What is Palm Oil?


Have you ever had chips, ice cream, or even cereal? If your answer is a yes, you have probably come across palm oil. Palm oil is an edible vegetable oil that comes from the fruit grown on an African oil palm tree. But since palm oil is so popular, it is now grown in places like Asia, North America and South America. Most people assume palm oil can’t be a “bad” ingredient, considering its in so many products. This is incredibly false, and palm oil is not only bad for your health, but your snack food could be contributing to climate change, animal endangerment, and the destruction of forests. Although palm oil is in so many products, most people don’t even question what it does, or what it is used for. Palm oil is not always a key ingredient, but can make foods, detergents, conditioners, shampoos, biodiesel, and more. This does not mean people should stop consuming all palm oil, but stick to brands that create palm oil sustainably.

It is important to understand what sustainable palm oil is and what is not. Most companies will take down palm oil trees in forests, which kills not only the forests but takes away animal’s homes. However, sustainable palm oil involves workers planting and replanting palm oil trees in a certain space that does not harm wildlife. Palm oil is grown from a tree that lives for around twenty-eight to thirty years. However, the tree will eventually grow too high, which makes it hard to reach the palm oil, so they are cut down to make room for new trees. That means many forests are taken down just for our pleasure. In fact, over three-hundred soccer fields of rainforests get cleared every hour. This doesn’t just affect the trees, but the wildlife inside of the forests. Some endangered species like elephants, rhinos, tigers, and orangutans are losing their habitats, as victims of animal endangerment.

Palm oil can make many products look or taste better. In fact, it can even be in chocolate to make the appearance more shiny and smooth. It can also remove dirt, and moisture your skin or hair. Of course, all of these things sound very appealing, and explain why so many companies use it. Yet, there are so many other replacements, like olive oil, sweet almond oil, cottonseed oil (which is a primary ingredient in vegetable shortening), grape seed oil, and more.

There are millions of people consuming palm oil each day, and many even know what it does to our earth. It’s hard to understand why so many people don’t care about what they are doing, but I would guess the main reason is human selfishness, and how we don’t really care unless it affects/harms us. Although it does not seem to do harm to us, palm oil is worse than most people think. The production of palm oil has many bad effects, but one that many are not aware of is the affects on our drinking water. The processing of oil palm fruits to make palm oil can send sediment, nutrients and other harmful substances into streams that we drink.


Since palm oil is in so many products, it’s very hard to just  stop using/buying products that contain it. That’s why it’s so important to understand where the products you buy come from, and how they are made. You can find sources of what companies make palm oil sustainably. Not only can you find companies who use sustainable palm oil, but find products that do contain palm oil to help you narrow down the products. Some companies like Lush have started fundraisers to stop the production of unsustainable palm oil, with all proceeds and income going straight to the cause. Even though it is hard to just stop consuming food you may enjoy, think about the animals you are hurting. Not only animals, but the environment is suffering immensely. So, next time you’re about to go shopping for some new snacks or other products, make sure to look up if it’s sustainable. Not only are you helping yourself, but helping save the lives of animals and their homes.