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While I was in Malaysia I got to see some orangutangs. Most of them were in the rehabilitation center which is basically a safari park, a bit of preserved jungle.  I was also  lucky enough to see one in what was left of the  wild outside – along  with some big nose monkeys. When I say wild, I mean a tiny strip of jungle left straggling along the river bank. The rest of the area, that had once been wild and wonderful rain forest, was now covered with palm oil plantations. Acre upon bloody rolling acre of palm trees. The only reason we got to see so much wild life was that it had been pushed right up to the river by  farmers encroaching on their habitat. Those monkeys had no where to go and no where to hide.

Palm oil comes from Malaysia and Indonesia. Both countries have cut down hundreds of acres of rainforest to make way for huge mono crop farms. While Malaysia appears to be finally taking a more considered approach Indonesia is still tearing down trees and destroying ancient peat land at a frightening rate.

“The average annual rate of forest loss in Indonesia was 498,000 hectare (ha)  (FAO, 2010) from 2000 to 2010 or the equivalent of over 55 rugby fields per hour.

The expanding palm oil industry has been a key driver of this deforestation.  In the decade to 2010, Indonesian plantation area nearly doubled to close to 8.0 million ha and is expected to near 13 million ha by 2020 (PWC, 2012).”

Indiginous people have  been expelled from their land and the loss of habitat has obviously resulted in a  reduction in wildlife some of which, like the orangutang,  is now endangered. This has caused international concern and calls by many for palm oil to be boycotted,  So much so that in  2004, an industry group called the Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO) was formed to work with the palm oil industry to help mitigate some of the worst impacts and rehabilitate the palm oil brand.

The World Wildlife Foundation has approved the  RSPO efforts  in “providing assurance that valuable tropical forests have not been cleared, and social safeguards have been met during the oil’s production” of Certified Sustainable Palm Oil.

What’s Palm Oil Used For?

Almost everything from food to cosmetics. You can see a big list here.

How Do I Know?

That’s not so easy. Many products that use palm oil don’t clearly label the fact. Palm oil and its derivatives can appear under many names.

The WWF lists includes the following:

INGREDIENTS: Vegetable Oil, Vegetable Fat,  Palm Fruit Oil,  Glyceryl, Stearate, Stearic Acid, Elaeis Guineensis, Palmitic Acid, Palm Stearine, Palmitoyl Oxostearamide, Palmitoyl Tetrapeptide-3, Sodium Kernelate, Sodium Palm Kernelate, Sodium Lauryl Lactylate/Sulphate, Hyrated Palm Glycerides, Etyl Palmitate, Octyl Palmitate, Palmityl Alcohol

And here are some more

  • PKO – Palm Kernel Oil
  • PKO fractionations: Palm Kernel Stearin (PKs); Palm Kernel Olein (PKOo)
  • PHPKO – Partially hydrogenated Palm Oil
  • FP(K)O – Fractionated Palm Oil
  • OPKO – Organic Palm Kernel Oil
  • Palmate
  • Palmolein
  • Palmitate – Vitamin A or Asorbyl Palmitate (NOTE: Vitamin A Palmitate is a very common ingredient in breakfast cereals and we have confirmed 100% of the samples we’ve investigated to be derived from palm oil)
  • Sodium Laureth Sulphate (Can also be from coconut)
  • Sodium Lauryl Sulphates (can also be from ricinus oil)
  • Sodium dodecyl Sulphate (SDS or NaDS)
  • Elaeis Guineensis
  • Glyceryl Stearate
  • Stearic Acid
  • Chemicals which contain palm oil
  • Steareth -2
  • Steareth -20
  • Sodium Lauryl Sulphate
  • Sodium lauryl sulfoacetate (coconut and/or palm)
  • Hydrated palm glycerides
  • Sodium isostearoyl lactylaye (derived from vegetable stearic acid)
  • Cetyl palmitate and octyl palmitate (names with palmitate at the end are usually derived from palm oil, but as in the case of Vitamin A Palmitate, very rarely a company will use a different vegetable oil)

*Disclaimer: Through research we’ve found that Vitamin A Palmitate can be derived from any combination of vegetable oil such as olive, coconut, canola and/or palm oil. Though in all the cases we’ve documented, companies use palm oil to make derivatives like Vitamin A Palmitate, it can be tricky to know for sure.

Join The Plastic Boycott & Go Palm Oil Free

Being plastic free means our palm oil consumption is cut to  a minimum because we

  • eat little processed food as processed food is usually plastic packed food.
  • cook from scratch and the only oil we use is olive oil or sunflower seed.
  • make most of our own cosmetic and cleaning products. We know what goes into them and that is the tiny amount of palm oil in a cosmetic emulsifier. Really we are talk maybe 25g And is certified sustainable.
  • clean using bicarb and palm oil free soap
  • using butter not margarine
  • don’t shampoo

When we do buy we try to buy palm oil free using this great data base of palm oil free products for guidance.

You can read why Lush stopped using palm oil in their cosmetics here.

Considerations

The palm oil industry provides a lot of work. While a boycott might help some it will of course impact on others. A meaningful dialogue and alternative work opportunities need to be developed.

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