Palm oil, derived from the fruit of the oil palm tree, is a product of the South Asian tropics that has become ubiquitous in the products we use everyday.
Unfortunately, the deforestation associated with palm oil production seriously endangers the survival of the world’s wild orangutan population. The Orangutan Land Trust’s scientific advisory board estimates that some 3,000 orangutans are lost each year to habitat conversion and hunting.
Palm oil hides in many products under many names, so keep reading to learn what to look out for and where when you’re out shopping for ice cream, cosmetics, personal care and cleaning products…all of which usually contain palm oil or palm oil derivatives.
So which products are most likely to contain palm oil? Hand soaps, toothpaste, moisturizers, lipsticks, foundations and mascaras, laundry detergent, processed foods, shampoo and body wash and margarine.In soaps, shampoos, detergents and toothpaste, the palm oil ingredient is sodium lauryl sulfate, which helps products lather up well and strip off oils. Once you start looking for it, you’ll notice it everywhere!
Food products can be even trickier, since the terms “vegetable oil” and “saturated fats” can include palm oil. Here’s a complete list of ingredients and brands to avoid. And there’s some hope- here’s an article from National Geographic that reports that eco-friendly changes in palm oil production are helping the orangutans, and here’s a list of companies that source their palm oil responsibly. Happy shopping!