Reasons to Support Sustainable Palm Oil Suppliers

A couple of days ago I received an email from asking me to sign a petition to encourage the Girl Scouts of America to remove palm oil from its list of ingredients due to environmental concerns. Why? Because none of the palm oil in them comes from sustainable palm oil suppliers. My daughter is a Girl Scout…thus requiring me to buy and eat large quantities of said cookies but I signed the petition anyhow. As long as my Samoas are still tasty I am all for making them more environmentally friendly! Then, I started wondering…what exactly is it that makes palm oil so bad for the environment? I decided to do a little bit of research and was actually rather amazed at what I learned. While I can’t really stop buying Girl Scout cookies, I will definitely be supporting sustainable palm oil suppliers in my other food purchases. 

Reasons to Support Sustainable Palm Oil Suppliers

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Choosing sustainable palm oil suppliers
There is a difference between what you imagine to be a ‘classic’ palm tree on the beach and oil palm trees. Oil palms are shorter and slightly squatter with palm oil fruits instead of coconuts. So, why are oil palms bad for the environment? Because in order to grow the number of trees needed to mass produce this oil, rainforests are getting clearcut to make way for large oil palm plantations. Almost all oil palms are grown as an industrial plantation crop in Malaysia and Indonesia. And palm oil is a HUGE business, especially since the government declared a war on trans fats a few years ago. Palm oil is a cheap NON-trans fat oil that can be used in an assortment of baked goods. Does this mean it’s healthier? Palm oil is actually high in saturated fats so I certainly wouldn’t think so. The key word in the previous sentence is CHEAP. Think you don’t eat palm oil? Think again. It is in most of the store bought baked goods you buy. So, yes….you really do need to worry about sustainable palm oil!

Choosing sustainable palm oil suppliers

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 And don’t think that just because you are eating organic that you won’t have to worry about it. During my research, I came across many well known organic and natural food producers that include palm oil in their products. Not naming names here but go ahead and check the ingredient list on the back of your next package of organic cookies! If a brand uses sustainable palm oil suppliers, you will usually see that noted in the ingredient list. 

Palm Oil FruitChoosing sustainable palm oil suppliers

Think About This:  According to the Lipid Library, in 2009/10 the US imported 1 million TONS of palm oil. That palm oil comes from trees grown on over 42,000 square miles of oil palm plantations. In Indonesia and Malaysia,  plantations are usually created in newly cleared rainforest and peat-swamp forests  instead of on already cleared land like old rice paddies or old plantations. Why? Because it costs much more to rehabilitate previously used agricultural land than it does to clear new land.  Again, it all comes down to almighty dollar!
These oil palm plantations are essentially a barren wasteland to everything but the oil palms. There are no other plants or animals that thrive in this type of environment. Deforestation causes soil erosion and sedimentation in rivers and streams, waste water contamination from mill runoff, rising greenhouse gas emissions, and loss of habitat for many endangered species. According to the Center for Science in the Public Interest, in addition to being the leading producers of palm oil, Malaysia and Indonesia also have some of the longest lists of threatened and endangered wildlife. What a coincidence, right?

Choosing sustainable palm oil suppliers
So, what can you do to help reduce our reliance on an oil that is contributing to the loss of the rainforest and threatening so many endangered species? Here are a few suggestions:
  • Download the One Green Planet-Responsible Palm Oil Shopping Guide   Read your ingredient labels before you buy. You may be able to find a perfectly tasty alternative to your current palm oil containing snack.
  • Make a donation to the Nature Conservancy which is working with farmers in Indonesia to help them learn how to develop plantations without rainforest destruction.
  • Check out the Palm Oil Action Group for more information. You can find palm oil free shopping guides and volunteer opportunities, as well as other organizations to donate to. Get started with the latest activist materials and support sustainable palm oil suppliers.
  • Read more about the issue on the Roundtable for Sustainable Palm Oil page.
This issue is much bigger than just the next box of Thin Mints that I buy from my daughter’s Girl Scout troop…WAY bigger! Can I avoid ALL conventionally produced palm oil? Probably not. However, keep in mind that we vote with our dollar. Choosing sustainable palm oil suppliers and buying brands that use sustainable palm oil whenever possible is a step in the right direction.
Have you ever noticed a sustainable palm oil label on your packaged foods?

Here are a few more ways to make sustainable kitchen choices!

The Sustainable Kitchen


3 thoughts on “Reasons to Support Sustainable Palm Oil Suppliers”

  1. I’ve been working on purchasing eco-friendly beauty products and palm oil is everywhere! We are so dependent on palm oil, yet we have no idea how harmful it can be to the environment. I hope more people become aware of palm oil and what they can do to reduce their use of it. Thanks for bringing people’s awareness to it when it comes to food. I also appreciate your resources and plan to look through them to use for future reference.

    • Glad you found the post helpful. It really is everywhere. I like that I am seeing some brands specifically include only sustainably sourced palm oil. It is a start….


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