Palm Oil. Its become the big no-go ingredient for those of us concerned about the ethics behind the brands we use. I do however, understand that for some people, they have no real idea what it is, or how it impacts so greatly on this little planet of ours.I think being a fan of travel has made me even more passionate to do my bit for the planet! I spoke last month about how I wanted to start a new series on the blog, (you can see it here, Ethical, natural, green Beauty) all of us learning together and sharing information on ethical beauty. This series is completely without judgement, but, I am not going to lie about not wanting to perhaps tell you things you may not already know, to help you make more informed choices. I know its confusing out there! I work in the skincare industry, so I am very aware of the marketing terms used by companies to make their products seem more ethical. I am hoping through this series we can all become more aware of what these things actually mean!
I am starting with palm oil – what you need to know, as this is so in the media at the moment with that banned Iceland ad. Its a long one, get comfy! We can build on the knowledge that you may have already learnt. I do not profess to being an expert, but I will promise you that my posts will be fully researched, my passion to gain knowledge will be shared, I am committed to learning, I will speak to experts that I know through my job to see what is being done on the larger scale, and I will add this to my knowledge I have from 20 years in the skincare industry. Hopefully thats a start.
Palm Oil – What you need to Know
So, lets start with the basics of what it is;
Palm oil is an edible oil extracted from the palm fruit that the oil palm tree bares. There is a nut in the centre of the palm fruit, and this is where the palm kernel oil is extracted from, and palm oil is extracted from the fruit itself. These trees are an incredibly efficient crop, so can produce a lot of oil. The tree is not edible to almost all animals, and the fruit too is inedible, except to rats and snakes. Therefore, animals cannot thrive or live in the areas that palm oil trees are planted. Shockingly, about half of the products stocked in supermarkets contain palm oil. Food, beauty products, cleaning products, everything! There is even palm oil used in the bio fuels that are named as “green fuels” to power vehicles and airplanes. To make life even harder when you are trying to avoid palm oil, there are over 200 names that are used for it! Sneaky eh…. I have linked here to a site that gives you all of the names you can look out for. To give you a small indicator, any ingredient listed with the words Stear, Palm, Laur or Glyc in them usually means a palm oil product.
Why is it damaging the planet;
Palm trees need a fair bit of room to grow, around 3m diameter around the base of each tree. The palm trees flourish in warm, humid climates so the rain forests have the climate that the palm trees love. This has resulted in thousands and thousands of hectares of rain forest being destroyed across Indonesia. I spoke to the owner of one of the Palm oil free brands that I have discovered, and he told me that flying over Borneo, and seeing the devastating destruction of the rainforest absolutely broke his heart. Indonesia is losing an average of 917,000 hectares of natural forest per year, (around 300 football pitches per hour) through palm oil!!! As I am sure you can understand, if you clear the rainforest that is home to thousands of species of wildlife, they have no where to go. They cannot live in the palm trees as they are not edible, and the palm trees do not support the ecosystem that was there.
Another problem is that the cheapest way to clear the forests is to “slay and burn”. The fires that this method causes not only causes suffocating pollution for all of the people living near by, but destroys the habitats for all the species that live there. It is incredibly prolific in wiping out and killing the wildlife. It is also causing a major problem in rising green house effect. It is estimated that the deforestation is causing up to 20% of global warming. Its just a disaster all round!
The Affect on People;
Not only are we wiping out entire species of animals with palm oil, we are also destroying peoples lives and homes. The fires from the rain forest destruction cause smog for miles and miles around, as well as taking the lands from them. The workers in the industry are also rumoured to be treated unfairly.
The affect on the wildlife;
I cannot tell you the amount of frustrated tears I have cried over the last year looking into ethical beauty. I have, at times, felt heartbroken and helpless. We are so destructive, and all for money!! I have spoken with brands that have such passion to try to make changes, that I knew that I needed to do my part, no matter how small. It is devastating to learn what man has caused. It has kept me awake at night. Now, most of us know the danger that the orangutang are in due to palm oil. It is estimated that over 50 are killed every week due to this industry. The orangutang are either burnt to death in the fires, caught up in the logging machinery, left to starve with their food source taken away, or stranded in pockets of forest that cannot support them. The orangutang, trying to survive, then wander onto the palm oil plantations and are killed by the palm oil companies “pest busters” Yep, the animals that we have stolen the homes from, are then seen as pests. What a twisted world we live in!
Elephants also are victims of the palm oil trade. They are often poisoned by the palm oil companies, again, because of the loss of the elephants feeding grounds means that they too wander into the plantations so are “dealt with”. The Borneo Rhino has almost been made extinct by the palm oil industry. It just goes on and on, the destruction we are causing. I could go on and on about how cruelly and disgustingly these poor animals are treated, but I know how devastated I felt by learning it, so I don’t want to depress you. I am sure you get the idea, and if you want to know more, prepare yourself, then google it. It will break your heart…
Why do Brands Use Palm Oil;
the short answer? Cost! Yep, that devil money as ever is the guiding force. It is cheap to buy, and brands are all about their profits! It is also incredibly versatile. It has no real taste so is widely used in food, and increases the shelf life so is used as a preservative. In beauty and cleaning products it is used widely, especially as a foaming agent or emulsifier. Other oils can be used in place of palm oil, but they are more costly to the brand, so are ignored.
What is sustainable Palm oil;
Ohhh did I fall down a worm hole when I was starting to research sustainable palm oil! Is there even such a thing? The basics are, that sustainable palm oil is regulated to ensure that it doesn’t contribute to deforestation, violation of human rights or animal cruelty. The RSPO (Roundtable of Sustainable Palm oil) has strict regulations that are enforced and checked on a regular basis to ensure the standards are upheld. There are so many arguments as to whether palm oil can ever be truly ethical and sustainable, that it was a head spin! My thoughts are, that if a company is using sustainable palm oil, then they are at least making roads into limiting their negative impact. This can only be a good thing surely? Of course, NO palm oil is the better option, but I think it will take time for more brands to get on board with that. If you have concerns about the use of palm oil, but are struggling to find palm oil free products, then sustainable palm oil is at least a conscious effort.
So What Brands are making moves to stop the Destruction;
Sadly, not enough at the moment, but I have seen at least some changes in attitude in the last year. I have started to compile a list of Palm Oil free brands, and will perhaps do a blog post purely to keep updated and current as a list of palm oil free brands. I am also going to try to feature brands in this series, so we can all find amazing products. There are some logos that you can look out for that guarantee no palm oil, and I have pictured them below.
Im not suggesting for one moment that you go into your cupboards and throw away all your products that have palm oil in. What I am making a teeny weeny suggestion of, is as your products run out, perhaps look at palm oil alternatives…….Some Uk companies that I have found that are palm oil free are listed below. Iv only just started on my list, but its a start! Please feel free to suggest any others that you may have come across. I would love us to all learn from each other.
All Natural Soap Co – Beautiful handmade soaps
Bloomtown – Bath and body products, skincare and candles.
Bodhi & Birch – Beautiful skin and body care products
Cacay Naturals – Anti aging skin care
Heavenly Organics Skincare – All hand made with pure ingredients
Humblestuff – Household cleaning products
Raw Passion Skin Food – Skincare
Wild Sage & Co – Skin balms
Researching this post has been a little harrowing, and at times, made me feel so disillusioned by mankind. I have learnt that money, politics and greed all drive this industry, but thats a topic for another day! I at times felt so utterly beaten down by the things we do, but, I then remind myself that people are trying to make changes. I have spoken to brands, my day job clients, brands I work with in my day job, my friends and family, and so many of us want to make changes. To force the brands to take responsibility. We can all do our bit once we know about it cant we. Education is key I think. I really hope that this post has given you a little knowledge. I would love to hear what you think. All changes start with one person saying they want to change after all don’t they!