They’ve come up with a set of rules which companies must adhere to in order to sustainably produce palm oil. By following these rules, palm oil producers can minimise the negative impact their growing palm oil has on both the environment and the people in the rainforests that oil palm trees love so much.
The RPSO’s rules mean that farmers get an income from their palm oil production and that they can make more palm oil from less land, meaning less deforestation and fewer animals seeing their homes destroyed. No more child labour, no more species going extinct, lots more delicious palm-oil containing products in the world. Seems a great idea, right?
Unfortunately, sustainable palm oil only accounts for 21% of the palm oil consumed globally. It’s in so many of our products, and whilst companies such as Ecover, Unilever, Sainsbury, Tesco, Waitrose, M&S, Asda and the Co-operative group all buy 100% certified fair-trade palm oil, not everyone does. We need to put pressure on companies to go sustainable or get out.
So, what can you do?
- Share the videos – or this post! – with the hashtag #goodbadpalmoil
- Find out more information about sustainable palm oil on goodbadpalmoil.org/
- Look for products with the RSPO logo, which looks like this
And there you have it. How to make a positive difference to the planet by barely changing your behaviour. How excellent are you?