The Dangers of Unsustainable Palm Oil

Palm oil is extracted from the fruit of oil palms, not the iconic coconut palm trees that we all envi­sion when think­ing of palm trees. Oil palms are found in trop­i­cal areas around the world and are cul­ti­vated for their fruit, which con­tains high lev­els of sat­u­rated fats. We iden­tify this fat as palm oil. It is a very com­mon ingre­di­ent used in a star­tling num­ber of foods, includ­ing cook­ies, candy, pro­tein bars, and many other processed foods. In fact, it is dif­fi­cult try­ing to find a prod­uct on gro­cery store shelves that does not con­tain at least some palm oil. Roughly 70% of processed foods out there (choco­late being the most com­mon), con­tain palm oil.

The fruits of a palm can pro­duce a sub­stan­tial amount of oil, thus it is cheaper to obtain. As a result, large plan­ta­tions of oil palms are cul­ti­vated in areas where frag­ile species of flora and fauna reside.

In order to make room for palm oil plan­ta­tions, unimag­in­able quan­ti­ties of rain-forest and other crit­i­cal habi­tat is com­pletely flat­tened, resem­bling a field that you’d find in the mid­dle of Nebraska. Some sta­tis­tics are report­ing as lit­tle as 2% of rain­for­est in Indone­sia remain­ing in only ten years if the rate of palm plan­ta­tion growth con­tin­ues. Other rain­forests around the world will soon be affected by palm oil plan­ta­tions. This dras­ti­cally impacts pre­cious endan­gered species, water cycles, car­bon diox­ide and green­house gas lev­els. So essen­tially, the earth is neg­a­tively impacted in an extreme way. Not only that, but because these plan­ta­tions are largely unreg­u­lated, many work­ers have done cruel, hor­rific things to local ani­mals such as orang­utans that wan­der into the area.

Luck­ily, the word is get­ting out about unsus­tain­able palm oil, and peo­ple are tak­ing steps to sup­port a more favor­able way of har­vest­ing it. In fact, there is an asso­ci­a­tion called the “Round­table on Sus­tain­able Palm Oil” and their mis­sion is to encour­age and sup­port the pro­duc­tion and use of sus­tain­able palm oil, mak­ing unsus­tain­able palm oil a thing of the past. You can find their “RSPO” cer­ti­fied label on prod­ucts that con­tain sus­tain­able palm oil. These prod­ucts are few and far in between, but it’s a start.

A good rule of thumb would be to check the ingre­di­ents label, or stay away from pack­aged, processed foods. It is dif­fi­cult to imag­ine some­thing so com­mon as palm oil being such a dan­ger to the earth. It is also hard to imag­ine that, by pur­chas­ing some­thing as sim­ple as a candy bar, a per­son is sup­port­ing the dev­as­ta­tion of rain­forests. Make con­scious, informed deci­sions before pur­chas­ing any prod­uct, and don’t be afraid to ask ques­tions. That is how peo­ple being to change the world lit­tle by little.

Prod­ucts that may con­tain palm oil:

1.) Ben & Jerry’s Ice Cream
2.) Clif Bars
3.) Nes­tle Prod­ucts
4.) Her­shey Prod­ucts
5.) Oreo’s
6.) Reeses’s
7.) Nutri-System Prod­ucts
8.) GeniSoy Prod­ucts
9.) Girl Scout Cook­ies
10.) McDonald’s
11.) Luna Bars
12.) Odwalla
13.) Lit­tle Deb­bie
14.) Pep­peridge Farms
15.) Zone Bars
16.) Quaker Brand Prod­ucts
17.) Power Bars
18.) Heinz Prod­ucts
19.) Kraft Prod­ucts
20.) Kellog’s Prod­ucts
21.) Nabisco Prod­ucts
22.) Post Prod­ucts
22.) Kee­bler Prod­ucts
23.) Smart Bal­ance Products