I am going to write about an ingredient that has fallen out of favor
in the past decade or so due to not being sustainably sourced. The ingredient is, of course, palm oil. This is one of those oils that is found in pretty much EVERYTHING anymore, it is the most commonly used vegetable oil in the world at the moment. You can find it in packaged foods, cosmetic products, soaps and it is even used industrially. Other countries use it commonly for a frying oil and some even use it as an industrial lubricant. While the palm tree is native to Africa, both Malaysia and Indonesia started to clear cut their own forests in order to plant palm tree farms to capitalize on this versatile product. The problem in doing that is that they are taking away the only habitat that many animals, including the Sumatran Orangutan live in. This animal is presently critically endangered. In our lifetime this species could go extinct because of something that humans have done, that's just heartbreaking...
When I initially learned about all this many years ago I thought "well that's it, no more palm oil"......right.....that's when I learned that it is in so many different products. Ok, so what next? How do I try to be a good conservationist and be good to the earth when I can't just eliminate this ingredient from my life? Enter the RSPO or Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil. This group of people has come together to try to work with the palm oil growers and come to an agreement on how to make this product more sustainable. (Yahoo!). They have made great strides in the past 10 years but still have very far to go. What I have to remind myself is that the answer is not to just stop palm oil production or boycott palm oil, it is to try to work within the confines of the industry and to help educate the farmers growing it and the governments that are clear cutting their own lands. This is someone's livelihood after all, it's got to be a 2 way street if it's to be successful.
So how can you help? Spread the word about palm oil and sustainable palm oil and aim to buy products that use sustainable palm oil. Let your dollars be your voice! Be the voice for those who have none (like the Sumatran Orangutan).
Resource #1 is on the world wildlife fund page. Resource #2 is the UK based page which is put together by the Chester Zoo. With more digging I was able to find on the RSPO site a page that lists companies which are members but it's rather cumbersome and not very helpful in a shopping scenario. They also have an app which I am downloading at the moment. (edit to add) AHA! Upon further searching there are quite a few apps which you can use to scan products to see if they are "Orangutan friendly" as the one app states. Check out this site, they have information on the apps and other great information. Cheyenne Mountain Zoo also has an app which I just used on some items in my fridge, it was pretty neat.
Take this journey with me. Let's work together to become better conservationists for a more sustainable future. Typically I feel that since I am just one little person I cannot make a difference with something that is just so big but today I am feeling plucky, today I feel that I CAN make a difference and I am going to try to. So.....palm oil challenge???
These and many more animals are affected by the palm oil industry
Stay tuned my friends
PS- Upon checking with my soap ingredient vendors I am ecstatic and relieved to find that the palm oil, palm kernel flakes and other palm oil derived ingredients I use in my products ARE sustainably sourced! It's a small step but it is my step.