Why Palm Oil Is The Worst Thing Ever.

*WARNING – this post contains content that some may find distressing*

A person holds oil palm fruit cut in half over a large pile of intact fruit.

Oil palm fruit

Palm Oil is made from the fruit of the African oil palm, which is now grown in most tropical countries. It is a main ingredient in almost all of our favourite products –  from soap to Nutella. But to produce this life-giving elixir, they are cutting and burning down the rainforest. Rainforest deforestation is happening at an alarming rate – an area the size of a football pitch will be chopped down quicker than you can say “Can you pass me that spoon and the Nutella, please?”


A diagram of products that contain palm oil

Nooo… Oreos 😭

60 billion tons of palm oil are produced each year. This is grown in some of the world’s poorest regions, and is often instrumental in lifting people out of abject poverty.  However, the land used for these plantations is usually ex-rainforest and incredibly infertile, so can only manage 2-3 years of crops. This results in the benefits of oil palm being short-lived. And the consequences of deforestation often impact the poorest, local communities first.

Oil palm plantations in Malaysia surrounded by rainforest

This area of Malaysia used to be rainforest, but is now oil palm plantations.

There are ‘sustainable’ palm oil sources available, through the Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO); which a number of big companies such as Nestlé are involved with. BUT it has been found that many of the oil RSPO logorefineries and companies (Nestlé) involved, still source palm oil from sources that are actively deforesting tropical rainforests. Now, don’t get me wrong, sustainably certified palm oil is miles better than the alternative as they do offer a number of benefits for the palm oil farmers. But the whole idea behind something being ‘sustainable’, is that it can actually be sustained. If large-scale deforestation is allowed to continue, then it isn’t sustainable.


Deforestation using the 'slash and burn' technique

Rainforest is usually removed using ‘slash and burn’.

We cannot keep carrying on like ‘business as usual’. Rainforest cover has decreased ~80% in the last 20 years. If deforestation continues at its current rate, the forests will completely disappear within the next 40 years.

Deforestation contributes more to greenhouse gas emissions than the entire transport sector and is catastrophic for biodiversity. One of the most poignant examples for the impact oil palm has, is the 6000 orangutans that are killed each year through palm oil deforestation.

An orangutan severely burned during deforestation

An orangutan severely burned during deforestation.

Palm oil is just that – an oil. It can be replaced with almost any other type of oil or fat, but is often chosen due to its low cost and high yields. Until there are stricter regulations on palm oil sourcing, it is best to avoid buying (boycott) anything containing palm oil! A lot of companies know that people don’t like palm oil, so they can be quite sneaky by listing it under a different name.

Here are some of the things that are code for palm oil:

  • Vegetable Oil
  • Vegetable Fat
  • Palm Kernel
  • Palm Kernel Oil
  • Palm Fruit Oil
  • Palmate
  • Palmitate
  • Palmolein
  • Glyceryl
  • Stearate
  • Stearic Acid
  • Elaeis Guineensis
  • Palmitic Acid
  • Palm Stearine
  • Palmitoyl Oxostearame
  • Palmitoyl Tetrapeptide-3
  • Sodium Laureth Sulfate
  • Sodium Lauryl Sulfate
  • Sodium Kernelate
  • Sodium Palm Kernelate
  • Sodium Lauryl Lactylate/Sulphate
  • Hydrated Palm Glycerides
  • Ethyl Palmitate
  • Octyl Palmitate
  • Palmityl Alcohol


It is tough to say whether you should boycott these products completely, as the millions of palm oil farmers are the ones most likely to be impacted. However, companies only care about one thing – money. So, in order for them to listen, you have to hit them where it hurts – their profit margins. Also, it is important to make your voice heard –  we need to let these companies know that we aren’t happy about what they are doing!

If we don’t do something now, it might soon be too late.


If you have any other suggestions or anything to add, let me know in the comments!

Jessica xx

| Facebook | Pinterest | Twitter |

A banner linking to this blog's post archive

16 thoughts on “Why Palm Oil Is The Worst Thing Ever.

  1. Josephine says:

    Great post, Jessica. I’ve only recently had a look into it myself and you’ll be stunned at the sheer enormity of products we consume daily which contain palm oil as an ingredient: https://littlegreenfootpath.com/category/green-world/
    It is true what you say about the farmers, but very often they were forced to work on these plantations as they were driven off their lands, a process that happened in Europe at the time of the Industrial Revolution.
    Some of these products should be boycotted though, I believe, as we need to reassess our needs. Yes, it might cost more and sometimes we just need to downsize. And who benefits from it? We can make do many things ourselves like our own laundry liquid etc. to avoid palm oil, we could eat less chocolate, crisps etc. It all just happens without thinking. And that is why, as distressing as it might be, that we know about these these things. Well done.

    Liked by 1 person

    • jessicaleecole says:

      Yes, exactly, we’ve grown so accustomed to convenience that we don’t really think about the consequences of our choices. I don’t believe it is a really clear cut problem with an easy solution, but we can definitely make a start through our consumer buying power!

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Success Inspirers' World says:

    You are courageous to make your point. We need such courage to change things. I
    believe in paying attention to new ideas even of they sound far off what I think or believe.
    I have grown in palm oil but have never thought it could he anything but good. Here, I learn something new.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Marsa Alam Desert Retreat says:

    This is a really informative post about the horrors of the palm oil industry. Does this also apply to African palm oil or just the South Asian? Palm oil has been used for thousands of years in Africa and is still produced locally in villages. It is used to cook with as well as for cosmetic purposes. In African villages they produce the oil as they have done for generations in harmony with their environment. These merchants and their families rely on the income from these sales. But the negativity associated with Palm oil is affecting them too. As you say it is the farmers that are being impacted most severely by boycotts, more so these independent farmers who are not destroying and are working on a very small scale merely carrying out traditional African culture and practice, that has existed alongside the forests for thousands of years. Thanks for sharing this post, it certainly opens a debate about culture v multinational company influences in developng countries. It reminds me of the clearing of land used for growing staple crops in east Africa in the 70’s and 80’s to grow pineapples an coffee for the western palattes which subsequently led to the worst famine seen in Africa. It’s always the indigenous people that suffer.

    Liked by 1 person

    • jessicaleecole says:

      I wouldn’t say I am an expert but the African Palm is the one most widely used for oil production. The problem is mainly with industrial plantations but, unfortunately, local farmers are being hit as well. We really have no concept of where our food comes from or the consequences of it’s production – and until we do, problems such at this have little hope of being remedied.

      Liked by 1 person

      • Marsa Alam Desert Retreat says:

        I agree, It’s a sad situation where people are being put in a position to value one life over another, that of animals or of man. In truth the consequences are the same because both are devastated but nonetheless it is difficult and I personally feel that more sanctions needs to be put on these companies from government. Boycotting has limited impact because these companies are very good at finding new markets where people are unaware of the issues. I believed it was the South Asian producers that were the biggest offenders due to how that market developed because palm oil is not naturally from these areas but was deliberately taken to this are as well as South America etc. Africa is only now being explored as a market. But I guess as with most things


    • jessicaleecole says:

      Oh yes, I definitely agree. Like most other problems, it shouldn’t be left to the individual to solve them – it should be done by the corporations that created them! But I think, unfortunately, a boycott is the only effective way to catch their attention. Thank you so much!


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s