Palm Oil Is A Cruelty-Free Friend, Not Enemy
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If you live a cruelty-free or vegan lifestyle, the solution to environmental issues or tortured animals is often to cut things out. Cut out meat, cut out plastics, cut out leather, etc.
However, ending the sale of a product or packaging is not always the best solution. Some products are sustainable, but are not grown and cultivated to be eco-friendly, animal-friendly or even human-friendly.
One of those products is palm oil. Oh man do people spew real hatred over palm oil. But palm oil is not the enemy, it is the SOLUTION! Stay with me here.
You’ve probably heard the horror stories about palm oil. Orphaned orangutans, rainforests destroyed, smoldering fires that pollute the air. The imagery is intense.
HOWEVER, palm oil is actually an inherently sustainable and nutrient-dense oil.
The PROBLEM is the WAY in which most palm oil is being produced. It has wreaked havoc on habitats, leading to the demise of critically-endangered species such as the Sumatran tiger, the Asian rhinoceros and the Sumatran Orangutan.
As the demand for palm oil has grown over the past several decades—mostly in Indonesia and Malaysia, which now produces roughly 85% of palm oil worldwide—the industry evolved in a way that favored large corporations, huge plantations and a focus on profit, regardless of ecological, cultural or social impacts. Basically more factory farming BS.
BUT palm oil production can actually empower farmers and communities, save energy and resources, protect animals and promote healthy and diverse land.
Though that may seem like a fantasy world, it already exists on a small scale. The palm oil produced is used in cruelty-free products you may know. I have listed a few brands at the end of this post.
Even the WWF (World Wildlife Fund) says not to cut out palm oil.
“Boycotts of palm oil will neither protect nor restore the rainforest, whereas companies undertaking actions for a more sustainable palm oil industry are contributing to a long-lasting and transparent solution.”
So what is palm oil?
Palm oil comes from the fruit of the African oil palm, Elaesis Guineensis, one of the two main fruit-bearing tropical palm species (the other being Cocos Nucifera, which produces coconuts). Oil palms begin producing fruit once they are 3-4 years old, yet will continue to grow and produce year-round for up to forty years (which means year-round employment for farmers). As the oil palm grows, it sends out a new set of leaves from the tip of the trunk, which then forms flowers that turn into fruit clusters (in industry terms, these are called fresh fruit bunches, or FFB).
Palm oil is found in roughly half of the consumer products found in an average American home.
Yes, it’s true.
You can find palm oil (or palm kernel oil) in margarine, non-dairy creamers, vegan products, ice cream, cookies, cereals, chocolate, pizza dough, bread, soaps, detergents, greases, lubricants, candles, personal care and cosmetics (mainly palm kernel oil), bactericides, pharmaceuticals, water treatment products, pet food, animal feed, and biofuel.
The list literally goes on.
Palm oil is not always labeled as “palm oil”. There is a list over 200 ingredients that you will definitely recognize which can mean palm oil. It is often called “vegetable oil”. Palm sugar does not come from the African palm.
You may think, why not just stop using so much palm? Valid question. But there are good reasons palm is so popular, and good reasons for choosing palm over other oils.
At room temperature, palm oil naturally has the texture & plasticity of hydrogenated corn or soy oils without forming harmful trans
Resistant to oxidation & rancidity, & can extend the shelf life of other ingredients in a product
Can take high heat without oxidizing
Doesn’t have the greasy mouthfeel that other vegetable oils do
Blends well with other vegetable oils
Provides an alternative to butter for vegans and vegetarians
Red palm oil contains high concentrations of antioxidants, including carotenoids & tocotrienol compounds of the Vitamin E complex
Can improve the functionality of natural soaps & other cleaning products
Is a sustainable alternative to petroleum ingredients in cosmetics
Is a great emollient (soothing, softening property) in lotions & balms
Anti-thrombotic (thrombosis is the formation of blood clots in blood vessels & veins)
When done right, it is the highest yielding vegetable oil on the planet, producing 5-10 times more oil per acre compared to other commodity oils like soybean or Canola.
Oil palms produce more oil per hectare (1 heactare = about 2.5 acres, 100 hectares = 1 square kilometer) than any other oil source on the planet.
My boyfriend, you may have seen him on Snapchat, is originally from Sierra Leone, West Africa. Palm oil is a STAPLE in African cooking. A popular brand in the U.S. called African Best Choice is produced in Sierra Leone. When he first bought a container of it (they literally sell palm oil in jugs) I was SUPER grossed out, hesitant, and thinking about the orangutans. But I was ignorant and began to learn about how natural, beneficial, and prevalent the oil actually is. So I decided to do some digging and came across an initiative called Palm Done Right.
The first step toward a solution started with RSPO, the Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil. The RSPO was founded in 2004 in response to the rampant destruction by palm done wrong.
RSPO offers 4 levels of certification with varying degrees of traceability.
1. Book & claim
2. Mass balance
4. Identity preserved
Of these, only the Identity Preserved level is fully traceable, which means full accountability at each step of the process. Within the past decade, though, a handful of companies have chosen to go beyond RSPO Identity Preserved to create truly sustainable, organic, fair trade palm oil traceable throughout the supply chain.
Palm Done Right is a way of doing business. They put standards and guidelines in place to make sure palm is always done right…not just sometimes.
SUMMARY: Shop products and brands with sustainable and/or Palm Done Right palm oil (such as Dunkin Donuts—my personal favorite and Whole Earth). Know what brands use palm oil not certified and/or produced in southeast Asia (such as Cadbury Bunny, PepsiCo, Pizza Hut, KFC, & Taco Bell).
What was your perception of palm oil? What did you gain from this post?
Post a comment or question below and don’t hesitate to share this post and help create a cycle of sustainable palm oil 😘
& remember to allow your authentic self to empower the women around you