Palm oil is the most widely used oil in the world because it is cheap, has a high yield per hectare and plantations can be established quickly. Around 50 percent of the products we can buy in the supermarket contain palm oil. That is a huge amount. But palm oil has devastating consequences for the rainforest, as it is the main reason for global deforestation. In this article, you will find out why you should avoid palm oil, how to recognize it and what your alternatives to palm oil products are.
Here is another short Table of contents about the palm oil article:
- How is palm oil produced?
- Why should you avoid palm oil?
- What problems does deforestation for palm oil cause?
- Where is palm oil everywhere?
- How can I recognize palm oil?
- What are your alternatives to palm oil?
How is palm oil produced?
Palm oil is extracted from the fruit of the oil palm. The fruit is squeezed to extract the palm oil. The fat is extracted from the kernel, which can be further processed into palm kernel oil. The oil palm is a plant that does not require demanding environmental conditions, which is why it can survive well in nutrient-poor soils.
In contrast to other oil plants, the oil yield per hectare is very high. Replacing the palm oil plant with coconut palms or soybeans would not be advantageous, as these plants have a much lower yield and require considerably more land.
Why should you avoid palm oil?
Palm oil has long been touted as an ecological alternative as it is a renewable raw material. Demand has risen sharply in recent years as palm oil is a cheap raw material and the yield is high. The number of hectares of plantations has tripled between 1990 and 2012. In Indonesia, the situation is particularly devastating, as 40 % of the world's palm oil comes from here. Large areas of rainforest are cleared for palm oil because deforestation is easier and cheaper than converting existing agricultural land. 99 % of the Urang Utans die during deforestation. Even in national parks and nature reserves, this is not stopped, as the protection status is often unknown or simply ignored due to a lack of communication.
Tip: More and more online stores (e.g. Rainbow circle.com) consciously refrain from using palm oil in their own products and invest part of their income in great projects in the fight against climate change. Deforestation of the forests and for the reforestation of previously deforested areas.
What problems does palm oil extraction cause for the rainforest?
Residues that arise during deforestation and cannot be processed further are incinerated on site in an uncontrolled manner, thus saving a lot of CO2 released that had previously been stored for centuries.
The rainforest in the equatorial latitudes is very old, which means that many nutrients have been removed from the soil in the past, so that it can hardly release any nutrients to plants. For this reason, a large proportion of the biomass is above ground and biodiversity is particularly high. So if the rainforest is destroyed, most of the living mass is destroyed forever and cannot regenerate and grow again. Many species, such as the orangutan, lose their habitat in the process, which is why there is a massive loss of biodiversity.
In addition, once the plants have been removed, the soil is very loose and is washed away during heavy rainfall, which is very common in the tropics (this is called erosion).
Here I have the Disadvantages of large-scale palm oil cultivation summarized:
- Lack of biodiversity
- Increased pest infestation
- Major dangers of uncontrolled forest fires
- Flooding and erosion
- Water shortage from surrounding smallholders
- Exploitation, child labor, low wages (as in the Fashion industry)
- Enormous water consumption by the palm trees, draining of peat bogs
- Due to fertilizer entering the water -> pollution and risk of undersupply for the local population
The bottom line is that palm oil destroys rainforests! Palm oil may once have been sustainable, but those days are long gone. What can we do now? We must therefore avoid products containing palm oil.
Where is palm oil everywhere?
In 50% der verarbeiteten Artikel, die wir im Supermarkt kaufen können, befindet sich Palmöl. Mach einmal selber den Test wie viele der Produkte in deinem Schrank Palmöl enthalten. Du wirst überrascht sein. Asiaten verbrauchen weltweit das meiste Palmöl, da sie damit braten. Deshalb solltest du besonders darauf achten, wenn du gerne im Asialaden einkaufen gehst.
Das erschreckende ist, dass Palmöl selbst in Biokraftstoff enthalten ist, auf Grund von Forderungen der EU den Ausstoß von Klimagasen zu senken. Das ist natürlich alles andere als nachhaltig!
Folgende Produkte enthalten beispielsweise Palmöl:
- Kosmetika wie Nivea Creme (weiter unten habe ich dir die Inhaltsstoffe, an denen du das Palmöl erkennst, aufgelistet)
- die meisten Kekse z.B. Oreo, Prinzenrolle…
- herkömmliche Schokoriegel wie Mars, Snickers & Co.
- Waschmittel z.B. Ariel
- Tomatensuppe von Knorr
- Fertigprodukte wie Tütensuppen, Fertigpizzen und Nudelgerichte
- Schokolade z.B. Milka
- Schokoladenerzeugnisse wie Pralinen, Glasuren
- sogar in Müsli, dabei kann man Müsli so einfach selber machen und es ist viel günstiger
- Fertigkuchen und Brötchen, Fettglasuren z.B. von Donuts
- Liquids der E-Zigarette
How can I recognize palm oil?
In part, the declaration is very clear. But often the ingredients have hidden names:
- Sodium Palmate
- Vegetable oil (the type of vegetable oil is usually shown in brackets)
- Palm Oil/ Fruit Oil / Kernel /Fat
- Palm stearin
- palm butter
- Glycerol / glyceryl (mostly from palm oil)
- Elaeis guineensis
The following substances can originate from the oil plant, but can also be obtained from other plants, so it is worth taking a second look:
- Palmitic acid / palmitates
- Ascorbyl palmitate / palmitic acid ascorbyl ester /E304
- Stearate / Stearic acid / Stearic Acid
- Sodium Lauryl Sulfate
- Cetearyl / Cetyl
- Lauryl / Lauroyl / Laurates
- Stearyl / Stearate
TIP: A super tool is the CodeCheck App. By scanning the barcode, you can quickly find out which ingredients are questionable and harmful to the environment and which are not. It also shows you if an item contains palm oil. You can find out how to get and use the CodeCheck app in the article CodeCheck App - Exposing questionable products.
Also check out this emotional video:
What are your alternatives to palm oil?
As a consumer, you can do something about the destruction of the rainforest and avoid products made from palm oil. In this way, you can put pressure on companies to create fair and sustainable conditions along the production chain. Because it is clear that palm oil destroys rainforests. And the only way to solve this problem is to consume more consciously.
When it comes to food in general, focus more on fresh, seasonal, local and unprocessed products. You can easily bake cookies yourself and save money.
If there are no alternatives for some products, always make sure that you buy a reputably certified product (e.g. from Alsan, Rapunzel or GEPA). If the product doesn't seem trustworthy enough to you, it's better to leave it alone.
Here I have some Palm oil-free alternatives listed for you:
- Ariel detergent: Detergent you can make yourself very quickly or these soap nuts
- Shower gel alternative: This curd soap from Sonett
- Shampoo alternative: ASAVO olive oil soap for body and hair
- Alternative for Knorr tomato soup: Alnatura tomato soup from Edeka
Forecasts indicate that the demand for palm oil will continue to rise, thus increasing the risk of increased palm oil consumption. Deforestation of the rainforests. So, take an active stand for the environment and avoid palm oil!
PS: Have a look at the article Save rainforest to find out what you can do every day to protect the tropical forests.