Recently, I’ve been involved in several conversations about the environmental sustainability of red palm oil. As is often the case, many viewers took our advice and started purchasing the oil in vast quantities. Despite its multitude of health benefits, red palm oil has the risk of being produced in a way that endangers wildlife in different parts of the world. I hear your concerns, and I am concerned as well.
I believe we should always consider how our everyday purchases impact our global community. With the advent of new technologies, faster methods of travel, and the exponential growth of our population, our decisions have a much stronger impact on people and wildlife in other countries and continents. We buy apples from Brazil, coffee from Tanzania, rice from India, blueberries from Chile, yet many of us don’t consider the possibility that some of those products come to your plate at the expense of human rights, area wildlife, or the environment.
We only get one Earth, and we all must play our part in making it last for generations to come. Careless decisions will lead to the destruction of rainforests, the decimation of wildlife, and the exploitation of indigenous peoples. That’s why Lisa and I try our best to promote sustainability with our purchases, which includes products that are fair trade, made with responsible labor, and environmental preservation in mind. You should as well. No excuses.
With regard to palm oil, using the oil itself at home doesn’t endanger the environment. However, permitting the clearing of thousands of acres of rainforests to make room for palm oil farms does endanger the environment along with the orangutans that live there. Hence, multiple organizations are finding ways to promote sustainable palm oil production to accommodate a growing global demand without the need to clear more precious forest space. That growing demand comes not only from our supermarkets, but also industries that use palm oil in cosmetics, lubricants, and biofuel.
In Malaysia and Indonesia, where the threat to the orangutan is the strongest, the government is working to regulate palm oil growth and ensure those countries maintain their rainforests. Malaysia, especially, has adhered to more than 15 laws and regulations, including the Protection of Wildlife Act of 1972. Currently, approximately 56% of Malaysia’s land is still under forest cover, which is protected by the law. However, the threat still exists, and you should pay special attention to how the red palm oil you buy threatens our environment.
With the power of the Internet, you can make a difference to promote sustainable palm oil production. Here are a few options:
- Familiarize yourself with the Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO), a Swiss organization dedicated to promoting sustainable palm oil. They have developed a method of certifying farmers’ practices, ensuring that palm oil is grown in environmentally sustainable ways. While some companies are doing it right, most aren’t. Currently, only 40% of the world’s palm oil producers are certified through the RSPO, so beware when shopping online.
- Check out the World Wildlife Fund’s Interactive Palm Oil Scorecard, which shows companies’ sustainability record with regard to using palm oil in their products.
- You can look for palm oil sources that come from farms outside the orangutan’s natural habitats, which include Indonesia and Malaysia. Some companies grow palm oil in Australia and West Africa, where palm oil farms have less of an environmental impact. However, many claim that Malaysia and Indonesia are working hard to preserve their wildlife, as evidenced by the creation of the Malaysian Palm Oil Wildlife Conservation Fund. This organization works with government and industry funds to manage conservation projects and regulate the growth of the palm oil industry.
We don’t live in a vast, unexplored planet anymore. Our world has transformed into a village filled with a diverse, deeply interconnected population. The sooner we recognize this, the sooner we realize that the decisions we make impact not just our backyards, but our planet.