Updated: Jan 6, 2018
It's time to take some action. Now that we know the problem, and who's causing it, it's our responsibility as people who have funded this terrible industry to do something about it. So what can we do? Well, if you read my last post, you would know that there are hundreds of possibilities, ranging from the smallest changes in our lifestyles to the largest. I, however, wanted to take this post to talk about one solution that requires a small change in our lifestyle, but creates a huge difference. It all has to do with an app called PalmSmart.
Understanding the Solution
Before we get into the app itself, we need to talk about what exactly the solution we are going to be implementing here is. Ultimately, the goal is to COMPLETELY REMOVE PALM OIL FROM THE LIST OF PRODUCTS WE BUY. Now, this task sounds daunting, especially when it's written in all caps, but it's actually not as tough as you might think. Because, the truth is, we don't HAVE to COMPLETELY REMOVE PALM OIL FROM EVERY SINGLE PRODUCT WE BUY, but rather make sure that palm oil we do buy is made through sustainable means. Essentially, we want to support companies that either don't use palm oil, or farm it sustainably, and resist buying from the companies who farm it unsustainably.
The truth is, we as consumers have the MOST power in this situation. If we don't buy palm oil from companies that source it unsustainably, they HAVE to change their methods or risk going out of business. And, by supporting companies that source palm oil appropriately, it can help them have more influence over the industry as a whole. By weeding out the products that are ultimately leading to the destruction the palm oil industry causes, we can make a huge difference. But how, exactly, can we avoid products with palm oil? Well, this brings me to a bit of a problem (but not one we can't solve).
Now, companies aren't exactly "upfront" about using palm oil or sourcing it unsustainably. Many times, this information is buried deep within the company, and it can be truly hard to find. Even just looking on the ingredients list of a product, you might not even be able to tell if it has palm oil in it! Why? Well, companies hide palm oil behind many different names, ranging from Palmitate, to Stearic acid, to Vegetable Oil. In fact, there are currently over 20 different names for palm oil. It's crazy how far companies go to disguise their usage of this product, and because of this it can be almost impossible to tell if they are actually using it or not. I mean, vegetable oil is a product we use every day (that doesn't contain palm oil) so what's the difference between that and the one that actually is palm oil? It's confusing. Luckily, we have a solution to this daunting disguise, and it's called PalmSmart.
What is PalmSmart?
PalmSmart is an app that you can download on any mobile device that allows you to scan and see the details of palm oil usage in nearly any product. All you have to do is pick up the product, scan its barcode, and boom. You have all the information about that product's palm oil usage. Essentially, when you scan the product, the app shows you two things:
1. It shows whether or not the product uses palm oil at all (some don't).
2. It assigns a letter grade to the product based on it's sustainable practices. The grades can range from an A+ to an F- (with an added E grade in between D and F). Not only this, but it gives you the specific reasons as to why the company received that grade.
The Grading System
What I like the most about this app is its grading system. It's simple, easy, and literally tells you if the product is sustainable or not. Not only this, but it provides a detailed breakdown of why it gave the product that score. This includes factors such as: their policies on deforestation, greenhouse gas production, current usage of palm oil, peatland treatment, and many, many others. All of these factors (which are assigned a number of points based on how well they do) are added up. The maximum amount of points a company can get is 100, and the closer they get to that, the more sustainable their products are. It's an honest, easy, and foolproof way of seeing if what you're buying is sustainable or not.
Additionally, this app not only allows you to see how sustainable the palm oil used in it is, but it also gives you some other useful stuff too. For instance, the app allows you to send messages about palm oil usage to the company making the product you are checking. All you have to do is click one button, type the message, and send it off to remind the company that what they're doing isn't okay in the eyes of the consumer. It's equally important to let the company know WHY we aren't purchasing their products as it is to just not buy the product at all, because they need to know what they have to fix. The app also gives you some more information on palm oil, as well as the companies behind it, which I find very useful too.
Does it Work?
But the real important question to answer here is: does the app work? I can safely say that, after using it for more than two weeks, it does (really well in fact). The amount of data they have on their products is outstanding, and it provides concise yet important information that has allowed me to make informed decisions on the products that my family and I purchase. It has been a huge help in my goal to phase palm oil out of the products we buy; I don't think it could be done without it.
If I had to nitpick one thing about the app, it's that it doesn't have information on every single product. This is completely understandable, as how could you hope to catalog all of the millions of products out there? It just can't be done. So, for some products you may have to outside research, but for the most part PalmSmart will work. It's an amazing app, and I would recommend it to ANYONE.
As I said at the beginning of this post, there are many solutions you can implement to help stop the palm oil industry, and using PalmSmart is just one of them. I dedicated an entire post to it, however, because its an extremely important solution. Consumers (us!) have the power in this situation, and so it's our responsibility to use it wisely. We've been funding this industry for as long as it's been around, and so the time has come for us to think carefully and choose options that will have less of an effect in the future. It's time to make better decisions.
However, it's not always possible to eliminate palm oil from our diets. It's cheap, and thus used in less expensive products. Not everyone can afford to replace unsustainably sourced products with better ones. And that is where the other solutions come in to play. There are many, many other things we can do, and they need to be talked about. I wish I could include them here, but the post is already too long so, I will save them for next week. But in the meantime, why not try PalmSmart out for yourself? It's simple, direct, and helps to fight one of the largest destroyers of the environment. Trust me, once you start using it, you'll never want to go back to palm oil again.
All credit for information used in this post goes to:
(Seventh image taken by me in the PalmSmart app)
(Eighth image taken by me in the PalmSmart app)