Going Palm Oil Free
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Palm Oil Is Nasty Business
So what’s the deal with Palm Oil? Maybe you’ve been hearing about it, as it slowly gains notoriety, but perhaps you’re not sure as to the why? Well, bottom line is that a lot of the palm oil out there represents some wretched industrial practices (check out The Corporation for more on industrial motivations). It has helped perpetuate the destruction of global forests and resulted in the severe endangerment of wildlife (see Audubon.org), especially the orangutan.
Despite this nasty track record however, palm oil is still in high demand (Worldwatch Institute). Although it’s not exactly an obvious ingredient, it has somehow managed its way into a wide variety of our daily products and snack food. Indeed, the human diet has a significant impact on the world and climate change, and palm oil is no exception.
A Brief Palm Oil Explanation – An Animation
A Conflict Substance
In short, palm oil can be used in cookies, cereals, and snack bars to help preserve the product or potentially as a filler to cut costs. While not all palm oil is bad, there is a significant amount of conflict palm oil that is responsible for the destruction of ancient forests, as well as rainforests in Indonesia (Years of Living Dangerously).
Once you learn about the harm it is causing the planet, you certainly want to lay off the palm oil, but admittedly, it can be tough to let go. For starters, you need to know which of the products you buy actually contain the stuff. The WWF has a pretty helpful guide (click here). In additions, it can also go by other, less obvious names.
Finally, when you do learn that there’s dubious palm oil in the product, it helps when there are better alternatives. Now I personally don’t go for Kit Kat’s or candy bars for other ethical reasons (learn more about Nestle’s Horrible Practices), so it wasn’t so much of a stretch for me to avoid it where I can.
Growing Up with the Stuff
Of particular note however was a childhood favorite in the Italian staple of Nutella chocolate spread. Nutella is tasty goodness, and often brought up fond memories of summers spent with my grandparents in Italy. Letting go of this occasional indulgence was a little more difficult.
Not that Nutella and I were on a daily, but every once in a while, it was nice to have. Still, I thought of the rainforests and I was able to get past it. Or at least, I thought I was past it, until recently, when I had begun to contemplate offering my own son his first encounter with the chocolatey morning experience.
There Are Alternatives
That’s when I discovered Witor’s by chance in an “internationally” branded store here in Tokyo. This totally made my day! I had been holding back from the Nutella as a result of my deep concern for such devastating palm oil practices, but finding an alternative to one of my childhood treats was pretty sweet!
I was definitely excited to give it a try. More importantly, I was also happy to be able to introduce our son to his first taste of the chocolatey goodness;) Sustainable success!
Naturally, I wanted to share with others my discovery and encourage readers to look for alternatives. They do exist! Also, the extra little bit of effort on your part does make the find that much sweeter. It’s certainly worth it.
Save the Orangutan
My own primary motivation for avoiding the palm oil is the endangering of the orangutan. They are being killed off and burnt out of their homes, as their natural habitats are cleared to make way for palm oil plantations. These little creatures totally stole my heart, and when I learnt that palm oil was essentially killing them off, I knew I couldn’t have anymore.
My wife and I only learned more about the danger to orangutans after our son was born (we certainly watched a lot of documentaries those first few months), and we couldn’t help but make the connection with our own son. Looking into the eyes of a young orangutans you can’t help but acknowledge the similarity with an infant human.
To think that we are hurting these creatures for a product that we don’t really need is truly heartbreaking. Thankfully, more and more people are recognizing this, and there are initiatives for corporations to purchase sustainable palm oil. I would encourage you to take the time to learn what’s in the products you use and opt to support the organizations that are trying to do good.