How to cut out palm oil – not trees
What is palm oil?
Palm oil is a type of edible vegetable oil that comes from the fruit grown on the African oil palm tree (Elaeis guineensis). Oil palm plantations are grown in tropical climates in Africa, Asia, North America, and South America. It is popular because it is the most efficient plant-based oil to produce; it yields between 6-10 times more oil per hectare than alternative oil crops like sunflower, olive, soybean or rapeseed.
By exercising your right to choose what you buy, you can help shift the demand and focus on to sustainably farmed palm oil
Why should we pay attention to palm oil?
Palm oil accounted for around 8% of global deforestation between 1990 and 2008! 85% of all palm oil globally produced and exported is from Indonesia and Malaysia, where the main driver of deforestation is to grow oil palm plantations. A third of all mammal species in Indonesia are critically endangered as a consequence of unsustainably farmed palm oil.
This rapid development displaces not only wildlife, but people too, with many communities forcibly moved, or made to work as labourers. Irresponsibly managed plantations are often illegally burned when they are no longer productive. This releases the greenhouse gas, carbon dioxide, into the atmosphere, which contributes to climate change. It also creates a harmful, far-reaching smog that is detrimental to both animal (including human) health.
What can I do?
Palm oil is found in up to half of packaged products in UK supermarkets, including 71% of food products and 24% of other consumer goods. So the power is in your hands! By exercising your right to choose what you buy, you can help shift the demand and focus on to sustainably farmed palm oil! Here are some tips for eco-friendly shopping:
- Check the label: It is EU law for food products to clearly label palm oil when it is used, so check the ingredient list. Be extra aware of foods that commonly contain palm oil such as sliced bread, crisps, and biscuits. Try to buy food marked with a sustainable palm oil logo.
- Make your own: Making your own food from raw ingredients means you can control exactly what goes in to your food. So next time you're eyeing up a ready meal or frozen pizza, why not have a go at making your own?
- Write to companies: Sustainable palm oil won't become the norm unless there is enough demand for it. Writing to companies using unsustainable palm oil in their products shows them that people won't buy their products unless they know they are responsibly sourced.
Don't get caught out!
EU palm oil labelling laws do not extend to non-food items.
Unfortunately, palm oil can be disguised behind thousands of misleading names, and is often found in items including laundry detergents, washing up liquid, cosmetics, soaps and shampoos.
Doing your research on or contacting companies requires a little more dedication, but will give you the answers you're looking for!