If you try to buy ethically and sustainably sourced products whenever you shop, you have probably noticed many products boast about being palm oil-free. Palm oil has become a highly controversial ingredient in recent years as more of the general population has learned about the industry and its negative environmental effects. Understanding how palm oil impacts the environment will help you make more informed shopping choices.
Learn about palm oil, the environmental impact of palm oil and the connections between palm oil, nut butter and deforestation. Keep reading to learn how deforestation harms the environment and how you can help halt it through your everyday purchases.
What Is Palm Oil?
Also known as palm kernel oil, palm oil is a variety of vegetable oil that comes from a plant native to Africa. Specifically, palm oil is derived from the flesh of the fruit grown by oil palm trees, scientifically known as Elaeis guineensis trees. These trees grow exclusively in the tropics, including various regions of Africa, Asia and Latin America.
Palm oil is the most broadly traded vegetable oil in the world. Palm oil's popularity is most likely because it is one of the cheapest oils on the market. Oil palm trees also produce a high yield, making palm oil a remarkably profitable product. The oil that comes from these trees is similar to canola oil, grapeseed oil or soybean oil, making it a versatile ingredient to have on hand.
Because palm oil can be used in so many ways, 50% of packaged products in the average store contain palm oil, including snack foods, cosmetics, detergents and more. Much of the world population has even come to rely on palm oil as part of their regular diet. Due to these factors, the demand for palm oil is expected to increase 1.7% each year until 2050.
Why Is Palm Oil Bad for the Environment?
Although palm oil is inexpensive and versatile, it does come with some drawbacks. In particular, palm oil plays a large role in deforestation around the globe. In the sections below, you will learn more about what deforestation is and how palm oil production harms the environment.
What Is Deforestation?
Deforestation occurs whenever developers torch and bulldoze trees and biodiverse areas to convert the land for non-forest use. Also referred to as forest clearance, deforestation can involve transforming the land into a farm, a ranch or even an urban space. Most often, deforestation occurs in tropical rainforests.
Whenever tropical rainforests are cleared, such as for planting other crops for commercial use, the habitats of numerous species get destroyed. Wild animals native to rainforests, including orangutans, other primates, rhinos, elephants and tigers, struggle to survive after their home gets leveled. In fact, deforestation has made palm oil the leading cause of orangutan extinction.
In addition to harming a wide range of species, deforestation interferes with the area's plant life. Because trees and soil store carbon, we need them to help absorb the abundance of CO2 we produce. However, deforestation takes away these sources of carbon storage, making the air we breathe considerably less clean.
Along with endangering species and limiting carbon storage, deforestation poses major problems like lower water quality, greenhouse gas emissions, climate change, forest fires and more. Deforestation also hurts the Indigenous people who live in the area. Ultimately, clearing biodiverse forests generates short-term profits while causing devastating long-term effects.
Palm Oil and Deforestation
Currently, palm oil is used for about 40% of the world's annual demand for vegetable oil. Palm oil gets used frequently for pre-packaged foods, animal feed and fuel. The high demand for palm oil and the product's lucrative nature has led to more and more forested areas getting cleared for growing oil palm trees.
Unfortunately, clearing these areas for palm oil production is devastating for the environment. Over 90% of the palm oil produced comes from the regions of Sumatra, Borneo and the Malay Peninsula, meaning the land being cleared is largely tropical rainforests. Research has revealed a direct correlation between the deforestation these areas sustain and the vast quantities of palm oil they produce.
During deforestation of these areas, forest lands essential to biodiversity get replaced by palm oil plantations. By removing the land's natural tree canopy, deforestation can cause more extreme temperature swings, putting plants, animals and humans at greater risk of suffering the harmful effects of climate change.
How the Environmental Impact of Palm Oil Affects Nut Butter
From processed foods to personal hygiene products, palm oil is in basically everything. Particularly, palm oil is frequently used in nut butters to prevent the natural oils in nut butters from separating. Palm oil is often the chosen ingredient for nut butter manufacturers because it is low cost, has a neutral flavor and is an effective filler to boost margins.
If you want to help stop deforestation and save the environment, you can shop sustainably. Read the label on each product you purchase to ensure it does not contain palm oil. When shopping for nut butters and other products, be aware of the ingredients typically derived from palm oil so you can avoid them.
Here is a list of ingredients that are often, but not always, derived from palm oil:
- Palm kernel, palm kernel oil, palm fruit oil, vegetable oil and vegetable fat
- Palmate, palmitate, palm olein, palmitic acid, palm stearine, palmitoyl oxostearamide and palmitoyl tetrapeptide-3
- Hydrated palm glycerides, ethyl palmitate, octyl palmitate, palmityl alcohol and sodium palm kernelate
- Elaeis guineensis, glyceryl, stearic acid and stearate
- Sodium kernelate, sodium lauryl sulfate, sodium laureth sulfate and sodium lauroyl lactylate/sulfate
While it might seem challenging to avoid all the ingredients above, eliminating or greatly reducing the amount of palm oil in your diet is easier than you would think. Start by looking for companies that offer certified palm oil-free products. You can also decrease the amount of palm oil in your everyday products by searching for vegan, cruelty-free or locally made items whenever possible.
Get Nut Butter Without Palm Oil From La Tourangelle — Artisan Oils
You do not have to give up nut butter when you cut palm oil out of your life, thanks to La Tourangelle — Artisan Oils. La Tourangelle offers delicious almond butters made without any palm oil or palm oil-derived ingredients. Instead, La Tourangelle almond butters get their smooth creaminess from almond oil. The almond oil enhances the texture of the nut butters and adds to their nutty taste.
Whether you prefer almond butter with salt or classic unsalted almond butter, La Tourangelle has the perfect palm oil-free nut butter for you. Shop La Tourangelle French-roasted almond butters today to do something good for the environment and yourself.