Why is this plant-based oil devastating the rainforest? You may not know it, but many products you encounter every day can contain palm oil. Packaged snacks like chips and cookies contain palm oil, and household products like lipstick and toothpaste do, too. There is an increased demand on this cheap and versatile oil, and companies cut corners on sustainability to make a profit.
There are environmental impacts related to palm oil due to deforestation, as land is cleared for palm plantations. There are also impacts on wildlife – the Bornean orangutan, Sumatran tigers, rhinos, and elephants are some of the species at risk. There are impacts on indigenous communities and activists who try to protect the land.
How can we move forward from palm oil? Several countries have implemented bans, though experts warn that another land-intensive oil will simply take its place. Dr. Jane Goodall supports the sustainable production of palm oil, but it has to be done right. Governing bodies such as the RSPO provide sustainability regulations for palm oil production. There are also lab-grown palm oil alternatives that may soon take palm oil’s place.