Most people wouldn’t knowingly support the decimation of some of the most endangered species on the planet, yet many of us do just that when we visit the market. Found in approximately half of all consumer goods, palm oil makes its way into everything from detergents, toothpastes, soaps, shampoos and cosmetics, to a variety of packaged foods like bread, chocolate, margarine, cereal, cookies, ice cream, crackers and chips. It is largely responsible for the rapid decline of Sumatran rhinos, tigers, orangutans, Asian elephants and countless other species. Half the global orangutan population alone has been wiped out in just the past 16 years.

Tropical rain forests and carbon-rich peatland are being cleared to make way for oil palm plantations. The rising demand for palm oil pushes species to the brink of extinction, destroys watershed and forest resources locals depend on and exacerbates climate change by pumping greater amounts of CO2 into the atmosphere.

With palm oil imports to the United States growing by 485 percent in the last decade, it’s vital we make better choices when deciding which products to buy and which products to avoid. Lives literally depend on it.

Palm oil is disguised under many different names. Some of these names, like vegetable oil, sodium lauryl/laureth sulfate and vitamin A palmitate, may or may not be derived solely from palm oil. If you see questionable ingredients, I urge you to contact the company. If they use palm oil, ask what actions they intend to take to be more environmentally responsible, and let them know you won’t support them until they are.

Rebecca Tripp

Searsport


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