A Palm Oil Riddle with 200 Names

Sorry my lovely for the delay. I have not forgotten about you, I simply got overwhelmed at work… Unfortunatley, I have grownup scientist responsibilities and I have to wake up and go to my day job 🚀  (However, I am not a rocket scientist, I work with a different kind of physics… Magnetic Resonance Imaging) 
Right now I squeeze in writing time when ever possible, but between life, travels, and work time is limited lately. Hopefully in the next year I can dedicate myself to you and the environment full-time. I wrote this post about 3 weeks ago, but I only just had time to finish the post to my satisfaction:

The Riddle that is Palm Oil:

Searching through our ingredient list should not feel like a riddle. Before completely removing processed foods from my diet, I spent too-much priceless time trying to decipher the “legible”, and yet completely incomprehensible, ingredients in my shopping basket.

The ingredient list on the back of my shampoo does not say Palm Oil… therefore my shampoo doesn’t have Palm Oil… Right?? -Question from my friend

This is a common question. And here is the heartbreaking answer:

Unless you bought your soap from a small artesanal shop or you have a DIY chemistry experiment happening in your shower, the odds say your shampoo, soap, conditioner, toothpaste, sunscreen, face wash, hand soap, and makeup contain palm oil – Me…

shivering next to my uninsulated window (yes I realize it is a waste of energy not having insultation! But that is only true if you have heat to lose… Needless to say winter has reached Santiago and I don’t have a heater or insulated windows! Yoga before bed is the opposite of Bikram) sorry for the ramble!!

So I imagine you may have questions… So I will pose the questions I raised when i first learned about the Palm Oil Industry:

  1. Why is it in Everything???
  2. How do I find the listed palm oil?
  3. How do I avoid it? Is it even possible?
  4. Is there action I can take beyond avoiding consumption?
  5. Bonus Question: Can truly ethical palm oil production replace boycotting palm oil entirely… and is truly ethical palm oil production possible?

Here I will attempt to answer these questions as completely as I can. While I am fairly educated in the area of Palm Oil, the subject is immense. So we are learning together!! If I do not cover these questions to your satisfaction or if you know something I don’t, please share in the comment section below. This is a discussion and I would love to hear about your stance on these issues!

Q1.The Devil Looks great in heels 👠 … And so does Palm Oil.

Pros (The Devil’s Sexy, Toned Legs):

Several studies suggest a link between the fats in palm oil to healthy maintained body weight index. Palm oil has arguably healthier properties than other sources of saturated fats containing medium-chain triglycerides that our body can easily absorb and burn.

The chemical makeup of these fats is gycerol. Glycerol is one of the main derivatives found on our toiletry ingredient list. (Hence the name triglycerides) One study published in the Journal of the American College of Nutrition, classifies palm oil with the equivalent cardiovascular risks as olive oil. This qualifies palm oil as a nuetral dietary fat. Neither good nor bad for the total cholesterol and low-density-lipids (LDL also known as ‘bad’ cholesterol). Some studies still suggest that liquid vegetable oils like oilve and canola are better for cardiovascular health.

In addition to these medium-chain fats, palm oil contains carotenoids, sterols, flavonoids, vitamin E (tocopherols and tocotrienols), and phenolic acids [2]. All of which have been associated with the prevention and treatment of various deficiencies and diseases.

An adequate amount of fat is necessary in the human diet for proper digestion and nutrient absorption. Palm oil provides the right amounts of fat in a balanced diet… Palm Oil Fact Sheet by Sime Darby Plantation

I want to emphasize a balanced diet! The most beneficial aspects of palm oil are only accessible in natural unprocessed forms of the oil. And most products containing palm oil are heavily processed!

(And as personal note: even if the benefits of palm oil were not destroyed the chemicals and sugars remain in processed foods! Nothing about processed food meets the requisite of a balanced diet)

Cons (The Devil’s Scary Face):

The crimes of the palm oil industry cannot fit in a single stanza. If you have read my posts The Devastation that is the Palm Oil Industry and There is Blood in our Cosmetics: Take Initiative against Palm Oil, you know that palm oil is one of the most destructive industries driven by consumption. As a “one-face-stanza,” palm oil reads something like:

The evasion of family farms, the zero-compensation for indigenous tribes, the violation in human working conditions, the mass destruction of precious rainforest, the pollution of burning peatlands, and the extinction of Orangutans.

The environmental destruction and human rights violations vastly outway the health benefits of Palm Oil… 100% of all humans, plants, and animals in Southeast Asia are exposed to hazardous air conditions. The Palm Oil Industry in Indonesia  accounts for at a minimum of 8 million hectares (8 million rugby fields) worth of destroyed rainforest land — many of which are on peatlands… SAVE THE PEAT PLEASE!… DID I mention, Orangutans hate palm oil??

Q2.Would Palm Oil Need 200 names if it was ethical??


Imagine that Moriarty (Fans of Sherlock?) was an ingredient in your toothpaste would you know his name?? Certainly not, because no Napolean of Crime is complete without an incredibly and often overwhelming riddle…. Ingredient Lists are a masquerade of products disquised in chemical names.

When buying products look out for emulsifiers and additives with names that contain glyceryl, laureth or lauryl, sulphate, stearate…. for a more complete list check out the Palm Oil Investigators list.

Q3. A Palm Oil Free Life is POSSIBLE!

If you have not already, check out my journey to a life without Palm Oil. I took the 28-day challenge created by Say No to Palm Oil. Now I am now in my sixth week (insert 9th week) taking on a life free of deforestation.

Not only is a life free of palm oil possible, but the act of removing it from my pantry and bathroom educated me on the shear amount of chemicals that lie dormant in our detergents, toothpastes, and biscuits… With the assistance of great articles by those pioneers before me, I am steadily finding easy, affordable, and often better solutions to all my hygienic, disinfectant, and caloric needs.

Here are just two of the great pioneers assisting me in my journey: Everday Roots and Wellness Mama. AND!! If you are inspired to remove Palm Oil from your life and you have any questions please, please reach out to me.

Q4. Hold the Corporations Accountable:

Being a conscious consumer is necessary, but the affects are longterm and it can  feel fruitless because the industries persist. This is where we need to hold those suppliers responsible.

Write letters to the companies that you shop from and ask them to address the issues. I have plans to release a series of letters here on EcoMouthpiece: addressed to companies like Tom’s of Maine. When they are posted, please use and adapt the letters to address the brands you care about.

Other ways to assist include donations of your money or time to organizations on the ground fighting against deforestation, displacement of local families, and the conservation of orangutans.

Are you a teacher?!? 
You can work to make your school a part of DeforestAction a program operated in schools to raise awareness and funds to fight the deforestation!

Q5. Is there a truly ethical way to source Palm Oil…?

As a pure opinion, I do not believe that any existing large corporation can support trully ethical production and supply of palm oil. Some smaller companies have founded promising models with demonstrated success in sustainability of the environment and local economy. For example, the company Dr. Bronner’s sources completely free-trade. All their production is traceable to the farms in Ghana. This operation has stimulated the workforce, education, and healthcare of Serendipalm. However, Dr. Bronner’s production is expanding, and I am concerned that like all expanision this level of sustainability will suffer.

So… should we embrace sustainability or boycott??

This question, I posted as an open provocation of thought. Ultimately, this is a question that we must answer for ourself. I will continue to readdress this as I gather new information, but as it stands I will continue to remove the utmost possible amounts of palm oil from my life.

For me, I see any consumption as feedback into a highly destructive industry. Even through conscious brands like Dr. Bronner’s. In my opinion, the only clearly ethical method is complete removal… I will sacrifice the instant convenience for a clear conscience.

In closing

If I have not answered any questions that have arisen, please call me out. This is a learning process for all of us and I am by no mean an expert in this topic. I am a guest trying to find my way through a chemists pantry with a engineering manual…

Stay lovely, and enjoy this beautiful day!

-LL (The 28-Day challenge has long since past, but the journey never ends)


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