Palm Oil, the world's most prevalent, yet hidden food and cosmetic ingredient, is one of the biggest and fastest growing industries in the world! It's in over 50% of packaged products in the U.S. and it's quietly causing destruction and devastation in our world's rainforests. Still, it's found in a wide variety of food and cosmetics, including ice cream, shampoo, soap, and even lipstick. Today, we're uncovering the ugly truth about Palm Oil and why we adamantly avoid it, plus our favorite Palm oil-free alternatives! Below are six really good reasons to avoid Palm Oil and support Palm Oil-free products instead.
1. Mass Deforestation
First off, the countries who are responsible for the majority of the world's Palm oil production - Indonesia and Malaysia - have no regulations in place to address how the oil is harvested or produced, or how this process impacts the environment. With no laws or regulations in place, the Palm oil industry grows by literally burning the world's most precious resource - it's rainforests - to the ground.
Across Southeast Asia, as well as Latin America and Africa, huge tracts of rainforests are being bulldozed or torched in order to make room for giant Palm oil plantations. At the same time, massive amounts of carbon are being released into the atmosphere, further contributing to climate change. Indonesia, for example, is now the 3rd highest greenhouse gas emitter in the world due in large part to the burning of its rainforests.
The World Wildlife Fund estimates that an area of rainforest the size of 300 football fields is torched every minute (!!!) for Palm oil production.
2. Human Rights Abuses
The Palm oil industry is also rife with human rights abuses. For example, the Indonesian and Malaysian governments often sell plots of land belonging to indigenous people over to large corporations for the sake of Palm oil production. Local farmers and families are forced out of their homes and forced out of work as these large corporations move in and destroy the natural land and rainforest on which these local people rely.
Displaced and out of work, many of these people then have little choice but to work for the very corporations that displaced them. Forced to work on these large Palm Oil plantations, they are faced with poor working conditions and extremely poor pay. Oftentimes, children are also forced to work and receive little to no pay in return.
3. Orangutan Endangerment and Extinction
Apparently, it gets even worse because along with mass deforestation and human rights abuses, the Palm oil industry brings with it a slew of other heart-breaking consequences. Borneo and Sumatra, the only two places in the world where Orangutans are native and endemic, have experienced a massive expansion of Palm oil plantations.
Over 50,000 Orangutans have been killed since 1999, with up to 5,000 now being killed every year due to the destruction of the rainforest. It's estimated that Orangutans have had over 90% of their habitat destroyed by the Palm oil industry in just the last 20 years. The United Nations has declared the situation a "conservation emergency" and researchers now believe that Orangutans will be extinct in as little as ten years.
4. Endangerment and Extinction of Other Species
While the Orangutans suffer greatly at the hands of this industry, other species, both plant and animal, are suffering harsh negative consequences as well. Orangutans are vital to the overall health and biodiversity of the ecosystem as they carry and distribute seeds throughout the rainforest. As Orangutans move closer and closer to extinction, so too does the rainforest itself. Other animal species in these regions, such as elephants and tigers, are dwindling in numbers as well. This is both due to habitat destruction and due to eager poachers who can now readily access these creatures without the protection of the dense rainforest.
5. Heavily Refined
Most of the Palm Oil used in food, cosmetics, and other products, is heavily refined. This refining process diminishes or even eliminates, the nutrient profile of the Oil. Therefore, Refined oils have significantly lower levels of vitamins and nutrients than the plant itself and are more difficult for our bodies to digest or obtain nutritional value from.
6. Oxidation & Potential Toxicity
Granted, this study is not very recent, but a study published in 1999 found that oxidized Palm Oil "induces reproductive toxicity and organotoxicity particularly of the kidneys, lungs, liver and heart." This is true for many oxidized oils, and when it comes to purchasing Palm oil or using Palm oil products, there's no easy way of knowing whether the Palm Oil found in a product is oxidized and to what extent. Researchers have found that "a considerable amount of the commonly used Palm Oil is in the oxidized state." This potential for toxicity is just one more reason (as if we needed another) to avoid this sneaky ingredient.
PALM OIL DERIVATIVES
Palm oil does not always appear in products in it's raw or refined form. It often appears in the form of a Palm oil derivative - a product that is not Palm oil, but that comes from Palm oil.
Because of this, Palm oil isn't always clearly labeled and appears under many names. Any of the following ingredients found on your food or cosmetic labels indicates that a product almost certainly contains Palm oil or a Palm oil derivative:
Some of the most common Palm oil derivatives are Retinyl Palmitate - a commonly used form of retinol or vitamin A - and Sodium Lauryl Sulfate, commonly found in detergents, cleansers, toothpaste, and household products.
To avoid contributing to this industry, you want to look for products that don't contain these ingredients. In cases where you're unable to find Palm oil-free alternatives (ie. bar soap) at your local stores, request them! When it comes to tried and true brands, even health food/snack brands, that use Palm oil, it doesn't hurt to reach out and let them know you wish they were Palm oil-free! While it seems that these small changes don't make much of an impact, when each of us do our small part, they add and things change.
A great place to start going Palm oil-free is in your beauty and skincare products. We are proud to be 100% Palm Oil and Palm Oil derivative-free, so you never have to worry about supporting such a damaging industry when you shop. You can find Palm oil-free bar soaps here, a Palm Oil-free anti-aging retinol serum here, and more Palm oil-free skin treats here!