Palm Oil; what is it, why is it bad, how can you help
Since the Iceland advert was deemed “too political” to be aired on TV and was released on to social media on the 9th of November it has gone viral with 13 million views and over 621,000 shares. (Click HERE to view the advert)
So what is Palm Oil?
Palm oil is a type of vegetable oil that comes from palm oil trees. These trees are mostly grown on plantation sites in Indonesia and Malaysia where the warm, humid climate offers perfect growth conditions. Palm Oil is used in an enormous amount of products. In fact 7.7 million tons of Palm Oil was used in Europe alone in 2017.
Why is Palm Oil so bad?
The substance itself isn’t very healthy, as it contains a large amount of harmful fatty acids. However mixed with a balance diet of fruit and vegetables there is no need to be worried about consuming palm oil.
See, the real problem lies with what the creation of palm oil is doing to our environment and its local communities. Currently, Palm Oil plantations cover more than 27 million hectares of the Earth’s surface, which is roughly the size of New Zealand! In order to make room for these plantations huge areas of forests are being bulldozed or burned. In Indonesia alone, an area the size of a football pitch is lost every 25 seconds. When these forests are destroyed, local people lose their homes and businesses. Small holders and indigenous people who have been living and protected these forests for generations are being kicked out. In Indonesia alone there are more than 700 land conflicts related to the Palm Oil industry. Additionally, amazing species like the Orangutans, Borneo Elephants and Sumatra Tigers are getting pushed closer to extinction as more plantation sites are replace the rainforest.
Not only is Palm Oil damaging the local communities and its wildlife, but the climate is being affected as well. Palm Oil plantations release a huge amount of carbon into our atmosphere. Additionally, when it is turned into palm-oil based biofuel it produces CO2 and methane emissions which results in having three times the climate impact than traditional fossil fuels.
Palm Oil- should we avoid it completely?
There are sustainable ways of growing palm oil in a responsible manner that respects both the environment and the community where it is grown. However, only if there is a demand for deforestation-free certified sustainable Palm Oil production will we move towards certification. It is extremely difficult for any plantation to be considered as truly sustainable, however there is a spectrum of sustainability. This is definitely a better option than non-sustainable palm oil and it’s certainly helpful to support steering development in a sustainable direction.
What can you do to help protect the rainforests?
Some products will have a label showing that they use sustainable palm oil. This is the RSPO (Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil) label. It means that palm oil was produced in a more sustainable and responsible way with a socially and environmental awareness. By buying products with this label you are insuring that the palm oil is grown in a responsible way and is not grown by companies that are continuing to damage our rainforests.
If the RSPO label is not on the product then you can look for the Green Palm label, which shows the products that are in support of the transition to certified palm oil. These are companies that are currently working towards using sustainable palm oil in their products.
It’s all very confusing and leaves you to wonder if cutting out Palm Oil all together is an easier way to show your support. However, Palm Oil is in a lot more products than you might think and can be near impossible to cut it out all together. This WWF page gives you a rough idea of what products include palm oil and the complete ingredient list of which palm oil is sometimes hiding behind.
There are other ways in which you can help to stop the palm oil plantations from getting any bigger and destroying more rainforests. Greenpeace have put together a petition which only needs another 4,000 signatures to stop companies from buying palm oil from rainforest destroyers. Click HERE to find out more information.
Additionally, there is another petition to simply get Iceland’s advert released on TV. It holds an important message that more people should be aware of and we are very close to getting it released! Click HERE to find out more information.