palm oil

Reducing Our Reliance on Palm Oil

palm oil

Something we’ve spoke a lot about in our house is palm oil.  Palm oil is ubiquitous in all of our homes – from the food we eat to the cleaning products we use, even in so-called eco-saviours like bio-diesel – yet it is almost single-handedly wiping out the Indonesian rainforest and the habitat of the orangutans. Through our shopping habits we are all unconsciously driving this destruction.

Palm oil is derived from the fruit of the oil palm tree, primarily in Indonesia and Malaysia.  The demand for the oil has doubled in the last ten years because it delivers more vegetable oil per-hectare than other oils like soya or sunflower.  It’s demand has also been driven by western health concerns, particularly fat contents in foods – as palm oil is free of trans fats, unlike other oils.

The problem is that palm oil is usually grown on the site of former rainforest.  Palm oil plantations cover 6 million hectares of former forests in Indonesia alone, destroying the home of indigenous species, like elephants, tigers, rhinos, and orangutans, and triggering enormous releases of carbon dioxide from lost forests and drained peat lands.

Indonesia is now the world’s third-largest carbon dioxide emitter, after China and the U.S, and the demand for palm oil is rising, to the extent that by 2015 Greenpeace estimate a further 4 million hectares of forest will be cleared for the production of palm oil for use in the bio-fuel market alone, meaning that other delicate ecosystems such as the forests of central and west Africa are now being cleared for the growth of oil palm trees.

orangutan

After speaking more and more about this, and finding out more about the extent of the destruction in Indonesia and beyond we’re looking to reduce our reliance on palm oil, and be more conscious and ethical consumers.

It’s going to be a challenge – here is a list of 30 names palm oil is known by on product labels.  Palm oil is also ubiquitous in bread, biscuits,  ice-cream, pizza, frozen chips, crisps, peanut butter (apart from Sunpat), margarine, chocolate and many more of my vices (including my dearly beloved Reece’s Peanut Butter Cups).  It’s also commonly found in detergent (including “eco-friendly” products like Ecover and Method, surprisingly), and personal care products like soap, toothpaste and shampoos, shower-gels and bubble baths: anything that foams up basically.

You can purchase products from manufacturers who say that they use palm oil that is sourced sustainably (members of the Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil [RSPO] are allowed to label their products as sustainable) however I’m not convinced that palm oil can be sourced sustainably, and indeed others are writing off “sustainably sourced palm oil” as greenwash.  Greenpeace, notably, say that “many RSPO members are taking no steps to avoid the worst practices associated with the industry, such as large-scale forest clearance and taking land from local people without their consent. On top of this, the RSPO actually risks creating the illusion of sustainable palm oil, justifying the expansion of the palm oil industry“.  Greenpeace have also found evidence that RSPO members still rely on palm oil suppliers who destroy rainforests and convert peatlands for their plantations, so for us it’s vital to avoid palm oil entirely.

I already check food labels for their salt, sugar and fat content (I’m a joy to go grocery shopping with!), so I guess it’s just a matter of scanning a little harder for palm oil and it’s associated names.

We do our food shopping next week – so I’ll let you know how we get on – including how long it takes us!

* image used from here

eco-friendly easter egg alternatives

Eco-Friendly Easter Egg Alternatives

eco-friendly easter egg alternatives

Continuing with the Easter holidays theme, here is a great eco-friendly easter egg alternative you can make, or get your kids to make on a wet (or snowy, as it is at the moment!) afternoon:

I’m not too big on giving my daughter too much chocolate, she gets a little bit, but we do try to limit what she eats, so Easter with it’s influx of chocolate does pose a little bit of a problem.  It’s not just the chocolate: Easter also poses an eco-friendly issue.   Easter eggs are one of the most overly packaged items on the shop shelf.  A typical egg will be housed in an elaborate box, a large plastic mould and wrapped in foil.  The egg itself will typically contain a plastic bag full of yet more sweets.

Trying to come up with a healthy eco-friendly Easter egg alternative called for some creative thinking and head scratching.  After a bit of brainstorming I found a set of four wooden two-part eggs for a few pounds (available here).  Then armed with a bundle of scrap fabric and a lot of glue I decoupaged the eggs to create some eggs that can be filled with any item of your choosing –  such as crayons or healthy treats.  The best part is that these can be refilled, and will last for many Easters to come, making these a fantastic eco-friendly Easter egg alternative!

eco-friendly easter egg alternatives

It’s really easy to decoupage, and a great fun activity for kids.  You will need:

easter egg diy

Instructions:

  • Cut some scrap fabric into 1cm squared squares.
  • Mixed 1 part PVA glue with 1 part water in a bowl.  Give the glue and water a good mix with your finger, or an old paintbrush.
  • Separate your wooden eggs into two parts and sit them on a protected surface.
  • Dunk your fabric squares into the PVA glue/water mix, giving them a good soaking.  Squeeze out any excess water/glue then apply to your egg.  Smooth out any creases with your finger as you go.
  • Make sure you cover up all bits of wood with your fabric.
  • Leave to dry overnight.
  • Glue a ribbon or trim in place if desired.

I tried a patchwork effect on my first egg but wasn’t so keen with how it came out, so I stuck to one fabric per egg.

You could also paint the eggs using acrylic paints, or draw on them using sharpies or gel pens, however my painting skills are not up to scratch, which is why I went for decoupage.  If you’re a dab hand with a paintbrush or pen, or your kids would rather paint than decoupage,  then here are some stylish examples of painted eggs that I found at Blank Goods:

easy easter crafts

easter craft ideas

You could also use washi tape, like these ones from Bliss Bloom:

easter egg decorating ideas

If you’re handy with a crotchet hook, you could even make these lovely eggs, spotted at Red Heart:

crochet eggs diy

These would be great for a kids egg hunt!

There you have it, lots of lovely eco-friendly Easter egg alternatives to traditional chocolate Easter eggs that have the added bonus of being a bit healthier too!