The Problem with Palm Oil

What’s one thing we need to live without but have a hard time eliminating it from our lives? Money may seem like the answer, but for the purpose of today’s post, I’m discussing the abundance and reliance on palm oil. What is palm oil? According to Salve Beat, palm oil is edible vegetable oil that comes from the African palm and is a versatile ingredient for many products. Although palm oil crops can produce a lot, unfortunately, it can only be found in a certain part of the land within 10 degrees north or south of the equator. Where this gets complicated is that harvesting palm oil has led to deforestation, animal endangerment, and harm of the atmosphere. The Crowded Planet’s post about palm oil depicts the Haze, a toxic cloud created by the fires used to clear rainforests for palm oil plantations in Indonesia. The Haze not only affects Indonesia and Singapore, Malaysia, but it also affects the wildlife in the area, especially orangutans. Is there a way to stop these devastating results? While upholding this month’s affirmation searching for more eco-friendly beauty products, I’ve determined reducing beauty products that use palm oil should be on my list. This is a difficult road, but it provides some solutions to a complex question.

Which products contain palm oil? World Wildlife Fund showed me that just about everything we use has palm oil from lipstick to shampoo to packaged bread. To top it off, palm oil isn’t always identified on labels directly as “palm oil.” It can also come in these names:

Palm Oil ingredients list

Image Credit: World Wildlife Fund

Confused? I certainly was. World Wildlife Fund indicated the Roundtable for Sustainable Palm-Oil (RSPO) and Green Palm labels certifications are signs of companies who have sourced palm oil in a responsible manner. Selva Beat, however, presented a different side of the story. In some cases, companies use these certifications as a form of greenwashing so they can appear to be more eco-friendly than they actually are. In the case of Unilever, the company claims to use a certain amount of sustainably sourced palm oil, but consume more than they claim to the public.

So, does that mean we are stuck or have to completely turn our lives upside-down to stop consuming palm oil? Not necessarily. I think it’s unrealistic to expect anyone to live the perfectly sustainable life, but can we cut down our use and dependency on palm oil? Absolutely. We can also petition and support causes that ask brands to question their use and source of palm oil. Demanding responsibly sourced palm oil is an important question to ask brands. I’m also looking forward to trying new brands suggested by Selva Beat and The Note Passer that are cruelty and palm oil free. Some of these brands are a bit pricey for my budget right now, but I’m hoping to find some affordable items and also try making my own. When it comes to food, I’ve also determined the best option is to eat less junk food and purchase less fast food since both types of food are made with palm oil. It’s not only good for my wallet but also much better for my health. These are things I can live without, especially if it stops other species from becoming endangered.

Cover Image Credit: Pixabay

What palm oil free products do you prefer? How do you reduce your use of palm oil?


  1. Chidi Beauty

    This issue has been increasingly popular in the green beauty/sustainability media recently. But I have not seen much concern for the communities that depend upon palm oil for revenue. Supporting sustainable palm oil production is a good thing. But how do we ensure the longevity of those communities that produce palm oil to support themselves?

    Chidi Beauty | Green Beauty for All Skin Tones

    • brooklyntvlasich

      You bring up an excellent point that is applicable to other areas of sustainability. Although I support companies and laws that will instill sustainable practices, I am concerned about those who rely on certain practices for their revenue. For example, when I see changes in environmental regulations that will help the environment, I support them, but I often wonder will happen to miners and other workers whose work may end because of these new regulations. Is there a way to train them in these new environmental/technological advances so they can be a part of these changes and not have to struggle to find work? I hope the government also considers this as we make more moves toward changes for the environment. Always include people whose work and communities you are affecting so they don’t have to struggle and worry about a lack of revenue.

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