Palm oil is probably a part of your day whether you know it or not. It’s likely you’ve eaten it, cleaned yourself with it, put it in your underarms and maybe even decorated your face with it.
The inexpensive vegetable oil is a popular ingredient in cosmetics, toiletries, soaps and many foods. It comes from palm fruit flesh and even from the fruit’s kernels which have multiple uses of their own: animals eat them, machines are fueled by them and furniture is made from them.
The good news:
Palm oil can be very efficiently produced. Using the same amount of land, palm oil can produce 10 times more than most other vegetable oils.
The disturbing news:
Most palm oil is not being produced efficiently, causing problems like displacement, deforestation, and species endangerment. Countries that produce large amounts of palm oil, like Malaysia and Indonesia, are experiencing the devastation in drastic ways.
What can you do about it?
Here’s one idea: read your labels so you can shop smart. As of 2011 some companies are beginning to display logos to inform the public that they are committed to sustainable solutions for palm oil.
One of these groups, Roundtable for Sustainable Palm Oil, lists companies and groups that have signed on as supporters. You may find some familiar names here: http://www.rspo.org/?q=glossarymember. Or go to their main page to check out two product logo options: http://www.rspo.org/.
So if you’re willing to be a little pickier about what you put in your shopping cart, you can promote a change of scenery in Malaysia, Indonesia, and the shelves of your local drugstore.