Projekt Nachhaltigkeit: Herausforderung 4 – Living Without Palm Oil
Palm oil is the most environmental damaging product on the market today. For one week, I want to avoid palm oil in my food and cosmetics. I will do my best and will attempt to reduce my consumption of processed foods. Instead, I will try to cook for myself more often and be more aware of the ingredients I use. I think during this experiment I will become more aware of what I consume day by day and how that affects the planet. In this article, I will share some of my experiences and insights. I chose this challenge because we recently talked about palm oil production in class. The way palm oil is produced is often highly unsustainable and poses an immediate threat to our rainforests and therefore also influences global climate.
I expect this challenge to be more complicated than it may seem at first. I will probably encounter a lot of palm oil in my cosmetics. However, I do not think that it will be very hard to exclude palm oil from my diet as I will try to cook most of my food myself and am already vegan. Therefore, a lot of things including palm oil, for instance chocolate and spreads for bread, are not part of my diet anyways. I am excited to see how this challenge goes and what I will find out.
Firstly, one can say that after this week I have learned a lot about my own behaviour and got more in touch with the products I use on a daily basis. Checking the ingredient list on products became something I spent more and more time with whether it was in the supermarket or at home. I learned that in a lot of produced foods sold in the supermarket palm oil is included. For example, a lot of soups you find at the supermarket as well as vegan butter and vegan chocolate include some form of palm oil. So I had to avoid a few foods. But by cooking for myself, I did find a way to exclude palm oil. I have to say that if you are on a vegan diet and are used to cooking for yourself, this part of the challenge is rather easy. However, I can imagine that it might be harder for people that are used to ready-made food from the supermarket as those products tend to include palm oil. The photos below show a few examples of palm oil free dishes and products I consumed this week.
While doing my research, I found out something that really shocked me: There are roughly 20 different names for palm oil in products, so even though I was continuously reading all the ingredient lists on product packages palm oil was not simply listed as “palm oil”. Only a few examples of other names are: Palmate Sodium Laureth Sulphate, Sodium Lauryl Sulphates, Sodium dodecyl Sulphate (SDS or NaDS), Elaeis Guineensis and Glyceryl Stearate.
The next part of my challenge was cosmetics. I discovered that almost all of the products I use on a daily basis to wash my hair or moisturize my face include palm oil. Soap, toothpaste, detergent, lipstick, eyeliner, face wash, shampoo… the list is endless. Of course, I could not replace all of those products immediately, as it would have been even more unsustainable to simply throw the products away. Nevertheless, this part of the challenge is more like something that I will take to heart in the future – trying not to buy products including palm oil. I did research about brands in order to find out about their policies concerning palm oil. Mostly, it was the big brands everyone knows which use palm oil.
My final thoughts on this challenge are all very positive. I learned a lot simply by going more into detail with the topic and the products I consume. I also think that with these new ideas and experiences I will change my consumption of palm oil in the future. My expectations were mostly met even though I made a few shocking discoveries. I also talked to my family and friends about this topic and it was really good to exchange ideas on how to change our daily lifestyle into a more sustainable, eco-friendly one. All in all, I would totally recommend this challenge to everyone willing to give it a try as it really helps to get more in touch with your own consumption.
(Text und Fotos: Helen Quinke (S2))