When we hear bad press about Palm Oil, we think of the Orangutans who are rapidly becoming homeless and at risk of extinction. But is it motivating you to rethink what is in your food and cosmetic products?
In Indonesia and Borneo, the single biggest threat to the Orangutan population is habitat loss. It is estimated that in the past 20 years over 50,000 orangutans have died and are on the brink of extinction. This is due to the expansion of the palm oil industry and, as a result, forests and conservation areas that have been cleared for palm oil production doubled between 2000-2010. In Indonesia between 2000-2010, an area of 498,000 ha of rainforest was cleared for the industry which is equivalent to 55 rugby fields per hour!
The palm oil industry is booming. 80% is made up of food products such as vegetable oil, ice cream, chocolate, chips, baked goods and even fruit juice. The cosmetic industry use it in most soaps, shampoos, toothpastes, moisturisers, laundry powders and detergents.
Sustainable production is at a mere 14% and only half of that is sold to manufacturers. At the beginning of 2014, some of the bigger Australian manufacturers moved to Mass Balance which is a combination of unsustainably sourced Palm Oil and certified sustainable.
The benefits of Palm Oil are many. These include:
- anti-ageing properties found in Vitamin E
-removes oil and dirt from the skin
- conditions the skin, keeping it nice and supple
- it is odourless and colourless which makes it an easy and versatile additive.
- it's edible and the most common form of vegetable oil
Of course like everything there are alternatives such as cosmetic grade clays and essential oils which give the same benefits, they just may not all be found in one particular ingredient.
CSPO or Certified Sustainable Palm Oil is produced according to a set of environmental and social criteria, so no new areas can be cleared for Palm Oil production. This certification process is currently the most acceptable solution available. Until Australian consumers start to put pressure on the market to shift to sustainable production, the industry will continue to threaten the Orangutan population.
According to onegreenplanet.org, researchers at the University of Bath have developed an oily yeast which mimics palm oils most sought after properties. Unlike plants which need to be grown under specific conditions in a large area of land, the yeast can grow by being fed any form of organic feedstock!
So how can we as the consumer send a message to manufacturers that we will no longer tolerate unsustainable Palm Oil production? Only purchase products with the CSPO logo or choose Palm Oil-free products. Borneo Orangutan Survival Australia also have adoption programs which people can sponsor an orphaned Orangutan and their dedicated "nannies" teach them everything they need to know before releasing them into the wild. The organization also accepts donations.
For more information visit www.orangutans.com.au