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  • Young Climate Warriors

Calling all detectives ... on a hunt for palm oil in your bathroom.

Updated: Dec 11, 2020

What do you think shampoo, margarine, shower gel, oven chips, deodorant, biscuits, bread and ice cream may all have in common? How might they have an impact on climate change as well as endangered species like orangutans?

Palm oil trees grow in tropical rainforests in over 40 countries, but most farmed palm oil (85%) comes from Malaysia and Indonesia. In recent decades large areas of rainforest, and peatlands have been destroyed to make way for palm oil plantations. Already endangered species such as orangutans, pygmy elephants and rhinos, are being put under more pressure through loss of habitat. Additionally, forest fires, often used to clear land for palm oil, release millions of tonnes of carbon dioxide and soot into the atmosphere. Furthermore, as peatlands are drained they release enormous amounts of stored carbon further contributing to climate change.

The Young Climate Warriors challenge this week is to do some detective work in the bathroom and see how many products you can find that contain palm oil. But be warned - it’s not always easy to spot! Although food products containing palm oil now have to be clearly labelled, this is not the case for bathroom products, detergents and cosmetics.

There are over 200 different names used for labelling palm oil products and only about 10% include the word ‘palm’! These include Palmate, Palmitate, Glyceryl, Stearate, Stearic Acid, Palmitic Acid, Palm Stearine , Sodium Lauryl Sulfate, Sodium Kernelate. So look for the clues – ‘PALM’, ‘STEAR’, ‘LAUR’ and ‘GLYC’.

Remember to HIT THE RED BUTTON and tell us when you have found some of these ingredients on the labels of your bathroom products?

So should we all stop using products containing palm oil? This is a tricky question. Avoiding palm oil could encourage companies to use other vegetable oils that require more land to grow and more deforestation. Palm oil trees produce more oil per hectare than soybean, coconut, rapeseed or sunflower oil crops. In addition, millions of small-scale farmers depend on producing palm oil for their livelihoods. For these reasons, WWF (World Wide Fund for Nature) is urging companies to use only certified responsibly grown palm oil (RSPO - Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil). WWF say “Boycotting palm oil is not always the answer, but demanding more action to tackle the issues … is.”

If you’d like to find out more about palm oil you can click on this link to watch a CBBC Newsround clip or take a look at this interactive page produced by WWF:

Shower gel, soaps, shampoo and cosmetics are popular Christmas presents. If you’re helping your parent / carer with some Christmas shopping, maybe you could try and find products that are RSPO-certified? (Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil)

Don’t forget to let your voice be heard by HITTING THE RED BUTTON and telling us when you have completed the challenge.


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