Sheena Grant admits unwitting role in rainforest loss as she continues her #ThriftyLiving

Rainforest

Rainforest - Credit: Greenpeace

Every time I go to the supermarket, I know I’m contributing to the deforestation and habitat loss that is pushing many species towards extinction. We all are.

And however thriftily I try to live, it seems there’s very little I can do about it.

It all comes down to two little words you may actually never have heard of: palm oil. Yet palm oil is in almost everything on every shelf in every supermarket (and many other shops). It is found in up to 50% of household products, from cereals to cakes, bread, margarines, shampoos, detergents and even toothpaste. And most of it is produced in a way that harms the environment, animals and indigenous human populations.

According to the World Wildlife Fund, an area of rainforest equivalent to the size of 300 football fields is cleared each hour to make way for palm oil production. Ninety percent of the wildlife simply disappears.

As far as I know, palm oil wasn’t mentioned specifically in the London Zoological Society’s Living Planet Index, published at the end of September. But I can’t help thinking it must bear a hefty chunk of the blame for the 52% decline in animal populations over the last 40 years that the report reveals.


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When I started my quest to live a little more thriftily, it was driven by the desire to save cash in a post credit-crunch world. But it’s become obvious that living more thriftily has the potential to do more than that.

I’m not sure it’s possible to avoid palm oil completely. One high street retailer has committed to using only sustainably-produced palm oil in its branded products by 2015 but that is, let’s face it, a drop in the proverbial ocean. There’s also a website (saynotopalmoil.com) started by 18-year-old Australian Thomas King that is campaigning for change, advising how to avoid those products we can avoid, seek palm oil-free alternatives and make more of our own things. It is also trying to get a challenge off the ground to guide people through making these changes. But, for now, I can see the weekly shop is now going to take longer than ever, with all those labels to read ? and reject!

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? Thanks to Jean Clarkson for sending me a copy of ‘Positive News’ and highlighting the work of the charity WaterAid. Also, thanks to Penelope Bird for her letter about foraged Mirabelle plums. Send your letters and tips to 30 Lower Brook Street, Ipswich, IP4 1AN, email sheena.grant@eadt.co.uk or tweet using #ThriftyLiving.

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