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Palm Oil- How bad is it really?

Palm Oil: How bad is it?

Honestly, it seems that palm oil is in almost… everything. Palm oil is a variety of vegetable oil that comes for the fruits/seeds of the oil palm. The trees are found on huge plantations in Malaysia and Indonesia (where 86% of the world’s supply comes from). In a shocking statistic, 66 million tons of palm oil are produced each year, with palm oil being found in “half of all packaged goods in UK supermarkets” (Gabbatiss, 2018). 

So… why palm oil?

Palm oil is cheap. Oil palms are incredibly productive, producing a large amount of oil for a very low price. And it’s not just found in our foods. Palm oil is frequently used in shampoo, candles, lipstick, cleaning products and much more.

How palm oil harms the planet:

-Oil palms grow in low-lying, tropical areas that frequently house rainforests and therefore, a wide range of species like orangutans, rhinos, and tigers.

-Instead of keeping these rainforests intact, corporations make massive monoculture plantations, which prevent native species from growing and surviving.

-To make these massive plantations, corporations must burn down forests- this contributes to both pollution and deforestation (through the large amount of greenhouse gases emitted).

-Deforestation leads to the creation of “deserts,” where 

-Likewise, the development of palm oil plantations also displaces many native and indigenous groups in these areas through the use of illegal land grabs.

-This perpetuates poverty in these communities, who no longer have land rights or a consistent income and who are dependent on large plantations.

As a consumer, what can you do?

  1. Check if the brands you purchase from are committed to a responsible palm oil future (free from deforestation and environmental destruction).

  2. Use this link to check! http://palmoilscorecard.panda.org/

  3. Be careful when you are looking at ingredient labels- palm oil derivatives fall under a variety of names including: Vegetable Oil, Vegetable Fat, Palm Kernel, Palm Kernel Oil, Palm Fruit Oil, Palmate, Palmitate, Palmolein, Glyceryl, Stearate, Stearic Acid, Elaeis Guineensis, Palmitic Acid, Palm Stearine, Palmitoyl Oxostearamide, Palmitoyl Tetrapeptide-3, Sodium Laureth Sulfate, Sodium Lauryl Sulfate, Sodium Kernelate, Sodium Palm Kernelate, Sodium Lauryl Lactylate/Sulphate, Hyrated Palm Glycerides, Etyl Palmitate, Octyl Palmitate, Palmityl Alcohol

  4. Shocking isn’t it?

  5. Prepackaged foods from corporate giants (ex: Nestle, Unilever) almost always contain palm oil - so avoid these!

  6. Purchase products with clearly-labeled oils such as coconut oil, olive oil or sunflower oil

  7. Contact companies that use palm oil and urge them to either use sustainably sourced palm oil or a different oil completely

Just some of the companies that use palm oil in their products:

An additional (and very controversial) commercial on palm oil presented by Greenpeace:


*The UK deemed this ad "too political" to air


  1. https://www.independent.co.uk/environment/palm-oil-environment-orangutans-indonesia-rainforests-iceland-christmas-advert-a8631896.html

  2. https://www.greenpalm.org/about-palm-oil/social-and-environmental-impact-of-palm-oil

  3. https://www.ecowatch.com/palm-oil-environmental-costs-2640781015.html?rebelltitem=4#rebelltitem4

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