I love Spring because it gives the kids the kind of renewed sense of wonder about the world around them. It may be the same trees, the same flowers, the same species of birds we saw last year – but there’s something so new about it in this moment. After a winter devoid of bright colors, and even the sounds of nature, the kids find themselves in awe of how quickly the world around them comes alive.
At a time when the kids want nothing more than to just be outdoors I find myself eager to instill a life long love of nature in them. Not just in what they can see and touch in their own backyards, but the kind of love and appreciation that drives them to advocate for natural beauty they’ve never seen with their own eyes and the desire to protect habitats all over the globe. When we think of protecting our planet the things that come to mind are often our use of plastic and proper recycling or the push for clean energy vehicles – both of which are so important to protecting our planet. Something we don’t always think of is the way we cook and eat – something we all do multiple times a day, something many of us even have a true passion for… and something that not many people realize has a huge and fast paced effect on our planet.
Our global need for food and food products increase substantially ever year. There is always a need for more production. Unfortunately, much of that production and farming comes at a cost to our planet. Forests are cleared to make way for farm land – habitats destroyed, animals and insect species dependent on the land are wipes out and communities suffer as their land and water become polluted with chemicals and pesticide. In our home every meal is a learning experience. We talk about the value of local farmers and sustainable farming. Thanks to our local farms and CSA programs our children get to see first hand where most of their food comes from – and even have an opportunity to harvest it themselves. Of course, there are certain things we have to depend on supermarkets for. One of the most common products in our home is palm oil. You may not even realize that palm oil is an ingredient in over 50% of the prepared food you buy. You’ll even find it commonly used in cosmetics, shampoos and deodorant. Palm oil is the most produces and traded vegetable oil.. Palm Oil crops are incredibely high yeilding making it the least expensive vegetable oil in the world. That, combined with it’s tolerance for high heat cooking and versatility as an ingredient in everything from food to comsemetics, means that worldwide demand only continues to grow.
Want to know how many products in your home contain palm oil? Take the quiz here: www.rspo.org/quiz
The problem with palm oil? Commercial production can be devastating to local wildlife, ecosystems and even people. 85% of palm oil production takes place in Indonesia and Malaysia and the impact from unsustainable production is disastrous. Large scale deforestation means loss of habitat for already endangered species like rhinos, elephants and tigers as well as soil and water pollution and destruction of forest dwelling communities.
As bleak as this sounds – there is an answer. Since 2004 the Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO), a non profit organisation, has been working to transform the way this popular oil is cultivated. The RSPO has developed a list of criteria which companies must adhere to in order to be considered a sustainable producer of palm oil. These criteria help to minimise the impact of palm oil cultivation on the enviornment and surrounding communites. The most important of this criteria states that no forest or area which contains significant populations of biodiversity or endangered specices, or which have unique and fragile ecosystems can be cleared for palm oil production. The RSPO criteria also bans the clearing of areas that are fundamentla to meeting basic or cultural needs of local communites. This is just an example if the criteria companies must comply with in order to be certified by RSPO.
Want to know more? See all of the criteria for sustainable palm oil production here: RSPO Certification Criteria
The Roundtable for Sustainable Palm Oil now has over 2,500 members – companies dedicated to protecting our planet by only using palm oil that has been certified as sustainbale by the RSPO. But this is really just the beginning. To push for widespread change we, as consumers, need to be informed. By purchasing products and supporting companies who choose sustainable palm oil we can fight back against deforestation and loss of wildlife.
Download this shopping guide to help you identify products and brands that support sustainable palm oil production! And keep an eye out for this logo on participating products: