The Life Line of Palm Oil
Palm oil is made from the fruits of Elaeis guineensis, a species of trees more commonly known as African oil palms. Palm oil has become increasing controversial due to it's vast growth in the food and biofuel industries. Its growth has been contributing to the destruction of the orangutan, Asian elephant, and the Sumatran tiger habitat by polluting the soil and water with the use of pesticides and the desolation of native trees.
The palm oil trees originally came from west and south-west Africa, but they were introduced to Indonesia and Malaysia in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. The majority of palm oil is grown on vast plantations in Malaysia and Indonesia, bringing income to local farmers which has doubled in the last ten years. You can also find them throughout Africa, Asia, North America, and South America and some not using sustainable methods but by burning down other native trees in order to create new plantations.
Thankfully, not every farmer is burning down forests in the name of palm oil. There are sustainable palm oil producers where the growth of this crop is feeding families and helping communities grow and prosper. These governments are also promoting the use of green methods versus using fossil fuels. The hope is that all countries will follow proper sustainable standards in order to maintain the health of our wildlife.
Palm oil is a popular ingredient in soapmaking because it contributes to a hard bar. It also activates coconut oil do its job and create large bubbles. Once I found out what the demand of palm oil is having on our wildlife, I updated my recipies and now only have two that currently use palm oil. The palm oil that I use is from BrambleBerry and is certified to be sustatinable thorugh the Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil Production, cofounded by the World Wildlife Fund.
The RSPO is a not-for-profit organization that aims to unite stakeholders from all sectors of the palm oil industry and is currently the largest sustainability-focused organization within the palm oil industry. Palm oil producers are certified with RSPO through a strict verification of their process, adhering to RSPO Principles & Criteria for Sustainable Palm Oil Production by accredited Certifying Bodies, and can be withdrawn at any time if the rules and standards are not followed.
For my remaining soaps I try to use oils that don't harm the envirornment like Coconut, Olive, Sunflower and Canola in larger porportions. You can also help by making sure you know where your palm oil is coming from. Chances are if you're buying something local and/or organic, it is going to have a higher chance of coming from a sustainable farm.