What is palm oil?
Palm oil is the highest-yielding vegetable oil crop which makes it very cheap and therefore very popular. In addition to being one of the cheapest vegetable oils, it is also extremely versatile with a number of features that make it appealing to product manufacturers. Due to this, palm oil is in nearly everything – from packaged foods and animal feed to deodorants, shampoo, toothpaste, and cosmetics.
Despite its ubiquity, palm oil is very bad news from the viewpoint of wildlife and the environment and is a major driver of rainforest deforestation. Orangutan habitats are particularly vulnerable to this destructive activity with around 80% destroyed in the last 20 years. In fact, this situation is so bad, orangutans may go extinct within our lifetime.
Why it matters
According to the WWF: “Palm oil has been and continues to be a major driver of deforestation of some of the world’s most biodiverse forests, destroying the habitat of already endangered species like the orangutan, pygmy elephant and Sumatran rhino. This forest loss coupled with conversion of carbon rich peat soils are throwing out millions of tonnes of greenhouse gases into the atmosphere and contributing to climate change. There also remains some exploitation of workers and child labour.”
Why you might want to choose palm oil free products
Choosing palm oil free products and supporting the brands and charities that understand the damage done in the use of this ingredient are some of the best ways to mitigate the damage caused by palm oil and ultimately to help shape a better future.
There is some debate over whether boycotting palm oil altogether or opting for products made with certified sustainable palm oil is a more effective strategy. Here, the term ‘sustainable’ means palm oil that is produced without deforestation, expansion on peat soil, the use of fire or exploitative labor practices. Proponents of choosing sustainable palm oil point to the key role that the oil plays in developing economies and the efficiency of palm oil, which produces more oil per land than any other similar vegetable crop.
To be considered palm oil free a brand can not:
- Use palm oil or its derivatives in any products or manufacturing processes
What you can do
If you choose to boycott palm oil then the solution is simple: avoid palm oil wherever and whenever possible. You can search our store for products that are palm oil free or check our list of palm oil free brands. You can also read about what we can all do to support wildlife and prevent biodiversity loss or give directly to a relevant charity.