With Iceland’s banned advert becoming a viral sensation, palm oil is on everyone’s minds. Deemed “too political” by advertisement board Clearcast, it details the story of a homeless orangutan and the environmental impact of unethically sourced palm oil. The ban did little to stop it becoming, in my opinion, the best Christmas advert of 2018. But why should we care about this?
Annually, we use 66 million tonnes of palm oil. That’s 27 million hectares! Put into perspective, that’s the size of New Zealand. This is having a devastating effect on the environment. Vast quantities of the rainforests in South America, Southeast Asia and Africa are being destroyed to cultivate these trees, as they only grow in conditions these countries provide. These plantations destroy habitats for animals and native groups. The practice of using palm oil as a biofuel is three times more detrimental to the planet than using traditional fossil fuels. Be sure to visit rainforest-rescue.org for more info.
If you’re thinking about lowering your carbon emissions, and are trying to figure out how to do that as a skint student, then omitting palm oil is an easy way to go. Not only will you be reducing carbon emissions, but you’ll also be standing up for the animals facing extinction and for the indigenous groups whose homes are being destroyed. The best supermarkets to shop in which don’t offer any products with palm oil are: Marks and Spencer, Waitrose, Sainsbury’s and Iceland. I acknowledge that M&S and Waitrose are hardly high up on the list of student haunts, but Iceland is very affordable, especially with the Food Warehouse in Parc Tawe. Here you can bulk buy your food whilst knowing that Iceland’s products are palm oil free. (I recommend the No Bull burger, which is also gluten free and vegan!)
However, if you are just popping into Tesco there are many tricks which you can look out for! You could simply swap your margarine spread for a block of butter, or choose palm oil-free brands such as Warburtons, who have pledged to use 100% sustainable palm oil. Furthermore, if you see ‘elaeis guineensis oil’, ‘glycerin’ or ‘sodium lauryl lactylate/sulphate’ in the ingredients, these are just other names for palm oil! Don’t let these scientific names trick you.
So, join me in my New Year’s resolution. Let’s do our best to avoid palm oil, be it in food, hygiene or cosmetic products.
by Eleanor Maunder