Whether or not you’ve heard of palm oil, you likely consume it or use it on a regular basis. Since the 1970s the demand for vegetable oil rose dramatically and so began the era of large-scale oil palm plantations. Palm oil is considered one of the most high quality and versatile vegetable oils because it can be separated into distinct oils with different properties. Because of its versatility, palm oil has replaced animal fat and vegetable oils in many of our favorite products. Today, palm oil is used as a cooking oil; a main ingredient in margarine; an ingredient in ice cream, baked goods and ready-to-eat meals; a base for waxes, lipstick, polishes, soaps, shampoos and most liquid detergents; a biofuel; and as an industrial lubricant. But despite its usefulness, the mass production of palm oil has far reaching environmental and social impacts.
The Rise of Palm Oil Production
Palm oil comes from the oil palm tree (Elaeisguineensis) which is native to West Africa. Traditionally, the oil palm tree was cultivated for subsistence and used as a food, fiber and medicine. They were originally grown in traditional small-scale agricultural systems and inter-planted with other perennial and annual crops. The oil palm tree thrives in the tropics of Africa, but since the rise of palm oil plantations it is also found in Latin America, Asia-Pacific, and the Caribbean. Palm oil cultivation is considered one of the fastest-growing monocrop plantations in these regions.
According to the World Wildlife Fund (WWF), most of the palm oil industry’s expansion occurred in Indonesia and Malaysia. In 2000, the world was covered in 9.7 million hectares of palm oil plantations, and these two countries accounted for just over half of the total area. Nigeria had just over 30% of the world’s total plantation area. Since then, the palm oil plantations have continued to expand because of their high yield (per hectare per year) compared to other vegetable oils. Unfortunately, this productivity has also come at a great cost to wildlife and humans.
Cheap Oil That’s Costly to Communities
Companies that make their way into less developed countries to start new plantations can have negative social impacts on local communities. Companies run into problems with local communities when they start to challenge the communities’ rights and livelihood. When tropical forests have been cut down to create or expand plantations, forest-dwelling peoples have been displaced. The appeal for starting palm oil plantations has been in part because of its low production costs compared to other vegetable oils. Costs tend to be lower with palm oil production because of low labor costs within plantations. In the countries where oil palm trees can grow, workers often receive low wages for their labor.
The Drastic Effect of Palm Oil on the Environment
Two of the most serious environmental offenses of palm oil plantations are the large scale conversion of tropical forests and the loss of critical habitats for endangered species. To establish large palm oil plantations, companies have to clear enough space to start planting their monocrop of oil palm trees. Many of the world’s tropical forests have been clear cut to make way for large scale palm oil production. According to research conducted by the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology and Princeton University, they estimated that 55-60% of Malaysia’s and Indonesia’s oil palm expansion that happened between 1990 and 2005 wiped out virgin forests.
Despite their high ecological significance and biodiversity, large areas of forest continue to be cut down. As a result, critical habitats for endangered species such as rhinos, tigers, elephants, and orangutans are compromised and destroyed. Species that once thrived in these tropical forests become displaced and suffer from a lack of food and habitat. Many of the world’s most biodiverse forests are being threatened and destroyed by palm oil plantations. For example, Indonesia’s Leuser Ecosystem is under threat, even though it’s the last place where rhinos, tigers, elephants, and orangutans co-exist. Not only does this ecosystem consists of rainforests, but includes mountainous terrain and peat swamps.
Other negative impacts of large scale palm oil production include: soil erosion and pollution, water pollution, and contribution to climate change. Palm oil plantations are usually planted in rows up and down hillsides, and since they’re not planted along the contours, erosion becomes an issue. The soil and waterways also become polluted from chemical fertilizers, pesticides, herbicides and effluent that comes from the palm oil processing mills. The conversion of biodiverse tropical forests to monocropped plantations reduces the “carbon sink” capacity of the world’s forests. According to WWW, “tropical peatland forests in Indonesia… store more carbon per unit area than any other ecosystem in the world.”
Palm Oil: A Growing Problem
In more ways than once, the deforestation of these tropical ecosystems is harmful to humans and wildlife. Palm oil has received praise for its versatility and low productions costs, but in reality these plantations have many negative impacts on the environment and the communities that rely and live within these diverse forests. Next time you go to the store, hopefully you’ll think twice about buying palm oil. Look carefully at the ingredients of products and opt instead for more sustainable alternatives.
Every time we think we've nailed rainforests, having gained a good understanding their make-up, their function, their flora and fauna, some news comes along to show we really only know the tip of the iceberg.
As reported by Science magazine, it looks like the deadly disease Anthrax, rightfully feared across the world, is playing out its dreadful game in the beautiful Taï National Park in Ivory Coast. Anthrax is killing chimps, and Ph.D. student Fabian Leendertz and his team have been observing it happening. But this is no ordinary Anthrax. It's different, and it means an unexpected killer is on the rampage in the rainforest.
Chimps under threat from Anthrax
In a research paper published recently in the magazine ‘Nature', the team reveals how the Anthrax microbe, AKA Bacillus cereus, plays a vital but grim role in the rainforest's ecology. It causes a high percentage of mammal deaths and is thought to be threatening the chimpanzees in Taï to such an extent that they might actually go extinct.
All this is happening against a background where hunting and deforestation have already brought the local chimpanzee population to the very edge of extinction. Diseases like Anthrax and Ebola, as well as respiratory diseases introduced by humans, might tip them over the edge.
The B. anthracis microbe we know and fear usually kills wild animals in dry areas, not rainforests. The research team investigated, and soon linked the chimp deaths to the closely related B. cereus microbe, which is usually relatively benign. But the strain found in the Taï forest has morphed into something a lot more sinister, making it a formidable foe.
All 15 of the infected carcasses the team was able to study revealed the signs of a lethal Anthrax infection, including heavy bleeding and swollen lymph glands. But it also looks like some animals may merely act as carriers for the strain, with no symptoms developing.
Can the chimps of Tai survive?
Having simulated the new microbe's progress using a computer programme, the team showed that Anthrax has the potential to totally wipe out the Taï forest’s population of around 400 chimps within the next century and a half. Why it hasn’t already killed the animals off remains a mystery, but it looks like B. cereus has lived in the forest soils for a very long time.
While the standard anthrax vaccine protects against the Taï strain, there are signs that the vaccine might only be effective for a year, meaning that regular vaccinations would be needed. And nobody knows, yet, whether humans are immune, or how far the new pathogen has spread.
Increasing pressures on food retailers to reduce the amount of packaging used for their products is having a significant impact on the market as a whole, as changing customer expectations and the shift to more eco-friendly methods is continuing to influence the way supermarkets and other retailers operate.
Laser labelling has emerged as a relatively new way of marking fruit without the need for the production of adhesive labels, which are wasted in their tonnes each year. Marks & Spencer has become the latest brand to announce plans to ditch more traditional methods in favour of the more environmentally friendly approach to food labelling.
The brand has said it will save up to 10 tonnes of paper and five tonnes of glue every year as part of its new plans to label avocados with lasers rather than stickers following a successful trial. The high street retailer has confirmed it could start rolling out this new method to other fruits and vegetables in the near future. The labelling works by shining an intense light on to the skin of the avocado, which then retracts and discolours only the top layer of the skin, meaning the fruit itself is not damaged.
However, some fruits – such as citrus fruits – are difficult to mark with a laser. M&S trialled a similar laser technique several years ago using citrus fruits and a different technology, and while it looked effective and was quick to apply, there was a slight deterioration in skin quality, and the method was therefore discontinued.
Other retailers, such as the Dutch fruit and vegetable supplier “Nature and More” and Swedish supermarket ICA also use the laser labelling system. As more retailers start to use this type of labelling, the current high cost of the machinery is likely to fall, which could further encourage the use of this system by mid-sized retailers.
So what is the driving force behind the rise of more eco-friendly packaging initiatives among food retailers? The first is delivery of customer’s expectations, while also removing costs from packaging materials, and the in-store cost from waste removal. Retailers are mainly reducing packaging by reducing the thickness of materials used, as well as utilising film-wrapped trays instead of boxes for many products.
Another method currently being used by many manufacturers is to reduce or remove excessive packaging due to the influence of retailers and consumer groups, this also gives the retailer the added bonus of displaying more product per square foot of shelving.
While the market for eco-friendly shopping remains fairly niche as organic retailers struggle to attract the mass market that is vital to long-term growth, the onus is certainly on bigger retailers to lead by example when it comes to promoting more environmentally methods. Households across the UK are expected to recycle and reduce their carbon footprint, and businesses should be no exception to the rules.
WF Denny is a national supplier and distributor of eco-friendly and biodegradable food packaging, as well as standard packaging and catering disposables, with over 90 years’ experience in manufacturing these items. WF Denny also stocks a wide range of partyware for consumers and is passionate about delivering a great service to businesses and the public alike.
The British cosmetics company Body Shop was founded in Brighton, Sussex, in 1976 by Dame Anita Roddick, now deceased. Her good work carries on thanks to their collaboration with conservation schemes in Vietnam, Malaysia and Indonesia, designed to lend a helping hand to endangered species like orang-utans, tigers and monkeys.
The company has already worked closely with the World Land Trust on several bio-bridges. Now they've announced a new initiative to create ten new bridges to link areas of rainforest so animals can travel between pristine areas of forest safely.
Special corridors to link isolated animal and plant populations
These special corridors are designed to link wildlife hotspots together by the year 2020, connecting otherwise isolated and endangered flora and fauna so they can breed and thrive. The Body Shop is already committed to protect 75 million square metres of habitat within the same timescale, impressive stuff.
Bringing in local people and helping them live sustainably
A vital element of the Body Shop's World Bio-Bridges Mission involves engaging local people in protecting their rainforest habitats, at the same time supporting them in developing more sustainable ways of living. The organisation will also be scouring the rainforests for new natural ingredients to be used in their products, which represent sustainable sources of income for local people to replace logging and poaching. The Body Shop plans to raise funds and awareness by selling a range of different special edition products.
What the Body Shop says
As Christopher Davis, the retailer's international director of corporate responsibility and campaigns said, “Through protecting and regenerating land, working with local communities and seeking partnerships with civil and state organisation around the world, the World Bio-Bridges Mission can make a substantial difference to some of the planet's richest and most diverse areas.”
Why don't more household brands join in?
It's great to see Dame Roddick's dedication to conservation continuing, and really good news to hear about these initiatives, which bring the consumer world and conservations world together in the interest of the common good of humanity and our fellow creatures. It's a shame more large, influential companies don't do the same.
As the revellers leave Glastonbury and the photographs of the waste-filled site start to appear, WF Denny, supplier of biodegradable packaging, has produced an infographic to illustrate the scale of the rubbish that is left after a festival like Glastonbury. The results are shocking! Read on below to find out just how much waste is produced on the 1,000 acre site!
For some animal species, time on planet Earth is running out. There have been five mass extinctions in the planet’s history, and animal populations so far suggest that we may have entered what will be the sixth great extinction wave. Since the 1960’s and 1970’s, when the idea of saving many of the world’s animals was first recognised, scientists have strived to save dwindling animal numbers. But, despite efforts, the list of endangered species has more than doubled in the past two decades according to the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN). More than 23,000 plant and animal species are listed on the IUCN, including corals, birds, mammals and amphibians.
What classes an animal as endangered?
The IUCN accounts for all of the endangered species, classifying them on a spectrum that ranges from “near threatened” to “extinct”; with “endangered” species in the middle. Factors that are examined to determine the level of extinction include a vulnerability analysis of a species’ habitat, an indication of a shrinking population, and observing issues that prevent reproduction.
As it stands, 3,406 mammal species are categorised as threatened. In 2015 the number stood at 1,201. Extinction rates have reached levels unparalleled since the dinosaurs died out 66 million years ago, and this is mainly because of air and water pollution, forest clearing, loss of wetlands, and other man-induced environmental changes. As human beings, we are responsible for being the biggest threat to endangered species. Habitat loss is the greatest threat to wildlife globally, affecting over 2,000 mammals.
How losing species could create a butterfly effect.
Species loss threatens to reduce biodiversity and ultimately the collapse of ecosystems across the world. One of the biggest examples of this are endangered bees. The rusty patched bumblebee’s population has plummeted nearly 90% since the 1990’s in the United States. Bees play a vital role in pollination for agriculture, globally honey bees are the world's most important pollinator of food crops. It is estimated that one-third of the food that we consume each day relies on pollination mainly by bees.
The Countries with the most threatened mammal species.
For World Environment Day on 5th June, Eco2Greetings have used World Bank data to highlight where in the world mammals are most in need of protection and conservation. The map reveals the top 10 countries with the most threatened mammals.
The number of mammals in Eco2Greeting’s top 10 list who are on the brink of extinction is 898, and they are struggling to survive in all corners of the world; from Australia and Malaysia to Mexico and Brazil. Indonesia is the country taking the top spot of the most threatened mammal list. A gargantuan 188 species of mammal are classified as endangered here and will be wiped out completely if more is not done to conserve them in their corner of the world. Madagascar, home to the favourable Lemur is next with 120 of their national mammal species under threat.
Find the full interactive map here.
Climate change is a huge issue facing the world today. So huge, in fact, that you might feel like there’s nothing you alone can do about it. However, the fight against climate change requires the cooperation of everyone, and no effort to protect the environment is too small. Read on to discover how you can make a difference in your changing climate.
What is climate change?
Climate change refers to a shift in the usual weather patterns, or climate, of a particular location. On a larger scale, climate change is the changing temperature of the Earth’s air, land, and oceans. While weather patterns can vary from month to month and year to year, climate change refers to shifts over long periods of time.
What causes climate change?
Climate change is the result of heat becoming trapped in the Earth’s atmosphere. Heat gets trapped because of greenhouse gases, which prevent the Sun’s energy from leaving the atmosphere. This is known as the greenhouse effect.
Greenhouse gases come from different places, but use of fossil fuels is the biggest way that humans contribute to the greenhouse effect. Fossil fuel emissions come from a variety of sources. Industry contributes over 20 percent of total emissions, while transportation in the form of vehicles, airplanes, trains, and ships is responsible for about 27 percent of emissions. The energy you use to light and heat your home contributes to the greenhouse effect, as does agriculture and deforestation.
What are the effects of climate change?
When you measure climate change in degrees, the issue may seem small. However, even a small change in the Earth’s temperature can have a severe impact. Climate change can cause:
- Rising sea levels.
- More severe and frequent storms.
- Drought and heat waves.
- Plant and animal extinctions.
How could climate change impact my community?
The effects of climate change could mean real problems for communities around the globe. Extreme weather events can devastate communities, causing deaths, destroying livelihoods, and leading to years-long rebuilding efforts.
Changes in rainfall and weather can disrupt the production of food crops, increasing the cost of groceries and creating food insecurity in communities not accustomed to wondering where their next meal will come from. Floods and droughts can disrupt the supply of fresh water for drinking, crop irrigation, and energy. If you live in a coastal area, you could even see the landscape transform completely due to rising sea levels.
What can I do about climate change?
It’s not hard to reduce your carbon footprint. With a few small changes to your lifestyle, you can reduce the amount of greenhouse gas emissions you produce. Here are some ways to get started:
- Reduce how much you drive. By opting for walking, bicycling, or public transportation whenever you can, you can reduce the amount of fossil fuels your vehicle consumes. When you have to drive, try to carpool to reduce the number of emissions-producing vehicles on the road.
- Choose vehicles with better gas mileage. Cars contribute to emissions through their gasoline usage, so the less fuel you need, the smaller your carbon footprint. Driving a more fuel-efficient car will also save you money.
- Lower driving speeds. Driving at speeds over 70 mph consumes more fuel than driving at lower speeds.
- Reduce your meat consumption. Meat production is a major contributor to climate change, especially beef and lamb. Since people in industrialized nations eat, on average, twice as much meat as is considered healthy, cutting back could benefit your health as well.
- Moderate your thermostat. Keeping your house cooler in winter and warmer in summer reduces the amount of gas and electricity you use. Both gas and electric temperature control systems use fossil fuels. If you can’t sacrifice comfort, look for other options for making your home green, like passive solar heating or a geothermal heating and cooling system.
- Switch light bulbs for LEDs. Since LED lights consume less electricity than incandescent and fluorescent bulbs, this swap can create a more eco-friendly home.
Stopping the progression of climate change requires a global effort, but the change begins with you. To help in the fight against climate change, start incorporating these strategies for energy efficiency into your life today. For more information on tax rebates and incentives for green home improvements, click here.
For people who have become more conscious of what goes into what they eat, the good news is that an increasing number of food manufacturers are offering organic options, making organic food one of the fastest-growing segments of food production in the United States. The bad news is that all of those options can be confusing, especially when factoring in food made without genetically modified organisms (GMOs). Some people might be trying to eat an all-organic diet, and others may simply be trying to avoid GMOs. Although foods may be labeled as USDA-certified organic or Non-GMO, consumers may not understand the difference. In many cases, there is some overlap between the USDA Organic and Non-GMO labels, but there are some key differences consumers should be aware of when trying to make the distinction between organic foods and foods made without GMOs.
In general, foods bearing the USDA Organic label have been produced without the use of GMOs as well as other criteria that certify that the food has been produced with at least 95 percent organic ingredients. Foods that have been labeled as Non-GMO, on the other hand, only need to meet the criteria that they contain less than 1 percent of GMO content. Foods certified as Non-GMO may have been exposed to chemical pesticides or fertilizers, animals may have been subjected to antibiotics or hormones, and livestock may not have been fed using 100 percent organic feed. In short, all USDA Organic certified foods are Non-GMO, but not all Non-GMO certified foods are organic.
The increased variety and selection available at the grocery store today may be more confusing, but anyone who is concerned about what goes into their favorite organic chocolate brands will need to know the difference between the labeling and what the labels mean. The following chart helps delineate the differences between USDA Organic and Non-GMO labels, so review it the next time you check the labels on your favorite snacks.
Author bio: Chris Bekermeier is Vice President of Marketing at PacMoore. PacMoore is a food contract manufacturer that offers food processing and packaging services. Bekermeier received his B.S. in business management from Eastern Illinois University and his M.B.A. from the University of Chicago.
Even though we inhabit a planet that is almost 70% water, one out of every 10 people in Earth does not have access to a clean water supply. More than 1.75 million children die each year from drinking polluted water, which is unjustifiable when global spend on bottled water could provide everyone in the world with a clean supply three times over.
These are among the extraordinary facts about water which appear in the video below, which was produced by Nature’s Water (www.natureswater.ie/uv-sterilizer.html). It is not meant to be a finger-pointing, guilt-tripping exercise in blame, but rather a thought-provoking perspective on how the world’s water is used. We can all do our little bit to use water more efficiently for the benefit of those who aren’t fortunate enough to have easy access to the resource.
Take a look at the video and think about what you could do to encourage water conservation and help those who crave the clean water that many of us take for granted.
Earth Day is an important event that takes place on April 22nd every year. As our world continues to grow, we are constantly using more of the resources that the Earth gives us. Do to this growth, we are now facing troubles of global warming and the need to push for clean energy resources.
Celebrating and acknowledging the Earth on Earth day is one small step we can take to greatly impacting our name. New Holland CDJR has put together a list of ways that we can strive to appreciate the Earth all 365 days a year. These little steps are extremely beneficial to the environment and are also a great way of saying thanks to the earth. Check them out below!