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By Emmajo Haslam

The many faces of Palm Oil; Think before you leap.

You would have to live under a rock to not have seen the banned Iceland Advert on social media over the last few days. I saw this advert in the cinema about 6 weeks ago and shared it across my social media. I didn’t quite get the same response as Iceland!

I hadn’t planned on writing my second blog quite so quickly. However,  given the amazing opportunities I have had recently and the the hot topic of Palm Oil on the news,  I would have been silly to to share this with you. 

My intention is not to baffle you with knowledge, but to help make you a more informed consumer; therein lies our power. 

Palm Oil is something that has been on my radar for several years. It’s a bit like the plastic problem; for years activists have been warning of the impact that it has been having on the planet, but it takes a main stream catalyst for people to listen.

The banned Iceland Foods Christmas Advert

It took David Attenborough to make people SEE the Plastic problem. It was there long before Blue Planet II aired. It has taken Iceland Foods to give the Greenpeace advert the air time it rightly deserves.

Deforestation is the main issue here, the rainforest is cut down to make way for the Palm Oil plantations, in the same way that they are cut down for Soy. 

I was very fortunate to be invited to the Eden Projects Community Camp in September this year. As part of the visit we had a guided tour of the Biomes (I highly recommend having a guide!) We had an amazing “Story teller” show our group round.  They are so much more than a tour guide. His passion shone through to simply put the issues behind Palm Oil in terms that everyone can understand. 

Epic Eden Project Story Teller

In October this year I had the pleasure of meeting Richard Walker, the MD of Iceland Foods, his warmth and genuine respect for our planet totally won me over. Although we were both at a conference for the Surfers Against Sewage Reps on Plastics, Richard and I actually had a conversation about Palm Oil. We discussed the work that Iceland have been doing to ensure they are a responsible business in all area. They are a company that is not scared to rock the big business boat when it comes to what is ethically the right thing to do!!

The passionate and forward thinking Richard Walker

Iceland “UK’s smallest national food retailer, accounting for just over 2% of the total grocery market.” For many years Iceland Foods has insisted that all of its own brand foods only used RSPO-certified sustainable palm oil. 

 Although Iceland has made the decision to remove ALL Palm oil from its own brand labels, Richard states We’re not against palm oil. What we are against is deforestation.”

Palm Oil

Palm Oil as a product has done doing great things for the food industry. The fruit of the oil palm produces far more oil than other vegetables therefore it takes less land per litre to produce its oil. Simply shifting to an alternative vegetable oil replacement may shift the problems to other areas of the world, in turn creating further problems.

Consumer Power

So what are the alternatives as a consumer? We need to choose items that contain RSPO Certified Palm Oil. This way you are supporting the local farmers, the ecosystems and food supply chain.  As a consumer, the power of our purchases sends a ripple out that can be felt across the world. Our small action can have a huge positive impact. 

Palm Oil is so widely used in so many products that we are not able to simply stop using it and even if we did, this would not repair the damage already done. The palm plantains would suddenly become rainforests, the vast wastelands would not suddenly turn into biodiverse habits as they once were. The soil erosion, use of pesticides, loss of wildlife etc all all has its part to play. 

Biodiversity is key: We can not save the Orangutan without saving all of the biodiversity below it. The rainforest, the plants, the trees, the animals, the insects. They all depend on each other for survival.

We live in a society that has so many highly processed foods and products that are produced on an unsustainable scale.  We have no idea where our food comes from. We have no idea what most of the ingredients are. That Palm Oil is disguised under so many other names. 

 

As an ethical consumer sometimes it can feel like shopping in a mine field: 

  • My vegan,  gluten free spread contains Palm Oil  but is not derived from an animal. 
  • My British Organic Butter doesn’t contain Palm Oil but comes from an animal.
  • My Peanut butter contains RSPO Sustainably certified Palm Oil.

So which spread would you choose? Which is more sustainable? Which does more damage to animals? 

Sometimes you have to look beyond the first hurdle, the problem lies further down the line! Look before you leap from one bad to another!

 

Just like biodiversity and eco systems, the best way forward is complicated. However, there are a few simple things you can do to make it easier.

What can you do?

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Buy Local

Buy Seasonal

Buy Whole foods

Sign the Greenpeace petition:

Most of the damage we are doing to our #oneplanet comes from our need to do everything at a million miles an hour. We live in an instant gratification society. Slow Down. Enjoy what you are doing while you are doing it.

#strongertogether

SLOW DOWN

Shaped by NATURE - Driven by YOU

Want to learn more about sustainble living? 

Why not book onto one of Plastic Free Workshops. 

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The many faces of Palm Oil – Think before you leap.
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