Saturday, 12 September 2015

And so it begins

This week’s blog post is not covering my patch but looking a little farther afield. Earlier this week a friend pointed out to me how bad Cadbury’s were as users of Palm Oil in their products. Those who know me know I have a penchant for chocolate and I was quick to do some research.

You may wonder what the issue with Palm Oil is. Palm Oil is an edible oil produced by the nut of the tree species – Elaeis guineensis. Demand for the oil has increased since the 1980’s and can be found in a vast range of household and supermarket products. The oil can be used as a simple frying oil, a biofuel and an additive.

As an additive it can be found in margarines, chocolates, shampoo, soap, ice cream and lipstick. It is a highly productive crop with a greater yield that than other vegetable oils.

Palm oil only grows in the tropics and mainly in Indonesia and Malaysia even though it is native to West Africa. Today it is grown mostly in vast plantations as a monoculture crop. Huge areas of tropical rainforest have been converted to palm oil production resulting in habitat loss, species loss, soil erosion and air pollution. Species especially affected by the Palm Oil industry include the Asian Elephant, Orang utan, Sumatran Rhino and Tiger.

In the case of the Orang utan their numbers have plummeted from around 230,000+ in 1900 to an estimated 60,000 today. They exist in small populations few larger than 200 individuals and are fragmented. They are unable to live in Palm Oil plantations and face threats from habitat loss and the pet trade on the plantations.

It is easy to sit here and condemn this trade but we are the main consumers of this product and so we have a responsibility to act. Palm oil is ubiquituous and having done some research I have found that many of my favourite foods, chocolates and iced buns contain them, something I was aware of before but am now more concerned about the more I research.

To this end I have decided to start taking action. Firstly by raising money for Act for Wildlife and secondly by changing my buying habits. I am not going to out right boycott palm oil. It is too widely used and native communities do rely on its income, instead I will only buy sustainably produced palm oil, thereby helping local communities and encouraging sensible production.

I do not think this will be easy and I hope to chart my progress on this blog as I work towards this goal.