The plastic free and zero waste movements have affected me like no other. My decision to reject packaging continues to reveal benefits I hadn’t anticipated. It’s become clear that my simple actions to reduce waste are helping fight species extinction beyond our oceans. This is because my package free choices also turn out to be palm oil free choices.

While palm oil is the most efficient source of vegetable oil (the amount of oil produced per hectare per year is far greater than other vegetable oils, meaning less land is needed to grow it), the unsustainable clearing of tropical rainforests in Indonesia and Malaysia for palm oil has forced indigenous people off their land, contributed to climate change and led to loss of habitat for endangered species like orang-utans, tigers, elephants, and rhinos, driving them to the brink of extinction. Sadly, on Friday 8 July 2016 the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) declared that the Bornean Orang-utan now joins the Sumatran Orang-utan as Critically Endangered. This is a desperate situation as these orang-utans are likely to be extinct in the next 10 years. That is a crime I am not willing to be part of!

The palm oil problem has been on my radar for a number of years but it wasn’t until I read that palm oil is estimated to occur in fifty percent of all packaged supermarket products that I started thinking about palm oil and my current situation. Was it possible that by avoiding packaging and supermarkets I had eliminated products containing unsustainable palm oil from my home? It was highly likely because there are only a handful of products in my home that I don’t make myself or use as a single ingredient (for example beeswax, vinegar, bicarb soda, coconut oil, salt, and other pantry staples). Elated, I began investigating whether the few premade products I buy contain unsustainable palm oil.

Establishing whether palm oil is present is not as easy as checking the list of ingredients because it appears under 200 names including Vegetable Oil, Vegetable Fat, Palmitate, Glyceryl, and Sodium Lauryl Sulfate. If you want to make it easier to make informed choices and stop contributing to species extinction, add your name to Zoos Victoria’s call to support palm oil labelling. It’s also important to acknowledge that 18% of the worlds palm oil supplies have been certified sustainable which means the palm oil is fully traceable and meets the standards of the Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO). Sustainable Palm Oil is a better option than a complete boycott of all palm oil because it creates rural employment helping to lift people out of poverty. Try using Palm Oil Investigation’s barcode scanner to identify products containing palm oil.

My investigations found that six of the nine premade products I buy do not contain palm oil. The other three are easy to give up or find alternatives for until the companies adequately embrace Certified Sustainable Palm Oil (CSPO). Now that I have exercised my buying power to vote for CSPO, and added my name to the call for changes to legislation to identify palm oil, I will be making my preferences known to companies which don’t support CSPO. Going forward I will continue to monitor products entering my home to ensure we don’t support unsustainable palm oil production and I will pursue further opportunities to make a difference.

Which products did I investigate?

Here is a list of the premade products I investigated and a description of what I found out:

  • The kids have been eating Kellogg’s® Nutri-Grain Breakfast cereal. The company confirmed this product does not contain Palm Oil.
  • My local handmade soaps have been confirmed palm oil free by the maker.
  • An examination of our Cancer Council sunscreen ingredients confirms it is palm oil free.
  • Barilla pasta does not contain palm oil.
  • My husband’s Rexona deodorant spray appears to be palm oil free too.
  • Bread is something I buy every week from Bakers Delight so I was relieved to find out from the company that their range of traditional breads do not contain ingredients derived from palm oil. They said that a small number their sweet and savoury range contain palm oil or palm oil derivatives, so I asked staff about the ingredients for the products I buy and I’m confident they don’t contain palm oil except for the Boston Bun which has emulsifiers 435, 471. Bakers Delight said they “are continuing to work with suppliers to ensure all ingredients containing palm oil or a palm derivative contribute to the production of certified sustainable palm oil”.
  • We have been using Colgate toothpaste. Greenpeace heavily criticise Colgate-Palmolive for not being able to trace any of their palm oil back to the plantation. Zoos Victoria has an online form you can use to send them a letter asking for clearly labelled certified sustainable palm oil. I have done this and will be switching to the Australian brand toothpaste, Grant’s, which does use sustainable palm oil. However, most zero wasters make their own toothpaste from bicarbonate soda and coconut oil.
  • Now that I know which ingredient names to look for, it is clear that Velvet Pure Soap contains palm oil. Palm Oil Investigations tells me Pental Products Pty Ltd do not use CSPO in their products so I will source a replacement from local makers or go without it. Finally, I will call Pental to make sure they know I want to see clear labelling of sustainable palm oil on their products.
  • We occasionally buy Patties party pies. Their website says “Patties Foods is a signatory to the RSPO initiative . . . Patties Foods has a Mass Balance (MB) program in place to confirm our use of sustainable palm oil”. This is a step in the right direction.

To learn more about the other products we use in home read: Our Plastic Free, Zero Waste Family Home. For examples of what we eat read: Three Weeks Of Zero Waste (And Plastic Free) Winter Meals.

Further reading:

WWF: What is palm oil?

Choice: Are we being palmed off?

Sustainable Table: How to identify palm oil

Zoos Victoria: Why We Are All Failing Orang-utans

Borneo Orangutan Survival Australia

Food Standards Australia and New Zealand


12 thoughts

  1. Great to talk about this, Tammy. So many packaged products contains palm oil. Another danger is that it has many different names in the ingredient list. I thought I was doing well with avoiding this, but there’s always more to learn, in this case, Colgate. I did not know this! Great post to share with us.

    Liked by 1 person

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