What is palm oil? is it really killing the environment?

What is palm oil

Palm oil is a kind of vegetable oil.

It is used in many things that we use in the west and all over the world.
The Chances are you will have more than one item in your house with palm oil in it.

All the major fast food chains use it in their foods so it has a high product use.

It can be hard to avoid for many people as it's in soaps and items people would not expect.

Palm oil is in most foods and even toiletries for example shower gel ,soaps, pizza, ice cream,chocolate spread it's in everything.

Many of us eat it daily and don't realize the harm it is causing the climate and animals around the world
because we are unaware unless we go looking for the information.

We don't tend to see how some things affect the climate and wildlife because we are so busy with our own lives.

Many big companies who use palm oil in their products are hardly going to speak negatively of it on TV and in the media as it will affect their profits.

If the big company's just stopped using it we are talking millions if not billions of loss in profits etc.

Unless laws change or the companies have to lower their use of the oil due to public pressure boycotting of their brand as an example it won't go away any time soon.

This post is not created to encourage an all out ban of palm oil.

No that would make the situation worse
This post has been created to encourage you to use palm oil from a sustainable source.

That way you know the oil is regulated and has the backing of charity's and animal organisations so you know it is not making the situation worse.

Is palm oil bad for you

Palm oil contains more saturated fat than olive oil 
my oil of choice I use most often I use olive oil as it is better for my health.

The question we all want to know is if palm oil is palm oil bad for you
any oil in excess can be bad.

If you use palm oil rather than olive oil or other types your chances of heart disease and cholesterol rises when eating large amounts due to the saturated fats.

We all know saturated fats are bad for us from fried foods, burger's and chips to takeaways.

The fact that palm oil is pure saturated fat will not do us any favors in the way of good health.

Saturated fat boosts cholesterol which is a major risk factor for heart disease.
Palm oil is around  50% saturated fat.

Some studies have shown that like any saturated fat palm oil could block your arteries leading to bad health and heart failure,heart attacks and other problems.

Palm oil bad?

Substances produced when palm oil is processed at high temperatures 
for example deep frying may cause cancer. 

Some ingredients in the oil are thought to be carcinogenic 
studies done on animals have concluded that the oil caused cancer when it was heated up
and then digested causing tumor growths in the animals.

The effects on humans is still unknown but experts are yet to say for sure it can be carcinogenic
in people they do say it may increase your chance of getting some types of cancer.

They do advise it should only be used in moderation.

What is palm oil in?

Palm oil is in close to half of the products we buy in the supermarkets.

Some supermarkets are 
considering not using it in some of their own products.

Iceland the supermarket are a good example. They no longer use it In their own brand food but still sell other brands that contain the oil.

Here is a list of some items that contain palm oil
The list is endless so I will just mention some of the mos common
palm oil products.

Stops the lipstick from melting at high temperatures.

Used in the soap to remove oil and dirt from skin etc washing hands as example.

Ice cream
Makes the ice cream smooth and creamy.

Stops the pizza from sticking together and enhances texture.

Gives chocolate its smooth and shiny appearance 
and keeps it from melting.

Other items that contains palm oil

  • Deodorant
  • Curry's
  • Shampoos
  • Toothpaste 
  • Animal feed
  • Bread
  • Crisps
  • Margarine
  • Vegan cheese
  • Skin care products
  • Instant noodles
  • Bio diesel
  • Cookies

How is it made?

Two types of oil can be produced; 
Crude palm oil and palm kernel oil.

Crude palm oil comes from squeezing the fleshy fruit, and palm kernel oil is produced by extracting the oil from the internal seed crushing the kernel, or the stone in the middle of the fruit.

Why is it bad for environment

Environmentalists argue that the farming of oil palm trees is extremely bad for the planet.

They say that due to the farming of palm oil trees it is bad for the earth and the local areas
due to palm oil deforestation.

Fertilizers and pesticides used in the production of palm oil are often polluting groundwater and soils which local villages and animals would be drinking water there.

The majority of the time palm oil production  
results in deforestation to make room for more trees to grow. 

Once the trees get too big and it requires more effort to get palm fruit from the high trees
they cut them down this then results in animals such as the orangutan homeless.

Palm oil production is responsible for around 8% of the world's deforestation.

Dumping in the sea

Palm oil is legally allowed to be dumped into the sea by large cargo ships and they often do just that.

Ships often clean their tanks after delivering the substance to ports etc.

Once the oil is off loaded the ship is allowed to dump a limited amount of the contaminated residue of the oil at sea.

Provided they do so more than 12 miles from the shore of the country they are delivering to.

The oil then can end up on nearby beaches or get contaminated with other pollutants from the sea and then animals such as fish,birds and other sea life will eat the oil and either become sick or die.

Palm oil is also toxic to dogs so when it washes up on the beach it can cause problems for dog walkers
and cause sickness, diarrhea, and, in extreme cases, pancreatitis it can be fatal but it is rare.

How does it affect animals

Many of the forests are constantly being burned down at an alarming rate destroying the homes of  many of the animals such as the orangutans, rhinos,tigers and elephants.

The forests have been roamed by these animals for 100's of years in relative peace only to have their home destroyed by big companies pursuing greed.


Many animal species like orangutans, rhinos, elephants and tigers can be affected once these animals lose their homes they will venture to other places to seek shelter as such the closer to cities and civilization means closer contact with humans.

The closer contact with humans the more then likely this will result in there death by poachers illegal hunting etc.

We may end up making our friends of the forests closer to extinction once they are gone. 

We will never get them back and we will be to blame for their demise.


Fewer than 80,000 Orangutans exist now and that number is getting lower everyday
Around 2,000 to 3,000 orangutans are killed every year.

An estimated 50,000 orangutans have died due to palm oil deforestation in the past 20 years.

A United Nations report has warned that wild orangutans may not exist much longer and could become extinct outside of special protected areas if the current rate of palm oil production does not slow down.

Sumatran elephant

There are fewer than 3,000 surviving
only around 1,500 live on Borneo, where palm oil production is continuing daily to destroy the elephants' home and habitat leaving them nowhere to escape to.

Many of the elephants are killed as they are getting closer to humans as they have nowhere else to go so end up in conflict with humans who then wipe them out.

At the current rate of habitat destruction estimates say the Sumatran elephant could be extinct within 30 years or even less if the demand for palm oil continues.


When the forests are burned high levels of toxic gases such as carbon dioxide contribute to the worsening climate change and air pollution making city's filled with soot and hazy smoke choking local residents.

Burning the forests releases high levels of carbon dioxide and black carbon (soot) into the atmosphere, contributing to climate change and damaging our earth even more.

Who produces the most palm oil

Indonesia is the top producer of palm oil
with around 33.4 million tonnes of palm oil production.

  • 2rd Malaysia: 19.9 million tonnes of palm oil
  • 3rd Thailand: 1.8 million tonnes of palm oil
  • 4rd Colombia: 1.2 million tonnes of palm oil 

Why is it not banned?


After doing some reading on palm oil my first thought was they should just ban palm oil use altogether.

But after further research I realized this would probably be the worse route to take as it would have many worldwide side effects.

The main issue why it is not banned is it provides jobs to people in poverty.

The way people in poverty see things is yes the animals may lose their homes but if they don't burn the forest down or cut trees down.

They may starve themselves and their own family's may go hungry 
we have to remember if we were in their situation what would we do?.

Many of the local workers have families to feed so need income no matter what the effects are on the animals or environment it is a hard choice because they may go hungry if they have no income.

We should not judge the workers for this as it is not just as easy as saying ok stop farming palm oil.

The human rights of these workers are often violated on plantations.

An outright ban would do more harm than good 
for example it would devastate livelihoods of farmers with job losses.

Workers life

Many of the workers who gather the palm oil fruit do not have access to basic facilities such as clean water and lighting.

Harsh working conditions, long hours and exposure to dangerous toxic chemicals is hazardous to their health.


Palm oil production requires less than half the land that would be required by oils such as sunflower or rapeseed to produce the same amount of oil and the profits can mount up as well.

Palm oil price will always make people choose it rather then more expensive oils people will often choose cheaper oils due to poverty and low income so it can be a hard choice for some people which oil to use.

Palm oil is cheap to produce and requires not many pesticides or care 
so overhaul a lower cost of production to produce then standard vegetable oil.

Palm oil is a $62 billion industry and an ingredient found in more than half of all items on supermarket shelves so it is not going anywhere anytime soon.

Many of the owners of the big companies who source unsustainable palm oil pay the workers who gather the oil next to nothing but reap high profit rewards.

Conflict can often occur between communities and companies over who has rights to land so this can cause more misery for the area.

Sustainable palm oil

Using sustainable sourced palm oil is the best option rather than a ban as it can be controlled.
Sustainable palm oil can prevent harming people or the environment and offer an alternative to the current sourcing of palm oil which has many side effects.

Many of the big companies have agreed to
  • No deforestation
  • No peat development
  • No exploitation 

With the right training and education for workers it can help create homes for the animals and prevent farmers from clearing land and forests burning down leading to all number of problems. 

Many companies are helping provide and encouraging sustainable palm oil sourcing.

What are companies doing & How can I help?

A U.N. Climate meeting of over 150 companies — including McDonalds, Nestlé, and Procter and Gamble — pledged to cut deforestation worldwide in half by 2020 and to eliminate it altogether by 2030 we shall have to wait and see if that happens.

As of 31 December 2018, 
Iceland the supermarket chain has removed palm oil as an ingredient from its own label products
Little steps like this are what is needed as it will slow the need for palm oil even by a little.

Many people recognize that palm oil is here to stay and that a hard line boycott is unlikely to achieve success.

Trying to make company's aware that people want change may help in the future hopefully.

Companies need to ensure essential plantations are managed sustainably.

We as the public need to make sure big companies that use palm oil keep their promises if not
They need to be held to account in the media and know their customers (you)
will not buy their products if they fail to act and break their promises.

Some other ways that you could help:

  • Donate to charities that help animals affected by palm oil WWF etc.
  • Volunteer to help charities
  • Slow demand, for products containing palm oil
  • Make people more aware of palm oil production effects
  • Use sustainable palm oil only
  • Support companies who use sustainable palm oil

Charities and companies that are helping make a difference

Below are some charities and organizations that you could consider supporting. Have a look at them and see which suits you best. Click the links to find out more information.

Here is a link to a Facebook post I was made aware of that has a list of 
NGOs and institutions around the world that are helping.

Link to the Facebook post

Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil

One of the objectives of RSPO is promoting the growth and use of sustainable oil palm products through credible global standards and multi stakeholder governance rather than an outright ban of palm oil.

They are a not-for-profit organization that helps unite stakeholders so you know they are doing good
and helping and not just another company after profit.

Company's such as RSPO are doing a great deal to help in many ways such as making big company's aware of how they can help and getting them onboard with their policies.

They provide training and help
Monitor and evaluate the economic, environmental and social impacts of the uptake of sustainable palm oil in the market.

They also help reduce the use of pesticides and fires and also 
stipulate the fair treatment of workers who source sustainable palm oil.

Some of RSPO goals include:

  • No destruction of endangered species habitat
  • No use of fire
  • No exploitation
  • No planting on peat

RSPO is all about making palm oil sustainable and helping the animals and the forests regenerate. 
Many of the big supermarkets are currently members and are helping to source palm oil responsibly.

For more information have a look at their website link below, I would recommend.
It is packed full of information on the use of sustainable palm oil and how they are helping.

Here is a link to there site
Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil

There contact twitter address

Gikiearth Phone App
There is also an app for use on mobile phones that is currently in use by customers. They can scan barcodes in shops and it shows them whether a product contains palm oil.

It also shows whether or not its sustainable palm oil.
This is a great idea to make people like myself more aware of products and know when we buy some products we can do our part and help out by choosing sustainable palm oil.

Here is a link to the app

There contact twitter address 

Chester Zoo

I love Chester zoo. I have been a few times always liked being able to see animals up close
and know they are well looked after.

I was planning a visit just before the pandemic but I will visit again soon.

The zoo has been working with
 HUTAN-Kinabatangan Orangutan Conservation Project, located in Malaysian, Borneo, for over a decade to help protect orangutans.

Chester zoo has got together with a number of businesses, restaurants, schools and also some  manufacturers from the great city of Chester In England. 

They have managed to unite them all to help tackle the current crisis the world finds itself in with palm oil.

The companies have removed unsustainable palm products from their supply chains, switching to sustainable alternatives and have now said they will  only use 100% sustainable palm oil products so they can help make a difference.

This is a fantastic idea. Hopefully many other cities across the world will do the same and we can all make a difference.

Oxford & Newquay

Currently the city of Oxford is looking to achieve the same thing with help from

The city of Newquay is doing the same with the help from newquayzoo.org.uk They are on track  to make the town a sustainable Palm oil town. This is a good trend.

I hope many other cities continue to follow Chester and Newquay's lead.

Chester’s achievement in becoming the world’s first Sustainable Palm Oil City is a huge step in the prevention of further damage to our beloved rain forests and a step in helping our animal friends.

(Link to Chester zoo website)

(Link to Newquay Zoo Website)

For more information on Newquay Zoo sustainable palm oil progress


There are many companies and people who are helping to make palm oil more sustainable.
Many are helping in different ways to protect our forests,environments and our animal friends.

I have tried to add as many companies and organizations as I could find to this post.
If I find more I will update accordingly. 

Also if you would like me to add you to this post please just let me know.

Another few sites to find more information on palm oil
well worth visiting and subscribing and looking at the ways they are helping.

The Orangutan Prosperity Project aims to raise awareness regarding the serious threats faced by our red haired brethren through online education and social media outreach.  It also directs interested parties to organizations that work tirelessly to conserve the wild orangutan for generations to come.

Vision and Mission of Orangutan Land Trust
At Orangutan Land Trust there vision is the long-term survival of the orangutan in the wild.

Their mission is to enable sustainable solutions that ensure safe areas of forest for the continued survival of the orangutan. 

Thank You

Also a big thank you to Jane Griffiths founder of Newquay SSPO.
twitter @newquaysspo
Twitter @griffjane

For pointing me in the right direction to find more information on sustainable palm oil.

Alternative names

Palm oil and its derivatives can have many different names so you sometimes think you're not buying palm oil when you actually are.

Even ingredients that say (vegetable oil) on the back of the product label can sometimes mean its palm oil the only way you will know is to ask the producer of the food.

  • E471
  • Elaeis guineensis
  • Etyl palmitate
  • Glyceryl
  • Hydrogenated palm glycerides

  • Palm fruit oil
  • Palm kernel
  • Palm kernel oil
  • Palm stearine
  • Palmate
  • Palmitate
  • Palmitic acid
  • Palmitoyl oxostearamide
  • Palmitoyl tetrapeptide-3

  • Palmityl alcohol
  • Palmolein
  • Sodium kernelate
  • Sodium laureth sulfate
  • Sodium lauryl lactylate/sulphate
  • Sodium lauryl sulfate
  • Sodium palm kernelate
  • Stearate
  • Stearic acid
  • Vegetable fat

Some palm oil free products

Affiliate links


  1. It is so interesting to learn about palm oil. I haven't used it before - but I love olive oil! I feel like a lot of products is linked to cancer after a certain temperature. We need to use them in small quantities. It is so sad that it gets dumped into the ocean. We need to do a better job with proper disposal that doesn't harm the environment. Thanks for sharing these facts!

    Nancy ✨ exquisitely.me

    1. Thank you Nancy. I was surprised how many products palm oil is in. I prefer olive oil as I have always used it but I can understand why many use palm oil due to it being less expensive.

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