“Contentment is natural wealth; luxury, artificial poverty.”Socrates (B.C. 469-399)
Look at the photo of the Tripa Rainforest burning – one of dozens of illegal fires set in the area – and imagine that same area as a pristine, lush home to orangutans. That’s what it was just months before.
Why, we ask, is this happening?
Many items sold today originating from Indonesia are made from materials that come from these vanishing rainforests or are related to the endangered species that are fast disappearing from these forests.
Indonesia lost almost 100 million acres of rainforest during the rampant plunder of forests that occurred during former president Suharto’s 32-year reign. After Suharto was toppled in 1998, illegal logging grew even faster, as powerful regional timber barons took advantage of a political vacuum to exploit endangered resources. A United Nations report issued in 2007 found that illegal logging occurred in 37 of Indonesia’s 41 national parks, and predicted that the current rate of destruction would see those forests wiped out by 2022.
As you shop, ask yourself these questions:
- Do I really need that picture frame or piece of furniture crafted from tropical hardwood?
- Why am I choosing a product with palm oil in it when there is another more conservation-friendly product nearby?
- Do I want to buy that suit made of rayon?
- What alternative to palm oil can I find on these shelves?
- Is it really fair to keep an endangered animal such as a primate in captivity as a pet?
- Is there proof that this exotic wood product has come from well-managed forests by an accredited certifier of the Forest Stewardship Council (FSC)?
Then remind yourself to avoid these products:
- Tropical plywood
- Dowels made from ramin
- Rayon viscose
- Exotic hardwoods, teak, ebony, sandalwood or ironwood
- Non-sustainable palm oil
“Avoiding palm oil could have worse effects because it might take support away from companies that are trying hard to improve the situation. This could encourage companies to use other products that may have even more impact on the environment. Palm oil is by far the most efficient vegetable oil to grow as it takes less land to produce than other vegetable oils. Palm oil can be produced in a responsible manner that respects the environment and the communities where it is commonly grown.“World Wildlife Fund
A Helpful Guide…
Palm oil-based products can be identified through these names:
Cetyl Palmitate and Octyl Palmitate
Elaeis Guineensis (Taxonomic name for palm oil)
Hexadecylic or Palmitic Acid
Hydrated Palm Glycerides
Palm Oil Kernal
Anything with Palmitate at the end
Likely to be Palm Oil
Emulsifier 422, 430-36, 470-8, 481-483, 493-5
Sodium Dodecyl Sulphate (SDS or NaDS)
Sodium Isostearoyl Lactylaye
Sodium Laureth Sulphate
Sodium Lauryl Sulphates
Steareth – 2 & Steareth – 20
Stearic Acid Vegetable Oil
- Seeking sustainably produced palm oil
- The Cheyenne Mountain Zoo maintains the most updated list of companies and products that are members of RSPO and reportedly work toward sustainable production of oil palm. These companies claim to promote true sustainable agroforestry. To see a list of these companies and their products visit: http://www.cmzoo.org/docs/palmOilShoppingGuide.pdf
- There are also informative websites: Palm Oil Consumers Action, a great informational site that also supplies links to contact companies at http://www.palmoilconsumers.com/index.html.
Educate those who don’t know better:
- Ownership of non-human primates as pets is illegal and wrong.
Remember this too:
- There are many things we can do: The Internet offers a wealth of information. Facebook, Twitter, Google and YouTube all have timely information, news, petitions, alerts and items that we can learn from and share in effective ways.
- The Sierra Club provides a list of many things we can do to make our consumption of forest products more sustainable
- If you have any doubt about a product or company, shop elsewhere. There are always sustainable solutions.