Tip #9: Check Your Foods for Palm Oil

The deforestation of the Amazon Rainforest will leave species like the orangutan extinct in the next 5-10 years if kept at the same pace.

Normally I wouldn’t start off with a scary statistic like that, but like every Greenpeace volunteer ever has reminded you, the rainforests of the world are kind of a big deal, and deforestation really does start and end with us- the consumer.

Palm oil has become more and more popular to put in foods because of how cheap it is, and unfortunately has even made it into some of our organic foods. But Palm Oil tends to be produced by razing the rainforest to make way for huge palm plantations. This means that more than likely- the food you are eating with palm oil- partly came from land that once housed thousands of species of animals, and now is only used for monoculture.


Unfortunately, natural peanut butter is one of my favorite foods that typically has palm oil in it (which Jif has put in it to replace hydrogenated oils, in hopes of appealing to the organic, natural crowd.)

Giving up Jif peanut butter has been one of my biggest sacrifices in terms of eating sustainably (that doesn’t mean that I haven’t made a lot of sacrifices- I just really, really love peanut butter.)

And peanut butter isn’t even the first in the long list of foods that contain palm oil. In fact, it’s not just foods that contain palm oil, either! A lot of shampoos contain Sodium Lauryl Sulphate, an ingredient that cleans the residues that are left on your hair from hairspray and conditioner. Shampoos that do not have sulfates are usually made for color treated hair, because the sulfates strip the hair of it’s natural oils and any dyes that are in it. So, in all honesty, you should probably get rid of those anyway.

The point is- palm oil is hard to avoid period, but especially when you eat pre-packaged foods. It’s in Little Debbie cakes, Odwalla soy milk, Luna Bars, Ritz crazkers and Pringles chips. I’m not saying “never eat a Pringle’s chip again,” (though it might be better for the world if we all did that.)

What I am saying is- being sustainable means being more conscious of the way your actions affect everyone else in the world. We have ourselves so convinced that our lives mean so little, and that we have so little impact- when in fact, it’s the opposite. One Jif peanut butter jar less off the shelves may not seem like a lot in the grand scheme of things, but big things get done when a lot of people do a lot of little things like that.

I’ve started to look at it like this: there are some evils in our lives that are hard to give up. My biggest evil is packaged chocolate. No matter what else I give up: bread, imported fruits, jif peanut butter, leather, whatever, I can’t give up a good Reese’s. At least not right now.

So I’ve made a hierarchy, and I suggest you do, too: what impactful and morally questionable products can’t you live without? What order do they come in? Why are they important to you?

They don’t have to be just products, either. Mine are a combination of food, products and experiences.

My first is prepackaged chocolate. My second is hairspray. My third is traveling to music festivals.

Way down my list somewhere was delicious Jif “natural” peanut butter. But I looked at the label and it said Palm Oil. And I had to be aware what buying that Jif peanut butter once a month, every month -probably for the rest of my life- means in terms of impact on the environment and those around me.

And I decided that it was worth it to make the change.

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