Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Orangutans + Why You Should Use Sustainable Palm Oil

There is a lot of talk about using and finding sustainable palm oil. At first, I wasn't really sure why. You may not know either so I'll just touch on some of what people are going on about that you may or may not be aware of.

I quote from this article: "Orangutans and palm oil: What's the connection?"

The forests of Borneo and Sumatra are the only two places on Earth where these gentle, intelligent creatures live. The cultivation of palm oil over the last decade has directly led to the slaughter of thousands of individuals as the industry has expanded into previously undisturbed areas of old-growth rain forest. The UNEP estimates that an area of Indonesian rain forest the size of six football fields is cut down every minute of every day. The palm oil and timber industries are guilty of truly horrific ecological atrocities, one of which is the systematic genocide of orangutans. When the forest is cleared, adult orangutans are generally shot on sight. In the absence of bullets they are beaten, burned, tortured, mutilated and often eaten as bush meat.

If this is all true, I am sick.

After I read this, I started making soaps without palm, and honestly, the soaps just weren't as nice. I began my search for sustainable palm because I knew it was out there, but honestly, it wasn't easy to find!

I first went to the Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO), which is the International organization of producers, distributors and others that promote the growth and use of sustainable palm oil. I poked around, and it was very confusing to actually find a supplier. If anyone from there reads this.... Make it REALLY easy to find a palm oil supplier so this change occurs faster!

I was in touch with Mike Lawson of Soaper's Choice/Columbus Foods (fantastic company, fantastic guy!), and their organic palm oil is sustainably harvested. Mike conveyed this to me:

"Regarding your question of sustainable palm production, our Organic palm is from South America, grown in a mixed species environment with legume under story to provide nitrogen specific plants to host, and feed beneficial insects. Residue from the oil pressings is also returned to the groves to provide nutrients. The farm is in a region of the Amazon that was cleared by previous owners 30-40 years ago, and the reestablishment of a forest crop has brought back many species of birds and other plants and animals. While not as diverse as native Rain forest, it is a vast improvement over grasslands. All our conventional Palm suppliers are members of RSPO as well.

We are conscious of where we purchase our oils, and will continue to seek conscientious growers, and producers."

Mike assured me that the organic palm had certification of its sustainability in addition to its membership with RSPO.

So instead of eliminating palm from your recipes, just change your buying habit. If we all make the change, maybe WE can make the difference.

Please link back to this posting if you have a blog about soap, so we can educate and end the destruction of more animals. Thank you.


kat said...

Thanks for this important information, Joanna. Can it be assumed that Palm Kernel Oil is also to blame - and have you seen any information on sustainable PKO?

Michelle said...

Thank you so much Joanna for your post. I think we soapers can seriously make a difference on this one. I'm glad you heard from Columbus Foods.

Michelle said...

I forgot to say. Thanks for finding that sustainable palm supplier. Your the best!!

FuturePrimitive said...

well done Jo.
Over here in UK, i've been doing the same and have managed to find a source...i'm also developing an organic range with organic sustainable palm oil...s'all good.
And - palm oil certainly makes all the difference to soaps...I left it out for a while and used a combo of coconut, sunflower & rapeseed, which worked well...but still not so hard as a bar with palm oil in it.
Good on you xx

Nuria said...

Hi Joanna I totally agree with you, but I am an organic products nut anyway, most of the food I eat is organic as well and I even like to buy organic cotton cloths, hahaha. All the oils I use on my soaps are organic including palm and I think you can tell the difference and obiously you can rest assured that you are not contributing to the killing of orangatans

Regina said...

High Five Joanna! I've just discovered the quality that you talk about with organic palm oil...I've steered clear of the oil for the same reasons you stopped using it.

I purchased Soaper's Choice Organic Palm Oil with the Georgia Spring Fling Soap Gathering pre-buy and have fallin' in love with it!


Body Natural Soap said...

Thank you Joanna. I to was going to eliminate Palm oil from my recipies. I am so glad for this info. I am about out of the palm kernel oil I have and will be replacing it with the sustainable.

Michelle said...

Hi Nuria,

I was reading your post and wasn't sure if you were aware so I thought I'd mention it. Organic oils aren't automatically sustainable. Right now the only way to ensure that the oil is sustainable is by purchasing it from a company that buys their palm oil from a supplier that is a member of the RSPO. So far Joanna has found 2 companies providing sustainable palm and both companies have great reputations. I agree Joanna, the RSPO site could definitely help make this much easier for us.

Amber said...

Thank you Joanna for providing some excellent and very timely info. :D I just finished a large conatainer of palm oil and have been worrying about what to do as I didn't know if I could live without nice hard bars of soap, but didn't want to be contributing to such a horrible harvesting practice by continuing to use palm oil.

Not only is Sioaper's Choice doing the right thing in providing us with an environmentally friendly option, they have many of the base oils/butters I use at prices which are DRASTICALLY cheaper than my current supplier - and I thought I had done my research! ;)

Thanks again!

Ruth said...

Joanna, thank you so much for putting such great information in one place. I've been using Soaper's Choice palm oil and have found them to be a super source for oils and info. Customer service is excellent there.

Jessica Morelli said...

Thanks so much for spreading awareness. As all natural product makers it is so important that we are making a conscious effort to be kind to the earth and the creatures we share it with. Also thanks for the link to this great supplier. I already use sustainable oils but these prices are better than what I have been paying, you cant beat that! P.S. I love your blog!!

Patrice @ The Soap Seduction said...

Thanks for the info. I recently made a conscious decision not to use any palm oil in my recipes becuz I didn't know the source of the palm oil. I've always used Columbus Foods as my main oil supplier. I may just have to re-think using palm oil again!

Daniela Maldonado said...

I'm so glad you mentioned it in such a fashion. All too often, people just turn around and say "I'll never use palm again!" Think about how many responsible farmers and companies that damages in the long run.

I'm proud to support sustainable farming with every soap of mine. Additionally, you can direct your readers to the Sumatran Orangutan Society. They invest a lot of their time educating the youths in Sumatra about sustainable practices, palm plantations and otherwise.

Joanna said...

Daniela, oh, I will make another post about sos, thanks!

Lavandine said...

I was told that I should'nt use palm oil because of it's environmental impact but did'nt know why. Now that I know, I still won't use it unless it's sustainable. I'll translate this post to French and post it on my blog and on our soap makers forum in Quebec. Thank's for the info.

Lomond Soap said...

I don't miss palm oil in my soap. Sure you have to be inventive with your recipes but it isn't hard to do.
I sponsor an orangutan through and donate a % from each sale.
Good for you highlighting this issue, the more who do the better!

Shonnabella said...

Thank you for bringing the awareness to this product. I know that GloryBee Foods sells a Palm Oil that is from a supplier who is in Malaysia and is a member of the RSPO. They are based out of Eugene, Oregon, but ship world wide and have all sorts of other ingredients for making soaps and lotions too.

Again, thank you for the insight and for a very well put together blog!

greeny said...

Hi Joanna,
In Malaysia, there are already five suppliers of sustainable palm kernel oil.
You may want to contact Dato´ Carl Bek- Nielsen, the Vice Chairman & Executive Director (Corporate Affairs)of the company called United Plantations Bhd.
He resides at Jendarata Estate
36009 Teluk Intan
Perak Darul Ridzuan, Malaysia
Tel: 605-6411411
Fax: 605-6411876
You can also reach him by email at

Selena said...

I started soapmaking without Palm or pko and I've never had the urge to try it. And I looove my soaps. They are so creamy, and if let cure for a month are as hard as palm oil soaps I've purchased. Hmmm I guess I'll never have to worry bout it cuz I don't need it.

Kelle's Kitchen said...

Thanks for this post, Joanna! I first learned of that AFTER ordering a 50 lb drum of palm oil from Columbus foods...and felt so guilty. Thank you for relieving my guilt, I feel so much better knowing that the oil I'm using is sustainable!!

Leslie said...

Hey, thanks for this post. I have used Soaper's Choice for years and did not automatically assume their organic was sustainable, so I'm very pleased to learn that it is.

Bambu Earth said...

Not all Columbus Foods palm oil is sustainable. Make sure that you are selecting the "organic, sustainable" option (for those who commented). It's a bit more expensive, but worth it. I've been making my soap without palm oil until I am able to find a sustainable source, I just ordered from Columbus and I'm happy to have found something I can offer to my customers that is responsible.

Anonymous said...

Has anyone actually seena certificate confirming the oil's sustainability? Who is the certifying body? Being a member of RSPO means nothing (you can be a member of a golf club but not play golf). RSPO is a group of stakeholders, nothing more.

S. Waters said...

Thanks so much for this informative post. I also went to the website and felt frustration because I couldn't find a list of sustainable suppliers. The reason I want to make soaps is because it gives me control over WHAT goes in the product (no SLS, parabens, etc.). To use a palm oil that is harming the environment kind of defeats the purpose of making a truly better and ethical soap!

I can't thank you enough for mentioning Columbus Foods, but a SPECIAL thanks to SHONNABELLA for mentioning GloryBee Foods! Thank you thank you thank you! I'm also in Oregon so the closer means the greener, and therefore the better!