If you read the ingredient list on your packaged foods (such as bread, peanut butter, ice cream, or chocolate) or on your soaps, detergents, and cosmetics, you are likely to see palm oil.
Palm oil is cheap. It’s an efficient crop, growing quickly with high yield (6x more than canola and 10x more than soy). It is easy to use with no hydrogenation needed. It has a long shelf life.
However, the enormous demand for it has caused us to ruin forests to plant and harvest more palm oil. Of course, this deforestation is bad for the environment and bad news for animals including elephants.
Southeast Asia, once covered by rich rainforests, is now covered by plantations. Fires are set to clear the plantation, causing air pollution and soil erosion. Pesticides and fertilizers seep into the water supply. Surviving animals often end up in traps or engaged in human-animal confrontations.
You can read this sobering article from WWF.
What can you do? Palm oil is in tons of everyday products, so avoiding it is incredibly hard. But, you can support companies who use deforestation free palm oil. The Union of Concerned Scientists have a scorecard. Brands like Dunkin Donuts, L’Oreal, and Kellogg’s score well. Others like Wendy’s, CVS, and Clorox have abysmal records.
If you want to make a greater impact, write companies letters.