Why we need to cut down on palm oil

Michelle Grant, Staff Reporter

Have you eaten chips, peanut butter, instant noodles or ice cream recently? Have you washed your hands with soap this morning? If you said yes to any of those, you have bought products with palm oil in them. And not just these, palm oil is in many everyday household items.

So what is palm oil and why is it so bad? Palm oil is a popular edible vegetable oil made from pulp found in oil palms.

Palm oil is used for thousands of food products, soap products and even bio fuel. Palm oil is easy and cheap to obtain and good for you- it contains no trans fat making it healthier for people with heart disease and cholesterol. But, that doesn’t mean it isn’t harmful to the environment, according to Green Global Travel.

In order to get the palm oil, rain forests are set on fire to make room for palm oil plantations. Slash and burn agriculture is a fast way to clear land and appeals to poor small-scale farmers and large corporations alike.This deforestation occurs regularly in Malaysia, Indonesia and Papua New Guinea according to Global Development and the Environment.

This results in animals habitats being completely destroyed. Orangutans, among the several other animals affected and killed by deforestation, are suffering in particular, as reported by Global Development and the Environment.

“Over 80% of the orangutan’s environment has been destroyed in the past 20 years alone.” according to Global Development and the Environment.

These animals live in nests in the rain forests that are destroyed, leaving them with no home. Along with the destruction of their homes, orangutans are left vulnerable to poachers, who kill the mothers and illegally sell their babies as pets. And if that isn’t bad enough, since their forest is destroyed, orangutans are forced to creep onto farmer’s lands where they are usually shot.

If you want to do something about this tragedy, you can start the next time you go grocery shopping. Look at labels on food or pretty much any other products and avoid anything that says something like octal palpitate, palmitate, palm kernel oil and palm fruit oil, as stated in Green Global Travel.

You could also try your best to buy organic or vegan products, but be wary of this: some organic and vegan labeled products sometimes still contain palm oil.

Most products from shampoo to some of your favorite snacks most likely contain palm oil. But if we all cut down on just half of palm oil products, farmers could get the message and change can happen.