Defeating the Palm Oil Industry: What You and I Can Do

As mentioned in a previous post, “Palm Oil: the Truth Behind the Lucrative Industry” (can be found under the “Conservation” category), the Palm oil industry poses a massive threat towards climate change, pollution, and endangered species like the orangutan. Unfortunately, palm oil has grown to become a highly popular product that finds itself in nearly 50% of supermarket products. Palm oil quickly replaced other vegetable oils and has now assumed the status as being the most used vegetable oil, in the world. However, the oil also plays an imperative roll as a biofuel, when its not an ingredient in nearly every processed food. Although many products like makeup, perfume, and detergents contain small amounts of palm oil, every little bit counts!

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As more information began to surface on the true horrors behind the industry, whether it was the pollution, release of green house gases, or encroachment on natural wildlife, more organizations began to demand action. In January, the European Parliament (EP) voted to ban the use of palm oil for the production of biofuels in the European Union (EU) by 2020, with the proclaimed aim to stop the deforestation of rainforests in mainly Indonesia and Malaysia. However, although banning palm oil as a biofuel does attack a significant portion of demand, this will not stop deforestation as the oil is utilized in a multitude of other forms.

Nevertheless, an everyday individual may read about the issue and become overwhelmed, what can one person truly do in this horrible phenomena? Well, since palm oil is found in products that surround the everyday person like you and I, there is actually many steps we can do to join the cause.

For one, since you and I are consumers, we hold power over our personal demand of a product, and if enough individuals chose to boycott palm oil, demand would decrease. Unfortunately, it’s not as simple as switching to coconut or olive oil, since palm oil is seemingly in many other products.

Some steps in the right direction:

  1. Choosing healthier, unprocessed foods is a good first step in the right direction. Palm oil is often found in greasy fast foods and frozen items since it’s a cheaper ingredient than other oils. This tip is also helpful in improving one’s own health!
  2. Reading labels is key. When buying food look for the label stating vegetable oil. Then look for saturated fat. If only vegetable oil (no animal fat listed) is used and there is saturated fat in the product – you are buying palm kernel oil, palm oil or coconut oil, most probably palm. Palm oil is also a common ingredient in makeup, lotions, soaps, detergents, even if it’s only a small amount.
  3. Use your voice! Sign petitions and write your elected representatives. Tell your friends about how you are benefitting the planet by boycotting palm oil products (maybe even share this post). Lead by example, and others will follow.

From the perspective of an individual, the palm oil industry and its detriments may seem overwhelmingly powerful, but even just by being informed you are one step towards the solution. It’s important to remember the power consumers have over harmful products on the market. Every movement begins with individuals seeking change, whether it’s demanding vegan, cruelty free, or sustainable (and more) products, the demand begins with the consumer.

Besides, the resistance against palm oil products is not new, you’re not alone. As of December 2014, labeling regulations in the EU require food products to clearly indicate that they contain palm oil. Following in suit the beauty industry has made an effort to create products free of any traces of the oil, labeling their products to alert the consumer. Spend a little extra time reading labels, and choose against the destructive oil, the orangutans will thank you!

References:

https://www.rainforest-rescue.org/topics/palm-oil#start, https://www.iscc-system.org/eco-business-winners-and-losers-from-the-proposed-ban-on-palm-oil/, https://orangutanalliance.org/blog/2017/9/28/food-labelling-and-the-palm-oil-debate-whats-the-issue

Published by Sofia Manriquez

Founder of conserveouroceans.org I'm passionate about all things environmental, although I've always had a particular connection with the ocean since I've grown up loving the beach. I would love to collaborate with others and meet friends who share environmental passions!

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