Palm oil can be found in everything from food to soaps to biofuels, but it's also one of the most environmentally costly substances out there.
The oil, made from the fruits of palm trees, isn't that bad in and of itself, but the way it is produced is extremely harmful to the environment. Here's what the Rainforest Action Network
has to say about palm oil: "Grown on massive plantations in tropical nations, mainly Malaysia and
Indonesia, palm oil has been associated with rainforest destruction;
threatened extinctions of animals, including orangutans; huge increases
in greenhouse gas emissions; and gross human rights and labor
Unfortunately, cutting palm oil out of your diet and buying habits is harder than you might think, because it rarely shows up on ingredient lists simply as "palm oil." Instead, it can often show up as Sodium Laureth Sulphate, Sodium Lauryl Sulphates, Sodium dodecyl Sulphate (SDS or NaDS), Palmate, Palmitate, Elaeis Guineensis, Glyceryl Stearate and a laundry list of other names. Heck, sometimes it's just called "vegetable oil." The Australian website Palm Oil Action has a list
of some of the more common names.
Finding a list of products and brands that use palm oil is equally hard, but some companies, like General Mills
, are starting to pledge to only use responsibly sourced palm oil, which is a great start. (Others, like Cargill
, are not doing as well.)
So pay attention to the ingredients labels when you buy your favorite foods and other commercial goods. You just might help save the planet in the process.