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the problem with palm

The environmental impacts of Palm Oil production
the problem with palm
Palm oil is everywhere you look, sneaking its way into countless products. But did you know it often goes incognito under names like palmitate and stearate? Get clued up on these tricky aliases to keep your shopping palm oil-free!

But why Palm Oil? 

Simple really, palm oil production is cheap, easy to grow and literally has a bazillion applications, that's why there is such a global demand for palm oil. Palm oil is in high demand across a myriad of consumer goods. Palm oil is used in around 50% of products consumers purchase and use on a daily basis. Food, cosmetics, washing detergents; chances are your pantry, bathroom and laundry are all harbouring palm oil fugitives.

The Palm Oil industry also uses palm oil to manufacture biofuel and has become what is called the green fuel option for cars, shipping and Aircraft fuel. Greenwashing 101.

Palm oil plantations are predominantly found in the lush rainforests of Indonesia and Malaysia, these two south east Asia nations alone boast around 13 million hectares of palm oil plantations, almost half the world’s total. The sad fact about palm oil is that it grows best where rainforests are, and, since it’s more popular than Regina George, palm oil harvesting is rapidly wiping out rainforests, taking away the natural habitats of endangered orangutans, Sumatran tigers, elephants, rhinos and other endangered species.

Tropical deforestation accounts for 15% of total global warming pollution annually. When the trees are cleared or burned it releases CO2 into the atmosphere. Destruction of peatlands (type of wetland) is especially polluting as these ecosystems store massive amounts of carbon and can cause more than 2,000 times more greenhouse gases than burning diesel oil.

The ‘slash & burn’ method of palm oil production causing deforestation also causes excessive greenhouse gas emissions. Local communities are often impacted by suffocating smog, violation of land rights and horrific working conditions. Oh, yeah and don’t forget the leakage of chemicals into the water supply. All in all, it’s really not a good time.

What about sustainable palm oil production?

There are loads of companies claiming to be using sustainable palm oil or certified palm oil by adding certified sustainable palm oil certifications to their products which have been obtained through certain governing bodies. Unfortunately, sourcing sustainable palm oil still isn’t perfect, not even remotely close actually. Deforestation to produce palm oil is still permitted if the specific part of the forest is not classed as high value. Let’s be real here though, ALL rainforests are of high value and importance.

A hectare of the palm can reliably produce four tonnes of vegetable oil every year, compared to 0.67 tonnes for rapeseed, 0.48 tonnes for sunflowers, and just 0.38 tonnes for soybeans. Under ideal conditions, high-yield palm oil farms can produce more than 25 times as much oil as soy can for the same area of farmland. So now you see why it’s so damn popular. Ironically though, a ban on palm oil would lead to a catastrophic increase in deforestation, because anything we replace it with will need much more land to grow on.

Well, what’s the solution? Of course, an incredibly difficult and multi-faceted question to answer.

One option might be algae.

This might not seem as weird as it sounds, the majority of oil fields around the world are the fossilised remains of algae. David Nelson is one plant geneticist who has been investigating the promise of algae, which produces similar oil to palm oil. This suggests that it could be a pretty nifty alternative.

The biotech industry has also come up with a solution - a synthetic alternative that doesn't involve burning down or clearing any rainforests. It says this could eventually replace palm oil in everything. Research is still in a pre-commercial stage, however, it does look promising.


BNB Alternatives to Palm Oil

Designing palm free products is a non-negotiable for us, we are committed to creating products with use of any palm what-so-ever. This can make the R&D of a product quite challenging when you need all the ingredients in a product formula to all work together to achieve a particular feel and functionality. Most of the readily available ingredients to help with texture, viscosity and suspension are palm oil based, so a lot of researching and testing is involved in using palm free alternatives.

Our Body Glow Illuminating Oil replaces palm-based Cetearyl Alcohol with Brassica Alcohol. Brassica alcohol is a natural thickening agent and viscosity adjuster, the perfect choice for an alternative to using pam oil derived emulsifiers.
Brassica alcohol is 100% naturally derived from the brassica (cabbage family) plant, making it 100% vegan and 100% palm oil free.

In our water-based serums, Lighten Up and Hydrate Hero, we replace petroleum-and palm derived glycols with Propanediol. A colourless liquid derived from corn plants. Naturally high in glycol, propanediol allows for the enhancement of other ingredient absorption and leaves a smooth, often dewy and glowy finish to the skin. Propanediol is made from harvesting corn kernels which are dried and prepared for wet-milling, where the sugar-rich starch is extracted. The dried kernels are soaked in hot water and mild acid, softening the shell to release starch.They are then ground, screened and centrifuged to separate the starch from the protein, the sugar derived from the starch becomes the raw material for propanediol. A microorganism is then introduced to the corn sugar for fermentation, once complete, the Propanediol is purified and refined.

Climate Change and Palm Oil

Forests directly cool the planet, so when rapid deforestation occurs the planet warms up. A recent study shows that deforestation can heat a local area by as much as 4.5℃, and can even raise temperatures in undisturbed forests up to 6km away. So with more than 40% of the population living in the tropics and under climate change the rising heat and humidity could push them into very dangerous conditions. So the large scale deforestation that continues to happen in places like south-east asia for palm oil production is a massive contributing factor to global warming.

Did you know? One tree in a tropical forest can cause local surface cooling equivalent to 70 kilowatt hours for every 100 litres of water used from the soil — as much cooling as two household air conditioners. 

source: The conversation

Boycotting Palm oil? Ways you can try to avoid palm oil consumption.

There are a few steps we can take as consumers to ease the situation.
Here’s our top 3 tips on avoiding palm oil as much as possible (though it can be tricky!)

Check Labels
Any easy way to remember the alternative names to palm oil is remembering that anything that starts with ‘Laur,’ ‘Palm,’ ‘Sorbit’ or ‘Stear’ is probably palm oil in guise.

If the generic ‘vegetable oil’ or ‘vegetable fat’ has been listed in the ingredients and the product has a high proportion of saturated fat, palm oil has probably been used. There is a chance that it could be coconut oil, but it’d be best to check with the supplier for clarity.

Did you know there are over 200 alternative names for palm oil?! Some of the more obvious ones include palm kernel oil, vegetable oils and crude palm oil. Check out the exhaustive list here

Contact Suppliers
If palm oil is not declared, consumers can request this information. More specifically, if the product is from Down Under or NZ, a governing body will request the name and address of the supplier to be listed on the label for ease of contacting. If you love a product but aren’t sure if palm oil is being used, contact the supplier and ask for transparency.

Check your laundry and bathroom for palm oil.
Get ready, because It’s about to get real. There is less clarity around the declaration of palm oil in these products yet they are rife with them! Read the labels and remember ‘Laur,’ ‘Palm,’ ‘Sorbit’, ‘Stear’ or other vegetable oils means it is almost certainly a palm oil derivative.

It’s near impossible to cut palm oil out of contemporary life entirely, but we can make slight adjustments to our lifestyles that will help to make a difference.

We have a few ideas that might help.

Eat less processed food
Most processed foods will include palm oil, it can even be included in cooking oil. Eat healthier where possible, your brain and body will thank you for it!

Use less product whilst cleaning
Both dishwasher and laundry detergents contain palm oil derivatives. Run the dishwasher and washing machine only when they are full. If you don’t have a full load, use less detergent.

Make the switch
Read the labels, contact the companies, switch your products to better palm-free alternatives as you run out of your supply.

The crew at BNB are obsessed with looking for innovative ways to be better, not just for our bodies, but also for Mother Nature and we wear our Certified palm oil-free badge with pride. The production of palm oil doesn't sit right with us so we don’t use palm oil or any palm oil alternatives in our products, not now, not ever. We do the research so that you can just sit back, relax and enjoy our products.

Read our stance on palm oil here.
Keen to learn more about what we use instead?  Hit the link.