We visited Borneo in 2015, and we noticed some strange forests as we arrived. Forests where all the trees looked the same and they were all positioned in perfectly straight lines.
Locals told us they were “palm trees, for oil”.
Borneo is the biggest island in Asia, and home to one of the most beautiful and biodiverse forests on Earth: The Borneo Rainforest.
To put into perspective of how amazing it is, the Borneo Rainforest is 140 million years old, while the Amazon is “only” around 50 million years old.
You may have heard of its most famous resident, the Orangutan.
As it turns out, palm trees occupy land that was previously covered by this rich and extremely biodiverse rainforest.
The reason why the palm trees are planted is that they produce a fruit that contains a reddish pulp, from which an oil is extracted.
Due to its low cost, palm oil is everywhere around us – and in us. In 2015, we consumed on average 17 lbs of palm oil per person globally.
It's found in foods such as chocolate, ice cream, margarine, cookies, instant noodles and much more. It's also in 70% of our cosmetics, such as makeup, shampoo and soap.
This Halloween, if you purchase candies and treats, read the ingredients list to see if it contains palm oil or “modified palm oil”. Sometimes it only says “vegetable oil”, or it goes by the fancier “Elaeis Guineensis Oil”.
Connecting the dots, it’s clear that, by simply purchasing a candy bar, we could be sponsoring the devastation of one of the world’s most incredible ecosystems.
In a modern globalized economy, our power to change the world relies on the small decisions we make every single day.
A good resource to learn how big brands act towards sourcing palm oil is WWF’s Palm Oil Buyers Scorecard: palmoilscorecard.panda.org
All photos in this post were taken by ourselves. All images showing orangutans were taken at Sepilok Orangutan Rehabilitation Centre, in Sabah, Malaysia.