I had heard of walnut oil, canola oil, peanut oil, corn oil, flax oil, coconut oil, tanning oil, engine oil, and a whole bunch of other oils, but it wasn't until I watched Willie Smits' amazing presentation from Permaculture Voices that I had even heard of palm oil. I thought I knew stuff. Mr. Smits reminded me that there is always so much more to learn.
I thought "how can palm oil be such a big issue? Surely many of the other kinds of oil are also harvested and processed in ways that are not according to my standards. This one can't be that much worse." And then I learned about the massive amount of deforestation for palm oil. And how you can pretty much only grow oil palms as a monocrop... with all the problems that come along with monocrops. And how along with the rainforest being cut down, hundreds of thousands of orangutans and other creatures are being killed. And then I came to understand: palm oil is the worst.
And yet apparently it's in tons of stuff. A ridiculous amount. Often under the guise of "vegetable oil," though not always. So in the interests of voting with my wallet, I want to make sure that I'm not giving money to the palm oil monster. I'm trying to think about any products in my house that contain palm oil... but I'm not coming up with any. What are some things to look out for?
It's sometimes also called Palm kernel oil(although that name isn't too difficult to spot)?
If it's not in your foods, you might check lotions, cosmetics, that sort of thing.
Maybe biofuel is a big consumer of it as well?
Or maybe it sells more local to production(ie, in tropical countries) and isn't as widely imported into North America, where we have Canola/Rapeseed and other oil options?
You can usually find palm or palm kernel oil in highly processed foods such as; chocolates, cheesy spreads, most margarines, cheap ice cream, cheap processed dairy foods in general. Anything intended to keep skin or hair nice might have palm oil and palm kernel oil in it.
Start reading ingredient lists on these types of things and you will find it frequently. I have been trying to avoid it the last few years too.
Palm oil is a big topic here in Germany so I am a bit surprised that this doesn't seem to be the case in Canada.
As we hardly plant any soy here it gets used in a lot of products. But I am sure it is not so much different in North America. Some of the things that contain palm oil here: chocolate, cookies, other sweets, breakfast cereals, Nutella spreads, puff pastry, shampoo, body lotions, soaps (yep, also soap bars).
I avoid almost all of these.
For cosmetics, I buy soap bars made from other vegetable oils (like olive oil), shampoo (for the girs mainly) I get one with no palm oil, Nutella spread is a bit difficult because even the organic ones do contain palm oil, although "sustainably sourced" - but I prefer to have none whatsoever. There are only one or two brands that fit the bill.
Sweets and cookies: I only make my own with ingredients sourced locally, as far as possible.
There is also one brand of puff pastry made with only real butter and no palm oil.
So my advice: Cook and bake from scratch and keep an eye on cosmetics.
I am only one, but still I am one. I cannot do everything, but still I can do something; and because I cannot do everything, I will not refuse to do something that I can do. (E.E.Hale)
2. shortening. Shortening is a trans fat which has been shown to lead to heart disease and many other maladies. There is a palm oil shortening that I switched to years ago to avoid the trans fats, thinking it would be healthier....and then I learned of the other issues surrounding palm oil. Though now, instead of trans fat shortening OR palm oil shortening, I simply use coconut oil in my recipes. Or I use the butter flavor coconut oil that is just coconut oil with veg flavors and veg colors. Those both work beautifully in place of shortening and are nutrient dense health promoting foods instead of the trans fats which are health deteriorating, and the palm oil which is environment deteriorating.