Indonesia's forests are home to some of the most amazing biodiversity on the planet, but those forests are rapidly disappearing -- at the rate of 300 football fields a day. The culprit? Palm oil.
Palm oil can be found in everything from food to soaps to biofuels, but
it's also one of the most environmentally costly substances out there.
oil, made from the fruits of palm trees, isn't that bad in and of
itself, but the way it is produced is extremely harmful to the
environment. Here's what the Rainforest Action Network
has to say about palm oil: "Grown on massive plantations in tropical nations, mainly Malaysia and
Indonesia, palm oil has been associated with rainforest destruction;
threatened extinctions of animals, including orangutans; huge increases
in greenhouse gas emissions; and gross human rights and labor
Palm oil plantations have been blamed for the deaths of thousands of orangutans, and a host of other wildlife. Over the past few weeks, fires purposefully (and illegally) set by plantation owners to clear forests and make way for planting palm oil trees were responsible for the deaths of 200 or more orangutans in Aceh forest, the last of the great apes in that region.
Unfortunately, cutting palm oil out of your diet and
buying habits is harder than you might think, because it rarely shows
up on ingredient lists simply as "palm oil." Instead, it can often show
up as Sodium Laureth Sulphate, Sodium Lauryl Sulphates, Sodium dodecyl
Sulphate (SDS or NaDS), Palmate, Palmitate, Elaeis Guineensis, Glyceryl
Stearate and a laundry list of other names. Heck, sometimes it's just
called "vegetable oil." The Australian website Palm Oil Action has a list
of some of the more common names. The Cheyenne Mountain Zoo has a printable shopping guide
, and promises a mobile app in a few months.
Some palm oil is grown sustainably, but it's a very small portion of the market. Look for packages that say their ingredients are certified sustainable.
pay attention to the ingredients labels when you buy your favorite
foods and other commercial goods. You just might help save the planet in