Everything you need to know about palm oil

Everything you need to know about palm oil
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By Alexandra Perry, Head of West Section at Shepreth Wildlife Park

The spread of palm oil plantations is one of the leading causes of deforestation in Southeast Asia. With global production doubling in just the last decade, rainforests are disappearing, chasing a huge number of species including orangutans, rhinos, tigers and many more towards the brink of extinction. However, palm oil is far from a simple issue.

Compared to many other crops, palm oil generates significantly higher yields for the amount of resources it takes to produce, both in terms of land and fertiliser. Because of this, simply boycotting palm oil is not the solution, as whichever crop replaced it would require even more space and resources.

Relatively speaking, this makes palm oil the “environmentally friendly” option! The revenue from palm oil can help to raise people out of poverty and we cannot hope to have true conservation while people are struggling to meet even the most basic of needs. So palm oil is here to stay.

Due to its versatility palm oil is now found in nearly half of all supermarket products, ranging from toiletries to biscuits. The choices you make when doing your weekly shop really do make a difference. By exercising our power as consumers we can act as a driving force towards making palm oil more sustainable, and reducing its impact on the environment.

Here’s how you can make a difference:

  • Don’t boycott palm oil! Instead, buy products which contain sustainable palm oil. When you’re in the shops, look out for the following logo from RSPO (Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil)
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  • Labelling isn’t always clear! Some companies which use sustainable palm oil do not advertise it on their products. So if you have items that you buy regularly, find out if the companies that make them are signed up to sustainable palm oil. Chester Zoo has compiled a great list of companies signed up to sustainable palm oil and Rainforest Foundation UK also has a very comprehensive list of products and companies in their 2017 Palm Oil Guide, available to download here.
  • And finally, make your wishes known. If you love a certain product, but it is not produced using sustainable palm oil, let the company know why you’ve stopped buying it. Tweet them or email them - companies want to please their consumers, so let them know that sustainability is a priority for you.

The most important thing to remember is that making these changes needn’t be hard. If the idea of trawling through every product is simply too much, then make the changes gradually. By changing just a couple of products each week for more sustainable options you really can make a difference.

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