Have you ever read the list of ingredients on the side of a packet of biscuits? Have you ever noticed if they have palm oil in them? Can you find any packets of biscuits at home and have a look - when you start looking it is staggering how often it’s used!
What is palm oil anyway? Palm oil is an edible vegetable oil that comes from the fruit of oil palm trees - 85% of our global supply comes from Malaysia and Indonesia. Palm oil has many different properties – so can be used in all sorts of things –from biofuel to cosmetics and cleaning products, from biscuits and bread to ice cream and frozen pizzas.
As Young Climate Warriors why are we even thinking about biscuit ingredients? Well, the reason is that large areas of bio-diverse rainforest are being deforested to make way for palm oil plantations. The destruction of the rainforests, often cleared by fire, is releasing millions of tonnes of carbon emissions into the atmosphere and threatening the habitats of orangutans, pygmy elephants and rhinos. Rainforests are precious carbon sinks – they help us reduce the carbon in our atmosphere by absorbing it through photosynthesis – and then trapping it in trunks, branches, roots and leaves. Peatland swamps are also being drained and converted to palm oil plantations, releasing their stored carbon and contributing to climate change.
So your challenge this week is to make some homemade biscuits, cookies or shortbread - replace that tea-time ‘palm oil’ biscuit. Here are a couple of simple recipes that you might like to use – Scottish Shortbread, Choc Chip Cookies, Nankhatai pistachio biscuits.
Don’t forget to tell us when you have completed this challenge by HITTING THE RED BUTTON
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 4-10 times more oil per acre than soybean, coconut, rapeseed or sunflower oil crops; and there are millions of small-scale farmers in developing countries who depend on producing palm oil for their livelihoods. For these reasons it is best not to ‘boycott palm oil’ but to choose products that use certified sustainable palm oil by the RSPO – Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil. Certified sustainable palm oil and Fairtrade products protect the environment and local communities.
‘The Ethical Consumer,’ last month concluded some investigations – Iceland, is the only supermarket that doesn’t use palm oil in any of its own brand products – and here is some specific advice on biscuits ...The following companies sell biscuits containing RSPO certified sustainable or Fairtrade palm oil. – Waitrose, Traidcraft, Bahlsen, Walkers, M&S, Mrs Crimbles, Fox’s, Burton’s Biscuits (Jammie Dodgers, Lyons, Maryland, The Edinburgh Bakery, Viscount, Wagon Wheels)
If you’d like to find out more about palm oil you can click on this link to watch a CBBC Newsround clip https://www.bbc.co.uk/newsround/39514977 or take a look at this interactive page produced by WWF: https://www.worldwildlife.org/pages/which-everyday-products-contain-palm-oil.If you’re thinking about adding chocolate chips to your homemade biscuits, you might like this Fairtrade video about cocoa-bean farmers in Sierra Leone: https://vimeo.com/411459674
Don't forget to HIT THE RED BUTTON when you have completed this challenge – and enjoy your homemade biscuits!