That utterly heartwrenching video of the orangutan trying to fight off a bulldozer in a desperate attempt to protect his home forest is doing the rounds again … and for anyone with a heart, it’s impossible to ignore, which in turn means it’s pretty impossible for us not to do anything about it.
Because whether we know it or not, we’re the ones demanding the decimation of forests all over the world for some little innocuous sounding thing called palm oil.
Palm oil is everywhere. It can be found in our frozen pizzas, our biscuits, chocolates and margarine, our body creams, soaps, makeup, candles and detergents.
It is the most commonly produced vegetable oil, and day after day, glorious stretches of rainforests in Southeast Asia, Latin America and Africa are being ripped up and torched to the ground to make more room for more palm oil plantations, destroying the homes of people, animals, and living creatures of every colour, shape and size.
But before we suddenly try to boycott everything with palm oil in it, we need to know that the solution is closer to the boycott of palm oil that is not sustainably sourced. Otherwise we find ourselves haplessly supporting yet another insanely destructive industry.
We give our thanks to Nechama Brodie and her ‘lovely volunteers’ who spent untold hours researching and creating a list of palm oil products in South Africa. Their list includes groceries and cosmetics, and is divided into products that contain no palm oil, products that contain certified sustainable sources of palm oil, and products that contain palm oil from an unknown source … the red list … the one we should be trying to cut out as much as possible.
We’re especially thankful because not only did Nechama and her team do this from a place of love and human kindness (rather than profit), but they also navigated some frustratingly tricky waters. Palm oil isn’t always listed as palm oil. It can often be disguised as something as simple as vegetable oil or as unsuspecting as sodium lauryl lactylate/sulphate.
These lists, Nechama writes, ‘are there to help you identify ingredients in South African products/products sold in South Africa which may not always clearly be explained on the packaging. Many manufacturers are NOT upfront about the palm oil content in their products. The list is also there to show you which big brands and manufacturers are and are not doing anything about sustainable palm oil and deforestation. If you’re angry that your favourite soap has palm oil (I know I am!) then don’t just change brands, but also write to them and tell them why you’re changing. Demand change.’
You might be surprised, shocked actually, to find your favourites cosmetics, breads, chocolates, cereals, fast foods and even coffees on the red list … but you’ll survive if you cut them out.
You’ll even survive reading this list of 25 sneaky names for palm oil.
Because, as Nechama writes, ‘We do not need that chip, that chocolate, more than that orangutan needs a safe jungle home.’