Food Politics + Justice

Published on March 13th, 2014 | by Guest Contributor


Palm Oil Deforestation and What You Can Do

by Calen May-Tobin, lead analyst for Union of Concerned Scientists Tropical Forest and Climate Initiative

Palm Oil Deforestation and What You Can Do

Palm oil deforestation is destroying habitats and polluting our air and water. What can we do as consumers to make a difference?

Traveling through Indonesia last year, the impacts of palm oil were hard to miss. Flying over Sumatra, I saw mile after mile of palm oil plantations. Across the landscape, I saw plumes of smoke rising into the sky, visual reminders of the carbon dioxide pollution the palm oil industry continuously spews into our ever-warming atmosphere.

Related Reading: Greenpeace Blocks Palm Oil Ships to Highlight Deforestation, Palm Oil Plantations, Orangutan Extinction, and Vegan Butter Supporting Neither, The Sad Truth About Palm Oil and a Solution

At a primate rescue center on Borneo, I saw dozens of baby orangutans, orphaned when their forest homes were destroyed and their mothers killed to make way for oil palm plantations. But the most surprising reminder of palm oil deforestation was the Dunkin’ Donut I ate in the Jakarta airport.

Palm oil is in thousands of products, like soaps, snack bars, and deodorant from some of America’s top brands. These are brands you use daily. Brands we know and love. These are the brands that, when you’re hot and tired from a month in a country thousands of miles from home, where you don’t speak the language and don’t know your way around and feel so overwhelmed, you turn to for a sense of comfort. This was my exact thought as I dove into my Bavarian Kreme Donut.

Palm Oil Deforestation and What You Can Do

Palm Oil Deforestation: What You Can Do

It is nearly impossible for us to know if the products we buy contain palm oil linked to deforestation. While not all palm oil is bad, companies need to do more to ensuring that the palm oil they use is 100 percent deforestation- and peat-free.

If you’d like to know which brands are taking serious steps to address palm oil deforestation, check out the Union of Concerned Scientists new report “Doughnuts, Deodorant, Deforestation: Scoring America’s Top Brands on Their Palm Oil Commitments.” While you’re at it tell some of these companies to clean up their act. These companies hold the fate of the world’s forests in their hands. It’s up to you to tell them to do the right thing.

Image Credits: Orangutans photo via Shutterstock, Deforestation photo via Union of Concerned Scientists

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