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  • Young Climate Warriors

Shampoo, margarine, shower gel, oven chips ...

Updated: Dec 10, 2021

Have you heard of palm oil? - it can be found in more than half of packaged supermarket products. It’s an edible vegetable oil that comes from the fruit of palm oil trees - grown in over 40 countries, however 85% of farmed palm oil comes from Malaysia and Indonesia. Large areas of rainforest and peatlands have been destroyed to make way for palm oil plantations, and endangered species – like orangutans, pygmy elephants and rhinos - are suffering through the loss of habitat.

But what’s the relevance to climate change? Palm oil plantations are having a substantial impact on climate change. Forest fires are often used to clear land for palm oil, releasing millions of tonnes of carbon dioxide and soot into the atmosphere. At other times peatlands are drained to make way for plantations, and in so doing they release enormous amounts of stored carbon into the atmosphere. 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! There are over 200 different names used for labelling palm oil products and only about 10% include the word ‘palm’! ‘So start by looking out for words that have Palm in, such as Palmate, Palmitate, Palmitic Acid, Palm Stearine, but also keep an eye out for the words Glycerin, Stearyl Alcohol, Stearic Acid, Sodium Lauryl Sulfate and Vegetable Oil as these can come from palm oil. You can view the full list of potential names for palm oil on the Orangutan Alliance website 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 is urging companies to use only certified sustainably grown palm oil so look for the RSPO (Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil) label WWF says ‘Boycotting palm oil is not always the answer, but demanding more action to tackle the issues … is.’

Follow these links to find out more about palm oil:

Shower gel, soaps, shampoo and cosmetics are popular Christmas presents. If you’re helping your parent/carer with some Christmas shopping, help them find products that are palm oil free or RSPO-certified.

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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