Going Palm Oil Free

Going Palm Oil Free

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

Palm oil can be used in cookies, cereals, snack bars, and a plethora of other packages items. It helps to preserve the product, or can be used as a potential filler for lowering item costs. While not all palm oil is bad, there is a significant amount of conflict palm oil out there. Its cultivation is responsible for the destruction of a number of ancient forests, as well as that of 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. However, even after you’ve decided you’ve had enough of it, it can be tough to avoid. 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 addition, 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. Personally, I already 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 could.


Growing Up with the Stuff

Of particular note however was a favorite childhood treat. Nutella chocolate spread. It’s pretty much a staple item in Italian homes. Nutella is tasty goodness, and it 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 only recently, when I had begun to contemplate offering my son his first encounter with the chocolatey morning experience.

Witor's, a palm oil free alternative to Nutella.
Witor’s “La Nocciola” Chocolate Spread adopts sustainable practices and is palm oil free!

There Are Alternatives

That’s when I discovered Witor’s! I came across it by chance in an “internationally” branded store here in Tokyo. It 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!

Our toddler approves of the palm oil free chocolate hazelnut spread.
Click to learn more about the history of Italy’s chocolate spread;)

Child Approved

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.😉 Sustainability 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.

This cute baby orangutan is totally impacted by palm oil farming.
Click this adorable image to learn more about what you can do to help Save the Orangutan.

Save the Orangutan

My own primary motivation for avoiding the palm oil is the endangering of the orangutan. They’re being killed off and burnt out of their homes. 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 about the danger to orangutans shortly after our son was born (we watched a lot of documentaries those first few months). Look into the eyes of an infant orangutan and you can’t help but acknowledge the similarity with a human baby. Of course, we made the connection with our own son.

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.


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