Palm Oil is in Everything and You’ll Wish It Wasn’t


little monkey displaced by palm oil deforestation

Ever heard of Palm Oil or Palm Oil Kernel? Chances are you’ve heard the words, but the details about this fast growing import are likely hazy at best. Well, allow us to clear some of the fog away and reveal the big picture. Whether you know it or not you have at least 5 products in your home that contain Palm Oil or Palm Oil Kernel, and sources show that most of those products lead to a loss of life. (1-4)


If you’ve ever purchased items from a supermarket you have a pretty high chance that those products are being created with Palm Oil. Compared with the other major oil crops – grapeseed, soy and sunflowers – the Oil Palm plant is the highest-yielding provider of plant/vegetable-derived oils worldwide. With expanding world population, rising energy prices, and not to mention changes in eating and skin care habits, the demand for plant/vegetable-derived oils around the world are growing at a very high rate and are expected to continue this growth for years to come. Inevitably, as the leader among these oils, the demand for Palm Oil will also increase.  But what exactly is the stuff and why is it so popular?


Although usually referred to generically as just ‘Palm Oil’, the fruits of the Oil Palm tree actually produce two different types of oil, Palm Oil and Palm Oil Kernel. Palm Oil is derived from the red pulp inside the fruits of the Oil Palm; whereas Palm Oil Kernel is squeezed from a kernel located inside the inner nut. The two oils are carefully extracted and separated during the milling process. The Palm Oil, should you do some research has become a DREAM ingredient for manufacturers as well as for consumers.


Palm Oil is similar to, and can replace, almost any other oil additive. But unlike other oil additives, it takes much less plants to produce a usable product. In-fact, in some cases Oil Palms can yield up to 10x more usable product per Hectare (about 2.5 acres) than most of its counterparts, including soy. This makes for a much higher profit margin for the companies utilizing the product, and much lower product cost for their consumers. This economic benefit has been seen in detergents, soaps, cosmetics, pizza, ice cream, candles, washing powder, and can be found in half of all foods and many household products sold in supermarkets. In addition Palm Oil is also increasingly being used in Europe and in other producer countries as a renewable raw material for generating electricity, heat, and as a bio-fuel. Its properties make it highly versatile in a number of industries and across many types of products.


Most widespread of all these products are skin and hair care products. Palm Oil is used in most shampoos, conditioners and moisturizers as an emulsifier (what binds the water and oil-like ingredients). Without an emulsifier, the Palm Oil, hair products and moisturizers that contain water or have a water-base, such as Aloe Vera Juice or hydrosol, would separate into water-based and oil-based ingredients. So for beauty companies that don’t wish to invest in the small amount of, and less profitable, methods of creating their product, Palm Oil is a major ingredient. Most skin cleansers utilize Palm Oil as well because they use the same synthetic ingredients that are used in the above shampoos. Even skin products that claim to be environmentally friendly contain masked versions of Palm Oil like cocobetaine, sucrose cocoate, sodium cocoyl glutamate, sodium cocoyl glycinate, and coco glucoside. All of these ingredients are Palm Oil-derived, even though some manufactures claim some of these are from coconut oil. Despite all the uses for Palm Oil, Palm Oil Kernel and their favorable characteristics, the points of criticism are turning out to be much graver in nature… pun intended.


Oil Palms grow primarily in tropical forest regions and as global demand for Palm Oil continues to increase, tropical forests across Southeast Asia, and increasingly Africa and Latin America, are at risk for conversion into large-scale Palm Oil plantations. The establishment of Oil Palm plantations is often promoted as a way of bringing development to poor, or rural regions. In reality, the industry often has devastating impacts on the people in these areas and all too often the governments main interest in the country’s economy leads them to allow corporations to steal lands owned by indigenous peoples for their own financial benefit. These takeovers mainly involve hostile confrontations, bloodshed, and can even cost the lives of the people fighting for their homes. (2)


Along with land acquisition comes deforestation in order to build the facilities and plant the crops. This form of deforestation has many negative effects on the environment, the most dramatic of which is the loss of a habitat for millions of species. Seventy percent of Earth's land animals and plants live in these forests, and many cannot survive the deforestation that destroys their homes. There are over 300,000 different animals found throughout the jungles of Africa and Southeast Asia many of which are injured, killed, and displaced during deforestation. In addition, Palm Oil development increases accessibility of animals to poachers and wildlife smugglers, who capture and sell the wildlife as pets, use them for medicinal purposes, or kill them for their body parts. The destruction of these rainforests is therefore not only a conservation emergency, but a major animal welfare crisis as well. According to Greenpeace; Unilever, Cadbury, Nestle, Tesco, and Palm Oil traders, Cargill and ADM together, represent 40% of the global Palm Oil trade. That’s a lot of rainforest deforestation and habitat destruction in the hands of just a few large companies.


 Messed up orangatang from palm oil deforestation

 Photo Source: 

Gaia Body Works has avoided using any type of Palm Oil-based ingredients and any other environmentally harmful and/or synthetic ingredients. Though we realize that not every product you buy can be as healthy and forward thinking as ours, we stress that at the very least you look for products that are RSPO Certified.


The Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO) was established in 2004 to promote the production and use of sustainable Palm Oil for people, the planet and prosperity. Forty percent of the world’s Palm Oil producers are members of the RSPO, as well as many product manufacturers, retailers, environmental, and social non-governmental organizations (NGOs). The RSPO (5) has become the globally recognized standard for sustainable Palm Oil. Sustainable Palm Oil is defined by the eight principles and criteria against which Oil Palm plantations are certified.



Believe it or not, your wallet has magical powers — it speaks a universal language encoded in numbers and every time you purchase a product with Palm Oil that isn’t sustainable, it shouts, “Down with the rainforests!” On the flip-side when you purchase products that include no Palm Oil like Gaia Body Work’s, and/or sources from 100 percent traceable, sustainable Palm Oil, it shouts, “Save the rainforests!” Never, ever, underestimate your power as a consumer. Actions speak louder than words, but nothing speaks louder than money and support! So on your next trip to the store or to place an online order to buy shampoo, detergents, your Gaia Body Works Soaps or ingredients for an epic vegan desert, let your wallet do the talking. When it comes to rainforests, the indigenous people, and the countless species that inhabit them; and whether or not they survive, YOU - the consumer – hold the power. So feel free use your consumer voting ballets (a.k.a. your money), and vote wisely!


 Presented By Roots Apothecary

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Sources/Further Reading:

  1. Government data has shown that over 50,000 orangutans have already died as a result of deforestation due to palm oil (, 2015)
  2. There is concern that increased consumption of palm oil could exacerbate mortality from ischemic heart disease (IHD) and stroke, particularly in developing countries where it represents a major nutritional source of saturated fat. (, 2011)
  3.  Palm oil ranks among the U.S. Department of Labor’s top four worst industries for forced and child labor. This 2013 article by Benjamin Skinner, illustrates the deep seeds of human rights abuses prevalent in the palm industry. (, 2014) Read E. Benjamin Skinner's Full Article Here
  4.  7 Elephants Found Dead in Sumatra: “There is an indication that they were poisoned," he said. "Some people may consider the elephants a threat to their palm oil plantations and poison them.” (, 2012) 
  5. Chart and information on RSPO courtesy of Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil’s website (, 2015)


November 03, 2015 — Jordan Park
Tags: eco-stuff