Palm Oil 2

Yesterday I said today that I would be giving solutions, but it turns out that I have solutions and some more problems. So sorry about.

I found a company called GreenPalm. It says this on their website:

GreenPalm is a company set up to promote the production of sustainable palm oil. It operates a certificate trading system. Palm oil producers who have invested in sustainable practices can earn extra revenue by selling GreenPalm certificates. By buying the certificates, retailers, food companies and other end users are actively supporting and encouraging sustainable palm oil production.

How does GreenPalm work to protect the environment?

GreenPalm is a completely new approach to tackling the problems caused by a complex international industry. A straightforward, flexible and easily implemented system, it will start driving improvements immediately.

Supported by RSPO, GreenPalm guarantees a financial premium to producers who can prove they are environmentally and socially responsible, who are not destroying primary forest, and who develop plans to continually improve their operations. And because it works through the existing supply chain, it safeguards millions of palm oil jobs in some of the world’s poorer regions.

GreenPalm’s ultimate aim is to put itself out of business by ensuring all the world’s palm oil supplies are sustainable. But in the future this innovative and simple system could be adapted to help other global businesses towards sustainability.” This link will also take you to their certified organizations. This association is based in the UK, so I’m not sure is any of their products are sold in the U.S. I didn’t recognize any of the names.

GreenPalm is endorsed by RSPO(Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil). It’s a not-for-profit association that unites stakeholders from seven sectors of the palm oil industry – oil palm producers, palm oil processors or traders, consumer goods manufacturers, retailers, banks and investors, environmental or nature conservation NGOs and social or developmental NGOs – to develop and implement global standards for sustainable palm oil.

There is a difference between a membership and being certified or registered.

“Step 1 is membership of the RSPO. By becoming a member, a company pledges to work towards producing or using only certified sustainable palm oil, which takes time. Many companies have said they will get there by 2015, but all of those pledges together require far more certified sustainable palm oil than what can now be supplied. So today, only part of their palm oil is certified as sustainable.

Step 2 is the final step: certification of (all) palm oil production or processes in the palm oil supply chain. Certification involves visits by third-party auditors who check units of the company against all the RSPO criteria. Only companies that pass this test can sell RSPO-certified palm oil or other palm products.”

Approximately 60% of the palm oil we consume has been further processed into a palm oil ‘derivative’ ‘split’ or fractionated into palm oil derivatives; before it is incorporated into the products we buy from the supermarket.

Another 20% is processed for the second time.

The problem isn’t with the palm oil itself. It’s how and where it’s produced. In order to make enough, thousands of miles of rainforests need to be cleared out. It destroys habitats and the biodiversity that forests are known for. According to (which promotes palm oil and is not an environmental advocate)

“60% of Malaysia’s land mass consists of forests, including some of the world’s oldest virgin forests. Only 20% of Malaysia’s land mass is under agricultural cultivation, with less than 2/3 of that dedicated to oil palm plantations. Moreover, the expansion of plantations has only utilized lands formerly used to grow rubber, cocoa or coconut, rather than forest land.”

Now, the reason I pointed out that this organization isn’t an environmental advocate is because I think it makes a difference in how you see those numbers. Two-thirds is HUGE to me. All those habitats lost, all those unique diversity we are lost when we will NEVER get it back, that is a big deal to me. And although, I don’t quite understand why it isn’t to everybody else, I guess when all you’re thinking about is how you’re going to cut down all those trees, so that you can sell something and make a lot of money. But I see it as when it’s gone, it’s gone.

The next problem is soil erosion. Not only does erosion occur during forest clearing and plantation establishment when the soil is left uncovered.

Erosion is also emphasized by planting trees in rows up and down hillsides rather than on contours around them, by not properly siting or constructing infrastructure such as roads, and by establishing plantations and infrastructure on slopes of more than 15 degrees.

Erosion causes increased flooding because erosion usually wears down the subsurface drainage systems.

Soil quality, structure, stability and texture can be affected by the loss of soil. The breakdown of aggregates and the removal of smaller particles or entire layers of soil or organic matter can weaken the structure and even change the texture. Textural changes can in turn affect the water-holding capacity of the soil, making it more susceptible to extreme condition such a drought.

Smoke Pollution from fire is another problem. This is pretty straightforward. The haze produced by the fires posed serious health problems to plantations workers and people throughout Southeast Asia.
Such haze can also reduce the productivity of oil palm trees and reduce the activity of pollinating weevils. In addition to air pollution, burning of forests releases CO2 to the atmosphere and so contributes to climate change.

For every metric ton of palm oil produced, 2.5 metric ton of effluent are generated from processing the palm oil in mills. Direct release of this effluent can cause freshwater pollution, which can affect downstream biodiversity and people.

If you google palm oil, there is no doubt that articles will be popping up about the health benefits of palm oil. There are both good and bad arguments from both conservationists and health nuts. Do your research and believe what you want, just believe it sustainably. Here is a nice U.S. list of companies who are members of the RSPO Company and different food and non-food products.

There is always more you can do to help.

Write a letter to various companies and congress people to try and convince them to do the right thing. The link above provides sample letters and various places to send the letters.

If you decide that palm-oil isn’t for you then there is a way to do that too. Vegetable oils are mostly in processed foods. Stick with mostly fruits and vegetables, a little meat and dairy if you must and you should be good. It’s a little harder to know about non-food items. Here is a nice list to help you with that. It talks about different names that palm oil is labeled under and what products don’t have it. It’s very informative.


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