This Month’s Challenge

This month The Going Green Couple is tackling the challenge of palm oil. Our goal is to reduce our palm oil product consumption by 75%. Now what is palm oil and why did we choose it as a challenge?

What is Palm Oil?

Palm oil is a versatile and multipurpose use vegetable oil derived from the oil palm tree. The oil comes from the fruit of the oil palm tree and is the most widely used vegetable oil in the world. The oil palm tree can be found across the entire equator. Eighty-five percent of global palm oil exports comes from Indonesia and Malaysia.

What is Palm Oil Used For?

Palm oil can be found just about everywhere. It’s used in cooking oil, processed foods, and ready-to-eat meals. Its also used in detergents, soaps, shampoos, and makeup. Palm oil is also an industrial lubricant and has been used as a biofuel.

So Why Is Palm Oil A Problem?

Okay, so palm oil itself is not an environmental problem. The problems come from how it’s farmed. First, to be clear, not all palm oil farms are a problem, some are sustainably run which is a good thing because palm oil is an important income for some people. The problems come with the unsustainable or illegal farms. Their activities affect climate change, increase deforestation, and affect local populations.

What is Palm Oil’s effect on Climate Change?

To make room for oil palm trees farmers cut and burn swaths of rain forest and jungle releasing huge amounts of CO2 into the atmosphere. Now if you remember your middle school science classes you know that trees breath-in CO2 and release oxygen. But that CO2 doesn’t just disappear, it becomes part of the tree, so when you burn the tree all of the CO2 is released, and the rain forest stores a lot of CO2.

How Does it Increase Deforestation?

Like we said, unsustainable or illegal farmers cut and burn the forest to make room for oil palm trees. You might have guessed this is not good for the animals living in those forests, and no they don’t politely remove the animals before burning. The cutting and burning has left many many mammals on the endangered list, including the lovable orangutan. (Seriously, I don’t think I’ve met anyone who doesn’t think they are cute). And there are thousands and thousands of plants, animals, and insects that live in these forests, each facing the same threat.

And What About Local Populations?

So the farms do provide a source of income and economic growth which is great for many poor rural regions. The issue is the companies that employ the local populations have little regard for workers rights and some actions border on human rights violations. Often, the government looks the other way in the name of economic growth for the country.

So What Does It All Mean?

Bottom line unsustainable and illegal oil palm farms are bad for the environment. BUT, it’s a little more complicated than that….there’s an entire business chain that gets palm oil from the fields to you the consumer; and there are many companies in that chain. So really the bottom line is price. Consumers want cheap foods and products and to give consumers those cheap prices companies look for the cheapest viable ingredients which means palm oil, farmed unsustainably or illegally. That’s the simplified version.

AND NOW THE CHALLENGE!!

This month The Going Green Couple is going to cut 75% of unsustainable palm oil products from its household use!! Here are the steps.

  1. Identify all products we use in our house that contain palm oil.
  2. Remove 75% of them from use.
  3. Replace them with non-palm oil alternatives, sustainable palm oil, or DIY solutions that don’t rely on palm oil.
  4. Calculate our pre-challenge impact and our post-challenge impact and compare.

 

Now follow us all this month as we chronicle our experience and at the end of the month see how we did AND more importantly learn how you can help reduce your impact.

 

 

Sources

WFF: http://wwf.panda.org/what_we_do/footprint/agriculture/palm_oil/about/
Say No To Palm Oil: http://www.saynotopalmoil.com/Whats_the_issue.php
The Guardian: https://www.theguardian.com/environment/palm-oil

Oil Palm Tree Fruit Photo via feelphotoz via Visualhunt.com
Oragatang Photo credit: jeffedoe via Visual Hunt / CC BY-ND

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