Being environmentally conscious consumers in today's age is no small task as there have become more and more things to consider when we try and shop responsibly.
Was this product made locally? Is this company ethical? Was this product tested on animals? Were pesticides used on this product? I try and consider all of these questions and more when I shop, but since learning about the devastation of palm oil, my priorities when it comes to making environmentally conscious consumer decisions have been rearranged.
The mass of deforestation and habitat destruction caused by harvesting palm oil is simply mind boggling, not to mention the greenhouse gas emissions contributed by the industry. The sumatran rainforest has never been so frail and many of it's species face extinction as a result of the destruction of their habitat due to palm oil harvesting
The reality of palm oil is hard to avoid. It is in almost half the items in the supermarket and appears in some of the most commonly used household brands. It's practically unavoidable. And to make matters worse, palm oil is labeled on ingredient lists in over 25 different ways making it extremely difficult to identify and make an informed decision.
After learning about the serious environmental damaged caused by palm oil harvesting, buying products without palm oil became my priority when I went grocery shopping. It proved to be difficult and time consuming but it helped me to become a more conscious consumer.
Many people have told me that you can buy products that source their palm oil sustainably, but my research on this has led me to believe that the standards of sustainable palm oil just aren't good enough. The Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil set these standards 10 years ago and the requirements are weak. Additionally, several companies with certification continue to clear cut forests to make room for palm oil plantations.
It's strange to think about how thoroughly palm oil has infiltrated our lives; our dependence on the product has never been so strong. But the fact is it wasn't always like this. Our use of palm oil has quadrupled over the past 20 years, a very short amount of time for such an increase in demand. But it can't continue like this because soon the Sumatran rainforest will be gone, taking with it hundreds of animal species.
Something needs to be done to stop this and I think the conscious consumers are the one's who can do it. it starts with informing ourselves about what palm oil is, the destruction it's causing, and how to identify it in our food. Once we have this knowledge, we can apply it to our consumer habits and refuse to buy products containing palm oil. We also need to spread the word on palm oil to our friends and family and inspire them to adopt similar consumer habits. We need to demand that palm oil is labeled clearly on all products and that the Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil raise its standards. With enough public pressure, the palm oil industry will be forced to clean up their act and cease converting rainforest into plantations. And lastly, we need to invest in sustainable palm oil alternatives. It is this type of action that the conscious consumer can inspire.
While my experience of shopping palm oil free was difficult, it is definitely something I plan on committing to because the environmental benefits outweigh the extra time spent reading labels at the supermarket. Not to mention, avoiding palm oil has forced me to make more healthy choices and reduced my purchases of packaged items. As a student working with a student budget, I'll admit that it's easier to choose the cheapest options; but the longterm benefits of environmentally conscious consuming is definitely worth it in the long run. Besides, I want my grandchildren to be able to see the Sumatran orangutan one day too!
1 Million Women is going to Sumatra
This November, 1 Million Women is organising an amazing, eye-opening trip to the Sumatran Jungle. This is our first ever fundraising trek.Our co-CEOs Nat and Tara, along with 13 other passionate women we'll be experiencing the impacts of palm oil firsthand and get the chance to see the last remaining Sumatran Orangutans in their ever-diminishing habitat.
They'll visit the Sumatran Orangutan Conservation Programme, see how local Orangutans are being rehabilitated back to the wild, they'll be planting trees, visiting a sustainably farmed coffee plantation and meeting the local women and hear their stories.