Simple Solutions: How To Avoid Palm Oil

This is a guest blog post by Tammy Logan from Gippsland Unwrapped

The plastic free and zero waste movements have affected me like no other. My decision to reject packaging continues to reveal benefits I hadn't anticipated. It's become clear that my simple actions to reduce waste are helping fight species extinction beyond our oceans. This is because my package free choices also turn out to be palm oil free choices.

While palm oil is the most efficient source of vegetable oil (the amount of oil produced per hectare per year is far greater than other vegetable oils, meaning less land is needed to grow it), the unsustainable clearing of tropical rainforests in Indonesia and Malaysia for palm oil has forced indigenous people off their land, contributed to climate change and led to loss of habitat for endangered species like orang-utans, tigers, elephants, and rhinos, driving them to the brink of extinction. Sadly, on Friday 8 July 2016 the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) declared that the Bornean Orang-utan now joins the Sumatran Orang-utan as Critically Endangered. This is a desperate situation as these orang-utans are likely to be extinct in the next 10 years. That is a crime I am not willing to be part of!

Read more: 1 Million Women goes to Sumatra to investigate palm oil

The palm oil problem has been on my radar for a number of years but it wasn't until I read that palm oil is estimated to occur in fifty percent of all packaged supermarket products that I started thinking about palm oil and my current situation. Was it possible that by avoiding packaging and supermarkets I had eliminated products containing unsustainable palm oil from my home? It was highly likely as there are only a handful of products in my home that I don't make myself or use as a single ingredient (for example beeswax, vinegar, bicarb soda, coconut oil, salt, and other pantry staples). Elated, I began investigating whether the few premade products I buy contain unsustainable palm oil.

Establishing whether palm oil is present is not as easy as checking the list of ingredients because it appears under 200 names including Vegetable Oil, Vegetable Fat, Palmitate, Glyceryl, and Sodium Lauryl Sulfate. If you want to make it easier to make informed choices and stop contributing to species extinction, add your name to Zoos Victoria's call to support palm oil labelling. It's also important to acknowledge that 18% of the worlds palm oil supplies have been certified sustainable which means the palm oil is fully traceable and meets the standards of the Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO). Sustainable Palm Oil is a better option than a complete boycott of all palm oil because it creates rural employment helping to lift people out of poverty. Try using Palm Oil Investigation's barcode scanner to identify products containing palm oil.

1 Million Women is empowering women and girls around the world to lower their impact on the planet. If you love what we do, please support our work by donating a couple of dollars. For the price of a cuppa, you can help us inspire millions more! (click to donate)

My investigations found that six of the nine premade products I buy do not contain palm oil. The other three are easy to give up or find alternatives for until the companies adequately embrace Certified Sustainable Palm Oil (CSPO). Now that I have exercised my buying power to vote for CSPO, and added my name to the call for changes to legislation to identify palm oil, I will be making my preferences known to companies which don't support CSPO. Going forward I will continue to monitor products entering my home to ensure we don't support unsustainable palm oil production and I will pursue further opportunities to make a difference.

Tammy Logan is the zero waster behind Gippsland Unwrapped, a blog committed to the pursuit of waste free living. Tammy combines her experience in conservation biology and community engagement with country living to deliver a practical approach to waste free family life. Tammy likes to show how fulfilling sustainable living is and that as consumers, our buying power can be a strong force for positive change.

Read next: Not on the sustainable palm oil bandwagon yet? this might convince you