One of the biggest issues that environmentalists are fighting right now is the large presence of palm oil in everything from skincare to hair products. Ingrid Cox reports.
As the global population grows, demand for palm oil increases. The way palm oil plantations are currently established is damaging to the environment.
Most Palm Oil is produced in areas that are most vulnerable to deforestation, Indonesia and Malaysia, alone, makeup around 80% of the global palm oil supply. Palm Oil also accounts for about half of packaged products in supermarkets and is in most household products; it’s in everything from ice cream to instant noodles. Most consumers are unaware of their palm oil consumption, and they often struggle to identify it because palm oil is rarely clearly labeled.
The reason this vast production of Palm Oil is posing a global problem is that the oil grows in tropical rainforests. These rainforests, as a result, are experiencing an increase in deforestation and an equivalent of 300 football fields are being destroyed every hour. Tropical deforestation is currently responsible for about 18% of greenhouse gas emissions and these mass clearings also result in the loss of habitat for many critically endangered species.
Between 2001 and 2010, palm oil production in Indonesia generated up to 268 million tons of carbon emissions. To reduce its environmental impacts and impact on wildlife, palm oil needs to be produced in a more sustainable way and currently, just 19% of worldwide palm oil production is sustainable.
The solution to the problem comes down to us, the consumer. We can start to solve the problem in various ways. For a start, a solution is to avoid buying products with palm oil or ensure you buy products that contain a sustainable alternative. The RSPO has developed environmentally friendly standards for palm oil production. However, the RSPO rules still allow forests to be destroyed in order to plant oil palm.