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June 09, 2022 3 min read

What You Need To Know About Palm Oil: Featuring Tom Hiney From Sunbutter!

You may have heard of Palm Oil before and its negative impacts on the rainforests and our beautiful endangered Orangutan friends, so why is it still being used? 

Palm oil is an edible vegetable oil that is made from the fruits of the African (and sometimes the American) oil palm tree. These trees grow hundreds of little orangey red fruits that are pulped to produce palm oil.

What is Palm Oil, & The First Palm Oil FREE Sunscreen! 

Our friends over at Sunbutter are launching the FIRST Certified Palm Oil free Sunscreen and we have had the privilege of asking the founder Tom Hiney some deep questions about Palm Oil and its impact on our Earth! 

Sunbutter Palm Oil Free Sunscreen

“What exactly is palm oil and why is it such a problem?”

Tom: "Palm oil is an edible vegetable oil derived from the mesocarp of the fruit of the oil palms. The oil is used in food manufacturing, in beauty products, and as biofuel. It's a huge problem as it's grown in the tropics on a massive scale, and native forest, rainforest and peat areas are being cleared to grow these mono-cultures".

How is Palm Oil produced?”

Tom: "Two types of oil can be produced; crude palm oil comes from squeezing the fleshy fruit, and palm kernel oil which comes from crushing the kernel, or the stone in the middle of the fruit".

What can we be doing to avoid using Palm Oil, and protect the rainforests from it being harvested?”

Tom: "Great questions and there is loads to be done".

  1. Choose certified palm oil free products.
  2. Donate to charities protecting wildlife ( https://www.orangutan.org.au/), biodiversity and habitat in palm oil areas and working with locals
  3. Sign petitions calling for palm oil to be correctly labeled ( https://www.zoo.org.au/dont-palm-us-off)

What was the first action you made after hearing from your supplier that there were potential previous palm oil traces in the ingredients?”

"We started working straight away with our manufacturer, their supply chains and POFCAP to source certified palm oil free ingredients. It’s an incredibly tricky process but we’re so proud to have got there".

Is Sustainable Palm Oil a thing?”

Tom: "Hmmmm…. That’s a tricky one, in theory yes, but in reality - I doubt it. Best to avoid if you can. It’s not something we ever considered using".

Why don’t companies use or switch to other vegetable based oils? Are there certain advantages of Palm Oil?”

Tom: "Palm oil is incredibly cheap to produce, yields a high volume and can be used for so many different things. Cynically, it’s also often grown in developing countries so first world nations don’t have to see the deforestation first hand".

Why is Palm Oil not listed as an ingredient in most products??”

Tom: "There are 436 (or so..) different names that palm oil can be used under. This is the case for many products (Just ask Madisson Stewart about labeling fish/shark meat in Australia) so you can avoid writing “palm oil” and list it as ``so many other things".

What are some products that contain Palm Oil that we may not even know about?”

Tom: "Wow… where to start! Palm oil is said to be found in 50% of supermarket products, from food to household cleaners to cosmetics so it’s in so many things. One leading chocolate brand just announced that all their products will now be certified palm oil free which is a great step, but then does that mean all others contain palm oil? It can be really tricky to see".

What advice would you give businesses/individuals that face these kinds of hurdles?”

Tom: "Keep working on it. It can be a hard and frustrating process, but it is so worthwhile and Bev and her team at POFCAP (Palm Oil Free Certification  have been so helpful and encouraging with us to complete the certification".

Check out  Sunbutter’s amazing release of the first Palm Oil Free Sunscreen! 

Loved this? Check out our story on 10 Natural Remedies for Surviving the Aussie Sun! 

GFZ Team x


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