While doing the research for a Los Angeles Times op-ed about the dangers and prevalence of palm oil, I came across a great new website from the Rainforest Action Network. It lists hundreds of products that contain this orangutan-killer. (In case you haven’t been following palm oil coverage on Grist and elsewhere, rainforests — the homes of the orangutans and many other rare creatures — are being destroyed at the fastest rate in history in Indonesia and Malaysia to make way for palm oil plantations, accounting for between four and eight percent of annual global greenhouse-gas emissions.)
The site, The Problem with Palm Oil, is valuable for two reasons: First, it allows folks to green their home by getting rid of climate-killers like Oreo cookies, many Entenmann’s baked goods, Body Shop soap, and Kit Kats — and replace them with the many equally affordable (and healthier) alternatives like Lever 2000 soap (ironically made by Unilever, the biggest palm oil consumer in the world). After my article was published, I received an email from Andrew Butler of Lush Cosmetics, in which he reports has “eliminated the vast majority of palm oil we use” and is “working with Friends of the Earth to gather signatures in our stores asking [Members of the European Parliament] to vote against targets to increase the use of biofuels in road transport.” Every food and cosmetics product I looked at had mainstream, equally affordable (and often tastier/better) alternatives that didn’t contain palm oil.
The website also represents an example of a growing trend in online environmental organizing — savvy groups are mobilizing their activists to participate in research projects, saving tons of time and money that can be used for purposes other than research. RAN is asking for “Supermarket Sleuths” to investigate products that do (and do not) contain palm oil (Greenpeace recently launched a similar effort on sustainable seafood). I participated myself, uploading the results of my research for the palm oil article (which was also featured on NPR’s cool new show, the Bryant Park Project) and saving my friends at RAN a bunch of time.
If you’ve got a few minutes next time you’re at the supermarket, you might want to help out; there are way more products that contain palm oil than the Supermarket Sleuths have found yet.