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How to stop the unethical production of palm oil

If you haven’t yet heard how palm oil production is negatively impacting our environment, I’ll let Leo give you the low down…

So now that you’re caught up (thanks Leo), what can you do—short of becoming a famous Hollywood actor with a huge social following to whom you can shed light on such important issues—to stop unethical palm oil production?

Palm oil is found in approximately half the packaged products on Australian supermarket shelves, and as a nation we import around 110,000 tonnes of palm oil annually. This accounts for only 0.2% of global production.

With demand for this highly useful and versatile product growing every year, it is predicted that palm oil production will double to 240 million tonnes per year by 2050.

When farmed sustainably, the production and sale of palm oil can provide an important source of income for local communities, helping them to break the cycle of poverty. However, currently only 18% of the world’s palm oil production is certified as sustainable.

Orangutan mother and baby
Rainforest trees

The negative impact of palm oil production is increasing and ongoing

Sanctioned by local governments keen to bolster the country’s economy, palm oil production is directly linked to deforestation, habitat destruction, Indigenous rights abuses and animal cruelty.

Locally, the livelihoods, culture and identity of Indigenous peoples is lost as their lands are systematically cleared for commercial gain, fortifying the cycle of poverty. Globally, deforestation is a key contributing factor to climate change and exposes, displaces, injures and kills many jungle species.

The good news is that the certified sustainable palm oil movement is growing. Certified sustainable palm oil is grown on a plantation managed and certified by the Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO). Plantations are established on land that does not hold significant environmental value and growers are encouraged to minimise greenhouse gas emissions and the use of chemicals.

However, with no law in Australia requiring palm oil to be specifically labelled, the only way to know if a product contains palm oil (and if it is CSPO) is to contact the manufacturer directly and ask them.

Water reflection Borneo
Orangutan climbing

Isn't it just easier to avoid products that contain palm oil?

Yes and no. As it yields more oil from less land than any other vegetable oil, boycotting palm oil altogether will lead to an increase in the production of alternative vegetable oils.

So what can you do?

Making the commitment to buy locally sourced, fresh produce is the easiest way to make a big impact. You can also support companies who are dedicated to using only CSPO and petition your favourite manufactures to only use palm oil that has been certified according to the criteria of the RSPO.

As with most significant changes, every little step counts.

*With thanks to WWF for the stats.

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Feeling inspired?

Check out our calendar for your chance to take on a life-changing journey!


Peter’s pedal for pandas at 84

Peter Carter generated a great deal of fuss around his  ‘Pedal for Pandas’ cycling adventure in Sichuan Provence, China. From his fundraising achievements for WWF Australia to his cycling prowess, this 84-year-old has shown that age really is no limit to taking on a challenging adventure that makes a difference to a cause close to your heart. Peter was gracious enough to do a short Q&A before his adventure. We’re happy to report that he’s since successfully completed his Pedal for Pandas, with some photos from the adventure below.

What motivated you to take on the Pedal for Pandas 2014?

Rather than take self-indulgent holidays, I like to do something useful for the environment, for native species, pest control or for human kind. The WWF Australia Pedal for Pandas presented this opportunity. Also I like keeping fit and this is a big part of why I am able to function physically at my mature age (84). One of my veterinary colleagues had a key role in WWF years ago and that made me think more about this particular organisation. I have not worked for WWF before but have given my financial support through monthly donations for several years as well as contributed extra donations for special requests.


Why is animal advocacy important?

I think it tragic that so many beautiful species have become extinct through no fault of their own. Extinction of native species is a result of humans taking over their habitat and through indifference and ignorance of the importance of native areas in maintaining human health and morale.

Other than pandas, what is your favourite animal?

I chose to work for fifteen years with dairy cows and later having left veterinary practice, we kept Jersey milking cows for our own home use. They are beautiful animals and I enjoy their association—but then all animals have their special virtues.

How can we make a difference and protect animals?

Other than curbing the ever-increasing global population (human), a good way to help animals is to support people who are already doing a good job of protecting and improving native areas and species. It is great that we have many dedicated people now involved in animal care.

You have done exceptionally well with your fundraising. What is the secret of your success?

I have a daughter with marketing and computer skills. So called “social media” has been the main reason for achieving a good result. I hope it is not finished yet and I will improve on the amount already fundraised. I thought I might have to have something like a “Panda Party” and run some social functions but now I may not have to! While I do not expect any concessions based on my calendar age, other people are very impressed and amazed by my performance. I guess this is because most people of my age are either dead or suffering nasty illnesses. I believe this has been an important factor in my fundraising success.



What am I looking forward to? 

I am keen to get close to and learn more about pandas. I am also looking forward to meeting the people on the Pedal for Pandas and I find I like riding bicycles—they are simple and marvellous bits of machinery. I am certainly enjoying the marvellous bike tracks that abound around Melbourne as a much appreciated side benefit of my fitness training for this adventure.

Peter in training:

Peter’s Pedal for Pandas from David Carter on Vimeo.

More on Peter and the Pedal for Pandas: