“Are you dying for a cookie? ‘Cos orangutans are…”
If this was on your next cupcake or pack of cookies would you think again about your food choices? This was one of the little notes (although rather passive-aggressive) that some friends of mine and I had on home-baked goods at our recent palm oil free bake sale on Valentine’s Day – a Love Your Planet bake sale, as such. The simple idea was to make more people aware of the devastating impacts of palm oil and suggest some small changes to their food choices that can be good for you and for the planet.
This is a huge debate in itself and one which I’m still muddling my own way through, but here are the simple facts:
- 85% of all palm oil originates from Indonesian & Malaysian [primary] rainforest
- The industry is linked to major deforestation, habitat degradation, animal cruelty and indigenous rights abuses as land and forests are cleared for plantation development
- Plantations themselves are set up using a slash-and-burn technique, devastating anything left behind and releasing huge amounts of CO2 when underlying peat is burned, significantly contributing to climate change
- 1/3 of all mammal species in Indonesia are now considered critically endangered as a result of unsustainable palm oil development and habitat destruction
- An estimated 1000 – 5000 orangutans are killed each year for this development, despite their being “a conservation emergency” according to the UN due to their vital role in the germination of rainforest ecosystems
- Palm oil is found in approx. 40-50% of household products such as baked goods, confectionary, shampoo, make up, cleaning products and toothpaste
With this in mind, I’ve been working to try and cut out some of my own palm oil consumption where possible; one of the most straight-forward ways to do this is through chocolate and biscuits. Or so I thought… Turns out it’s next to impossible to find palm oil free chocolate unless you want to pay a pretty penny! BUT there’s such thing as RSPO Certified Palm oil which despite heavy criticism over its true ‘sustainability’ and certification process, at least it shows that somebody somewhere is trying to do something about it and that companies are taking some environmental responsibility.
For now though, here are my recommendations for a palm-oil free pancake day:
- CHECK YOUR CHOCOLATE. There are many conflicting sources online but best thing to do is check the company website to be sure. Else think about the death and destruction of tigers and orangutans whilst you’re indulging in gooey yumminess.
- NO MARGERINE. Butter is usually fine but margarine contains palm oil as a preservative – some brands are RSPO certified but realistically, butter is better anyway!
- Opt for toppings full of natural goodness!
- Banana slices & honey
- Berries & natural yoghurt
- Strawberry slices & nut butter (100% natural) – Meridian’s almond butter is my favourite and totally palm oil free!
- Or the all-time classic: lemon juice & sugar. (Okay, it’s not as healthy as the other options but it is lush I think we’ll all agree – and even better, it’s palm oil free!)
Nutella. This has long been considered one of the worst offenders for palm oil content; however according to their website it now only uses RSPO certified palm oil… “Ferrero’s achievement of the RSPO certification has also been praised by Richard Holland, Director of WWF’s Market Transformation Initiative.” WWF has a whole world of criticism itself from many environmentalists around the globe due to its involvement with a lot of major corporates, but that’s a whole other kettle of political fish. Personally, I’d say avoid if you can.
If you really can’t live without some chocolate in your pancake, then these brands are also RSPO certified: McVities, Cadbury’s, Oreo, Sainsbury’s, Waitrose, M&S, Co-op. It’s hard to know who to believe and what to think with so many conflicting arguments, but my own guilty pleasure of RSPO cert. chocolate tonight will be a gooey melted Carb-killa in all its goodness.
For more information on palm oil, why it’s such an important environmental issue and what the debate over RSPO certification is all about then have a little look online – here are some links to get you started: the story of Palm Oil, Say No to Palm Oil, Orangutan Foundation International, Rainforest Foundation.
Happy Palm-oil free Pancake Day!!
Diolch i chi a hwyl am nawr,