To this day I am still shocked by the first pictures of palm oil clearings I saw online. The picture of the orangutan trying to defend itself against the monster-like machines and humans in order to defend its home and family. I was shocked, angry and sad. For me personally, this was the day when I started seriously questioning my consumption.
Let's start by taking a closer look at the plant. What makes the oil palm (Elaeis guineensis) so attractive? The special thing about this type of palm is its rich infructescence (fruiting head), which fruits have a very high concentration of oil. To be more specific, this means that the juice vesicles contain 45-50% oil. One fruiting head or bunch of fruit has up to 4000 egg-shaped fruits, which can be up to 3-5 cm long. It is possible to harvest 5-15 bunches of fruit per year and, of course, harvesting is possible all year round.
This tropical palm species is native to West Africa. It is cultivated in plantations and space is created especially for it (tropical rainforest is dug up). It is planted in monocultures and thus causes massive damage. As you surely know, palm oil is omnipresent in our lives.
Why do we need so much palm oil?
Apart from the fact that it has an extremely high annual yield, it has many positive qualities. It is tasteless, which of course makes it ideal for the food industry. Palm oil has a firm consistency at room temperature, which means that it does not need to be chemically hardened. In addition, it is heat stable, it has a long preservation time and makes food particularly spreadable. These properties lead to palm oil being omnipresent in our lives
It is always frightening to see how many products contain this destructive oil.
Worldwide, 72% of palm oil is used for food, which is about 51.42 million tonnes of palm oil that we do not need. This share can be massively reduced if we stand together and say NO to products containing palm oil.
Ever since I saw the pictures of the clearings, I have been turning around every product I want to buy and reading the ingredients. In any case, the figures in the graph do not surprise me. It is becoming increasingly difficult to find products without palm oil. Whether organic or not. Moreover, you can also find products that advertise not using palm oil.
What can we do to change that?
I know these numbers knock us out and we quickly feel powerless. But we are not, because we are the consumers! We must learn to say No, even if it hurts at first (our beloved chocolate). I personally began over 8 years ago to stop buying food containing palm oil, one step at a time.
1. I read the list of ingredients of each product to see what is processed.
2. If it is a product that I really like, I look for an alternative without palm oil in it. In my experience, they usually taste much better!
3. I research how to make the product by myself, so that I can avoid the moral problem and still enjoy the flavours. The positive thing is, I always make too much and often have a little present for friends or family.
Why do I do this? Every change, big or small, starts within ourselves. We must not forget that we have a voice and can say NO.
#NoThanks I don't want palm oil in my food
Needless to say, I am aware that there are even more reasons for the tropical rainforest being cut down. In the near future I will also be talking about them, be prepared!