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Palm oil is almost ubiquitous – it’s in soap, it’s in candles, it’s in cosmetics.  It’s even in food - from ice cream to ramen. Palm oil is a $40 billion (USD) market that is expected to more than double to $88 billion by 2022. And that’s a lot of money.

According to the World Wildlife Fund, the equivalent of 300 football fields of rainforest are cleared every hour to create palm oil plantations. As a direct result, Orangutans, Asian Tigers and Asian Rhinoceros will be extinct in the next decade. Extinct.

Did you know that 70% of the plants that contain compounds known to be useful in cancer treatment are found only in rainforests? 

Okay, you ask, if rainforests are so invaluable to life on this planet, why do manufacturers use palm oil so widely and indiscriminately? Aren’t there alternatives available?

Why yes, there are. But palm oil is much cheaper than good olive oil, or cocoa butter or shea butter, which are the sustainable alternatives.  And old white rich guys rule this planet. And therein lies the problem: Profits trump everything in today’s corporate value structure - including any consideration of benefit for the planet.

Not all companies fall into that category. Many companies do use ethical sourcing when creating products. And that will be reflected on their labels or tags. Read them. It’s your mandate as an ethical consumer.

As ethical consumers, we need to understand what we are buying. Every purchase you make supports the ethical choices that company has – or has not – made.

Some prominent critics of the movement against palm oil argue that it is sustainable – that other oils require three times the land to produce the same yield. It also is less labour intensive and requires less fertilizer and pesticides. So, what to do?

We faced the question ourselves, when we began manufacturing soap and candles and wanted to produce ethical products. We thought about palm oil and the two sides of the argument. No one likes pesticide use and less is good but at the same time, pesticides are not really a requirement and a bit of a straw dog argument. The same results can be achieved organically and without chemicals – at a higher cost.

That’s what it all boils down to, a higher cost. The argument is really an argument to be allowed to produce more for less. Which on the surface is good, but the bottom line is that one and a half acres of rainforest are destroyed every second of every day so companies can produce more for less.

And yes, without palm oil, you do need three times the land for the same volume of production. But you don’t destroy rainforests. That’s your key takeaway. The consumer gets their product, the manufacturer gets their profit and the orangutans, tigers and rhinos live on.

This is why we don’t use palm oil. And it’s why you should check the tags before you buy. Ask questions. Make ethical buying decisions. Money drives the market. Spend yours wisely.

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