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  • Young Climate Warriors

The hunt is on ... pursue the palms (palmate, palmitate ...)

Updated: Dec 9, 2022

What do you think shampoo, margarine, shower gel, oven chips, deodorant, biscuits, bread and ice cream may all have in common? Have you heard of palm oil … it’s farmed in over 40 countries, yet 85% of global production 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 due to habitat loss. Find out how palm oil is threatening orangutans.

But what’s the relevance to climate change? Palm oil plantations are having a substantial impact on climate change – in two specific ways. Forest fires are often used to clear land for palm oil, releasing millions of tonnes of carbon dioxide and soot into the atmosphere, and in addition peatlands are often drained to make way for plantations, releasing 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 - 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’! ‘Start by looking out for ‘palm’ - 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 also refer to palm oil derivatives. Here you can view a list of alternative names for ‘palm oil’, and a list of everyday products containing palm oilmaybe look twice before if you’re buying Christmas presents!

So should we all stop using products containing palm oil? This is a tricky question. Avoiding palm oil would encourage companies to seek other types of vegetable oils …. And palm oil trees produce more oil per hectare than soybean, coconut, rapeseed or sunflower oil crops – so changing to these alternatives might actually lead to more deforestation and habitat loss. Additionally, millions of small-scale farmers depend on producing palm oil for their livelihoods. For these reasons, ‘boycotting’ is the not the answer – choose ‘sustainable palm oil’ to help tackle the issues – seek out the Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO) label

HIT THE RED BUTTON when you have completed this challenge!


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