When I first went vegan, I was very honest about my decision – I kind of like this planet a little too much to continue destroying it.
I’ve embarked another journey, this one I had struggled with in the past, but I am determined to come out of it a new woman.
Insert the absolute evil: palm oil.
Turns out palm oil not only is one of the main causes of deforestation but it’s also a disaster for endangered wildlife such as orangutans and tigers. Basically, palm oil sucks. Unfortunately, it is also really cheap therefore used in nearly half of supermarket products – with regards to food it is mostly processed food. It also not only is bad for the planet and orangutans, but it’s also 50% saturated fat, which makes it not the healthiest option for humans too. Palm oil is used as biofuel too.
Sustainable palm oil? Don’t be silly – it doesn’t exist. ‘Sustainable palm oil’ is a marketers way of saying: “We didn’t destroy a new patch of forest to produce this palm oil, we’re just using plantations that already exists.” That is not a solution nor does it improve the situation. Imagine if every time you went into the doctor’s office, the doc said, since you already have a cast on your arm, we will keep breaking your elbows. Um?
But have no fear, Rainforest Rescue has put together a handy-dandy list of ways improving and becoming more mindful with regards to palm oil.
Now. Let’s have a 5-minute-dance-party because I’ve just celebrated my 4-month palm oil free anniversary. Is it an anniversary, if it hasn’t been a year yet? Yes, that means I haven’t had Oreos in 4 months. It turns out there are plenty other vegan goodies that don’t contain palm oil that can indulge my sweet tooth. Also, I feel like it is important to note that I have dropped palm oil out of my diet (with the exception when I eat out and have no control over what goes into the preparation of my meal). I probably still have and use some either beauty or household products that contain palm oil, and I’ve simply been unaware of it. (I’m working on it, tho.)
No, not every vegan needs to drop palm oil, but I do encourage it. The ideology of veganism is to reduce animal suffering as much as possible – palm oil indirectly causes harms to animals. So, if someone is a seasoned vegan and has the means (willpower and determination) to drop palm oil – then awesome, do it – but if not, don’t stress. I think vegans need to stop worrying about the all or nothing attitude (as I discussed it in my ‘vegan pressure’ post) – I’d much rather see a happy, healthy and successful vegan shovelling handfuls of Oreos than someone falling off the bandwagon and returning to carnivore diet.
So, how did I do it, and what advice I have for those potentially wanting to drop palm oil? Here’s my nine tips, tricks and thoughts.
- You will have to go back to reading labels. This, for me, was more annoying than anything. Also, I simply kept forgetting at first as I had been so used to grabbing my vegan staple products without having to check labels.
- Don’t just trust a brand to be ‘palm-oil free. ‘ Bread and bagels have been the biggest struggle for me, interestingly for some brands, one product might contain palm oil while others don’t.
- Vote with your money: support products and brands that have decided to drop palm oil consciously. Hekem, nudge, nudge, wink, wink – Iceland you rock. 🙂
- Be vocal. You can start by signing the Green Peace petition here.
- Cook yourself. Processed food usually is packed with all kinds of naaaaaasties, avoid that by taking control of your meals – buy fresh ingredients, DIY some staple processed foods.
- Beware of its many names. Marketers are smart, know palm oil can also be labeled as vegetable oil (if it doesn’t specify which one is used, i.e. sunflower, coconut etc., use your judgement). I think there are over 200 names for palm oil, here’s a PDF of most popular ones. (I have a screenshot of it saved on my phone for when I’m shopping.)
- When in doubt use tools. There is an app for anything, I swear. I’ve found Buycott to be somewhat useful. It’s USA based, so some products don’t come up. I’m sure with time when it catches on to the UK; it will get better! Basically, it lets you select causes (in this case I’ve selected ditching palm oil among few) and you simply scan a product barcode and it gives you an overall score of conflicting campaigns and description of not only the product but also the company. What I love most is that, in the app it allows you to click ‘no’ for purchasing a product and that then offers you to contact the company directly and tell them precisely that. I love it because it encourages consumers to be pro-active and demand change.
- For a smooth transition, you can try the 28-day palm oil free challenge. I didn’t do the challenge myself, but I like the plan for some simple tips and DIYs.
- Awesome tip: if a product contains 50% or more of saturated fat, it’s most likely to be palm oil.
While my food is palm oil free, most likely other items I use are not. To better understand the enormous challenge that ditching palm oil is, I encourage you to read this – it is a one man’s journey of ditching palm oil.
That is all, spread some kindness and make your own DIY Oreos palm oil free. Because I’m a superstar here’s a super easy recipe for y’all – I usually use soy milk and coconut oil when I make them at home! 🙂