Palm oil is a topic that sparks a lot of controversy, and these days many people are trying to avoid it. Did you know that not all palm oil is bad though? Sustainable palm oil is making a change.
What is Palm Oil?
Palm Oil is an edible vegetable oil that comes from the fruit of oil palm trees, the scientific name is Elaeis Guineensis. Two types of oil can be produced, crude palm oil and palm kernel oil. Crude palm oil comes from the fruit of the palm tree, palm kernel oil comes from crushing the kernel, or stone in the middle of the fruit.
Where is Palm Oil Found?
Palm oil is in many products – 50% of packaged products in the grocery store contains palm oil. Everything from pizza, doughnuts, and chocolate, to deodorant, shampoo, toothpaste, and lipstick. It is also used in feed and as a biofuel in many parts of the world.
Why is Palm Oil Everywhere?
Palm oil is an extremely versatile oil that has many different properties that make it useful. For example, it is semi-solid at room temperature so it can keep spreads spreadable, it is resistant to oxidation so it can give products a longer shelf life, it’s odorless and colourless so it doesn’t alter the look or taste of foods. In Asian and African countries palm oil is used widely as a cooking oil, just like we might use coconut oil or olive oil. Besides being versatile, compared to other vegetable oils, palm oil is a very efficient crop. It can produce high quantities of oil over small areas of land almost all year round.
What is the Problem with Palm Oil?
So why do people try to avoid palm oil? It continues to be a major driver of deforestation of some of the world’s most biodiverse forests, destroying the habitat of endangered species like the Orangutan, Pygmy Elephant, and
Sumatran Rhino. This forest loss coupled with conversion of carbon rich peat soils are throwing out millions of tonnes of greenhouse gases into the atmosphere and contributing to climate change. But it doesn’t have to be this way.
How can Palm Oil be Grown Sustainably?
Sustainable palm oil can make businesses profitable while not harming people, animals or the environment. To achieve this, palm oil majors have adopted policies over the past few years that promise no deforestation, no peat development, and no exploitation. (Read more here)
Baraka Shea Butter shared their story of palm oil and how they have found a way to help the community. They realized that in Western Ghana there was a lot of degraded forest lands that had been harvested and not replanted. After having consultations with the community and government, they set up a project to convert these degraded lands to small-holder palm oil operations and provided training, support, and resources to help local families take them over. Every bit of Baraka Palm Oil is hand-grown and harvested by small-holder farmers.
(Read more here on Baraka’s story)
We believe in using sustainable palm oil that comes from Africa (which is not Orangutan habitat) and is certified by The Round Table on Sustainable Palm Oil. The sustainable palm oil industry provides desperately needed jobs for people which helps families and communities and does not destroy animal habitat. Please read labels and ask questions to make sure the palm oil in your products is sustainable.
All resources used in this article have been listed below.