What is palm oil? And why is it bad for the environment?

A Palm Oil Plantation

LadyBird never uses palm oil as an ingredient in any of our products, and this is a statement that we are proud to make! But you might wonder why we choose not to use palm oil — after all isn’t it a food grade, all natural ingredient? What exactly is palm oil?

Palm oil is a vegetable oil that is commonly used in many products, including food, cosmetics, cleaning supplies, and body care. While palm oil is inexpensive and can have some beneficial properties, its production has negative environmental and social impacts. Here are several reasons why people choose to avoid palm oil:

1. Deforestation

The production of palm oil often involves the clearing of rainforests to make room for palm plantations. This leads to soil erosion, heightened greenhouse gas emissions, and disruption of native fauna. It’s also often harvested via a process called slash and burn, which clear cuts the forest and burns the ground.

Specifically, deforestation that is done to harvest palm oil is estimated to be responsible for up to 10% of global greenhouse gas emissions. In addition to the direct emissions from deforestation, palm oil production also contributes to climate change through land use change, fertilizers and pesticide use, and the processing and transportation of the oil.


2. Habitat destruction

Palm oil production has a significant impact on endangered animals, as the clearing of rainforests destroys critical habitats and threatens the survival of many species. Some of the animals that are most affected by palm oil production include:

Orangutans: Orangutans are critically endangered and are only found in the rainforests of Borneo and Sumatra, where much of the world’s palm oil is produced. Deforestation for palm oil plantations is a major threat to their survival, as it leaves them vulnerable to hunting and poaching.

Sumatran tigers: Sumatran tigers are also critically endangered, with only around 400 remaining in the wild.

Asian elephants: Asian elephants are listed as endangered, with only around 40,000 remaining in the wild. Destruction of their habitats leaves them vulnerable to conflicts with humans.

Pygmy elephants: Pygmy elephants are a subspecies of the Asian elephant and are found only on the island of Borneo.

Sumatran rhinos: Sumatran rhinos are one of the world’s most endangered species, with only around 80 remaining in the wild. They are at significant risk for poaching.

3. Forced labor

The palm oil industry has been linked to human rights abuses, including forced labor, child labor, and exploitation of workers. Workers on palm oil plantations are often underpaid, subjected to unsafe working conditions, and denied basic human rights.

According to the US Department of Labor, there are an estimated 1.5 million children working in the palm oil industry in Indonesia and Malaysia, which account for over 80% of global palm oil production. The use of child labor in the palm oil industry is a violation of international human rights laws. Many of these children work long hours in hazardous conditions, often with no access to education or healthcare. Some are trafficked from neighboring countries, such as Myanmar and Cambodia, and forced to work on palm oil plantations against their will.

4. Indigenous rights

The palm oil industry is directly tied to land grabs and the displacement of indigenous communities. Indigenous communities often have strong cultural and spiritual connections to their ancestral land, and the loss of this land can have devastating impacts on their way of life. Forced displacement can also lead to a range of social and economic problems, including poverty, food insecurity, and loss of traditional knowledge and culture. In addition to forced displacement, the palm oil industry has been linked to other human rights abuses against indigenous communities, including physical violence, intimidation, and the criminalization of indigenous peoples who resist plantation expansion.

Our soap, which is palm oil-free, is a better choice for those who are looking to minimize their impact on the environment and support ethical and sustainable production practices. Current palm oil production prioritizes profit over the well-being of people and the planet. We have the ability to vote with our purchases. Avoiding products with palm oil can reduce the demand for this often-unethical ingredient, and push companies toward more sustainable and ethical alternatives. By using LadyBird soap, you can feel confident that you are making a positive choice for both your personal health and the health of our world.

Buy LadyBird’s products today and make a choice of a healthier world. 

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