Palm oil: the ingredient used in food, cosmetics, cleaning products and fuels. As great as this may be for the pockets of multinational companies it is devastating for the environment and to the livelihoods of individuals.
Palm oil may be defined as the versatile yellow butter-like oil derived from the palm oil tree, but the displacement of indigenous people, loss of biodiversity and deforestation is not mentioned. It is the most commonly produced vegetable oil, with 66 million tonnes produced annually. Not only is it used in processed foods but almost half of the palm oil imported into the EU is used as biofuel. Even with it being a plant based biofuel, their high CO2 and methane emissions have three times the climate impact of typical fossil fuels.
With palm oil plantations covering over 27 million hectares globally, this has put a huge strain to rainforests and human settlements. By unconsciously buying these everyday products we are guilty of moving endangered orang-utans, Sumatran tigers and Borneo elephants away from their natural habitats. This is not okay. As consumers we are unaware of these issues but we are very much unaware of the health impacts when consuming them. Studies have shown that refined palm oil contain extensive amounts of harmful fatty acid esters, known to damage DNA and also cause cancer.
So how can we stop using an ingredient that is being used in so many products to cater for our growing population?
The greatest solution is to have a policy in place to tackle this emerging problem. But, we, as individuals can make a change in our everyday life:
- Read labels – Look at the ingredients to check if they contain palm oil. However this may trickier to find on cosmetics products. So a Google search would help you determine whether palm oil is present.
- The more homemade the better – Make your own pizza, your own biscuits… Not only are you aware that you won’t be using palm oil but you are more aware of the ingredients that you are putting inside your body. You will more likely use other oils such as sunflower oil and olive oil.
- Stand up for what you believe in – Be a part of local and global campaigns, sign petitions, take part in marches! A quick search online and you are good to go! All of this will put a lot of pressure on policymakers, as policies are put in place based on what the public want!
- Sustainable travel – As palm oil is a major source for biofuel production, ditching your car is the way to go to make a positive impact. Walk, cycle, use public transport to limit the use of biofuels.
- Be ‘au courant’ – To know about palm oil you have to be informed about it in the first place and be aware about what you are buying. Not only will you be aware about the effects of palm oil, but your enthusiasm to know about it will lead you to question companies and staff members selling palm oil products so that they also can be in the know.
So! I hope this post has ‘sustainably’ enlightened you to think more closely of what you buy and to change your outlook based on whether you want to do it for the environment or your health.
Until next time!
[Source for all images: Google Images]