Make sure your Halloween candy is friendly to orangutans and tigers
Published 8:43 am Monday, October 23, 2017
I’m pretty sure I write about the importance of buying candy made with sustainable palm oil every time Halloween rolls around. This year won’t be different, because it’s so important for the future of our planet and it’s so easy to do the right thing if you have just a little bit of good information.
If you haven’t read about palm oil and candy before, here are the basics:
Palm oil is used in a ton of candy and other products. It is oil harvested from palm trees. This isn’t bad of itself — palm oil is a very useful ingredient that’s not bad for humans to consume. However, the methods for harvesting palm oil vary widely.
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Palm oil can be grown and harvested in a way that allows for plants and animals in the natural habitat around the palm trees to survive and thrive. But oftentimes, forests are cut down to make space for palm oil plantations, which destroys already shrinking natural habitats for many of our planets most threatened species, including Bornean orangutans, Sumatran tigers, Borneo elephants, Sumatran rhinos and sun bears. Bad palm oil practices also contribute to global warming and have resulted in human rights abuses.
When people realized what was going on, they pushed for companies to stop using palm oil harvested in unsustainable ways. This resulted in many candy and food companies, including some of the biggest in the world, participating in the Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil, promising to use only sustainable palm oil in their products.
According to RSPO, it has certified about 19 percent of the world’s palm oil production as sustainable. The organization has 3,583 members, and it has certified 11.46 million tons of palm oil as sustainable.
That means today, there are essentially two kinds of foods with palm oil as an ingredient you can spend your money on: one tastes great and leaves the habitats of many animals in tact so that your purchase isn’t contributing to destruction of our planet’s natural areas; the other uses unsustainable sources for palm oil and while it still tastes great, buying it helps perpetuate the problem.
There are two different things you can do with this information. First, you can be empowered as a consumer in knowing what you choose to buy makes a difference. If you make a conscious decision not to buy products with unsustainable palm oil in them, then producers can only get you to buy their products if they do the right thing.
Second, you can share this information so more people can be similarly empowered. For years, I was completely uninformed about palm oil and candy. When someone told me about it, I was grateful that now I could take action in my life to help protect some of my favorite animals.
Telling someone about palm oil doesn’t have to be a negative thing — you shouldn’t go around criticizing people if they don’t know about the problem. Instead, you can give them positive information about the candies and companies who chose to do the right thing.
When you’re trying to choose candy made with sustainable palm oil, you shouldn’t trust just any symbol or logo because producers today put all kinds of stamps and logos on their products that don’t actually mean anything. But it’s still very easy to make the right choice — there are several regularly updated lists of sustainable palm oil candies and products available online. The Cheyenne Mountain Zoo (cmzoo.org) maintains a trio of orangutan-friendly shopping lists — one for halloween candy, one for barbecuing and one for ice cream. The Woodland Park Zoo (zoo.org/palmoil) also has a shopping guide for certified sustainable palm oil products.
Even though Halloween is the biggest time for candy-buying all year, this is good information to use all year long — you can make every one of your purchases all year orangutan-friendly.
If you’re going shopping for Halloween candy this week, here’s a short list of parent companies that use sustainable palm oil. If a candy is made by one of these companies, it’s good to buy: Mars, Nestlé, Hershey, Walmart brands, Nabisco and General Mills, among others. Check the online lists from zoo.org or cmzoo.org for more information.