When I took the kids on a Zoo sleepover experience a few weeks ago, I never dreamed it would be so life changing. Dave, our very entertaining guide, passed a comment that the whole zoo, and all the people who worked there, had made a commitment to go Palm Oil free which meant making a few changes – from whose ice creams they sold in the shop to how he shaved before he came to work in the morning.
It got me thinking. If I make a few simple changes to the way I shop – choose this brand instead of that – then perhaps I too can make a difference.
You see, I’m no eco-warrior. But I am a Household Shopper aged 25-54 so I know that the way I choose to spend my money counts. If I – if we – start supporting the brands that support the causes we care about, then I believe we can create change.
It turns out lots and lots of things we use every day – things you wouldn’t even dream have Palm Oil in them – have Palm Oil in them. Palm Oil not only makes our snack foods nice and crunchy, it also makes lovely bubbles in things like soap, shampoo and shaving foam.
Eliminating Palm Oil from my shopping trolley isn’t easy, because Palm Oil isn’t always called Palm Oil. It can be called anything from the mystifying Elaeis guineensis to the catch all of good old ‘Vegetable Oil’. So it’s virtually impossible for the busy household shopper to work out whether those crackers, chips, loaves of bread, soap, dish washing liquid or shampoo in their trolley include Palm Oil or not.
Why? I suspect because the companies using Palm Oil aren’t keen for consumers to know about it.
Why? Because they know that we know that they know using Palm Oil isn’t a good thing.
Why? Because if using Palm Oil was a good thing, they’d be up front about it, right?
Palm Oil itself isn’t bad, but the way it’s produced is. Demand for Palm Oil has grown to the point where it is now one of the leading causes of rainforest destruction. One and a half acres of forest – and the ecosystem of plants and animals that live in them – are cleared every minute to make way for more plantations to keep up with demand from manufacturers.
As I said, I’m no eco-warrior. But what I am is a consumer with a conscious. A consumer who has the right to choose what I buy and what I leave on the shelf. And if doing that makes a difference – even a small one – then the world is a better place.
Of course Palm Oil is only one of many issues for the environmentally conscious consumer, but if you’d like to give going Palm Oil free a go, try these useful tools:
Palm Oil Free Shopping Guide – helpfully put together by the team at Auckland Zoo
Palm Oil Investigation App – with a handy barcode scanner for use in the supermarket