Happy national Orangutan day, family! Today's post is all about palm oil, an oil that seems to be ever prevalent and ubiquitous to our modern world. When we think about palm trees, we often get this glimpse of being on a beach in Miami or cruising through California coasts. Yet, Orangutans think of something more, they think of homes, communities, and food. In Indonesia palm tree forests are the homes for the Orangutan, but their homes are disappearing at an alarming rate. So today we will discuss what exactly is palm oil? How did it become such a staple to the world economy? And how do we move forward as a collective.
Palm oil is an edible vegetable oil derived from the mesocarp of the fruit of oil palms and in the last 5-10 years, the demand for vegetable oil has climbed 5% per year! Mostly due to health trends and people searching for alternatives to animal fats. The palm is so desirable because it produces a very high yield of oil, actually it produces more than 7x higher than rapeseed aka canola oil and 11x more than soybean. The higher the yield, the cheaper the oil can be, and the world loves their savings!
Research shows that palm oil is found in 71% of food products, 24% of consumer goods and 5% of energy and 86% of that oil is coming from Indonesia... This has lead to massive deforestation and an increase in palm tree plantations.
Indonesia lacks the central powers for supervision and policing of companies that practice unsafe and detrimental practices. This has lead to companies utilizing secret and often illegal means to expand their plantations and continue their practice. Unfortunately, it is the Orangutan that suffers most from theses growth in plantations. The Orangutan population has seen a 50% decrease in their population, and a 80% decrease in their habitat in the last 20 years. If that wasn't enough to break your heart, consider that the loss in habitat leads to loss of sustenance for these beautiful beings. Orangutans are forced to sneak on to plantations and steal food where they risk the chance of being captured or killed.
With all this information you may be saying "I'll just stay away from palm oil." For most that might be the most conscious decision, but consider this. Boycotting will only drive the price lower, which will in turn increase demand from countries like China and India. If palm oil disappears from the global market we will have a new set of problems. Corporations will be forced switch to other cash crops like soybean. To produce soybean oil, it requires 10x the amount of land to produce the same yields of palm oil. This in turn will lead to faster deforestation and another set of potential nutritional complications.
So what can we do?
As consumers our power lies in the value of our dollar. While it may feel comforting to just give up palm oil products, its not the responsible choice. We must make our voices and opinions heard with the our dollar, like the millionaires do. Corporations respond to our choices when it affects their bottom line, so how do we make our voices heard!? First, you can research retailers and manufactures that practice genuinely safe practices and are committed to halting deforestation. Only purchase products made with Palm oil that has been manufactured form environmentally-sensitive land use planning, are socially and environmentally responsible and transparent about their practices. All of this may sound like a lot of work, but all this work is necessary for change.
If giving up palm oil seems like your only decision here's some information for how to adapt!
Here are some palm oil substitutions you can make in your life
Metschnikowia Pulcherrima (a ubiquitous yeast species)
If giving up palm oil seems to be to difficult for your lifestyle, then here are some brands you can feel good about:
All of these companies are fair trade certified and transparent about their practices
We have given our power to corporations and governments out of trust and they have soiled that trust with smoke and mirrors. As we enter the end of 2020 it is our duty to change that paradigm and take our power back. It is easy to blindly trust companies without research or give up products because you believe their tainted. We're asking you to consider going the extra mile. Choose to purchase consciously made products from responsible distributors who deserve your trust. Only unified as consumers and stewards of the planet can we save the Orangutan.