Below is a list of some raw materials typically made from Palm or Palm Kernel Oils. This list is not exhaustive and can change. The starred items are the only materials that currently have palm oil-free versions commercially available. Palm oil-free options are more expensive than their palm derived counterparts. Using materials that are less abundant, not grown on stolen land or with the help of child and forced labor (i.e. – more regulated), are simply going to be more expensive.
Characteristics of Palm Oil
Palm Oil is a vegetable fat that is semi-solid at room temperature. This physical characteristic is due to the material’s high content of single bonds. Single bonds are “saturated” with hydrogen atoms and therefore described as “saturated” bonds. These saturated bonds allow the molecules in palm oil to sit stacked, one on top of the other. That ability to “stack” is what makes palm oil partially solid at room temperature. In contrast, double bonds give molecules a zigzag shape making them unable to stack on top of each other and therefore liquid at room temperature.
The Volunteer Coordinator at the Sumatra Rainforest Eco Retreat is a young man by the name of Santa (pronounced sônta). The retreat is in Bukit Lawang, Indonesia which is on the Island of Sumatra and just north of the Gunung Leuser national park. The Leuser ecosystem is known to be the only place where Sumatran tigers, elephants, rhinos and orangutans all live together. However, current population estimates for the Sumatran Rhino are less than 100 individuals and the number of Sumatran tigers is estimated to be 400-500 animals. One of the guides who took me into the rainforest told me he was hired for a 7-day trek into Leuser in search of the elusive Sumatran tiger, but they never saw any.
The Commoditization of the Natural Market
According to the USDA World Market Trade Report, the global use of vegetable oils has steadily increased, about 5% per year, over the last 20 years. Growing populations, increased wealth in the BRIC countries, and the resulting increased meat consumption (which requires more animal feed that comes from oilseed), have all maintained the steady growth of vegetable oils. Biofuels are also driving vegetable oil production. Biofuel production has dramatically risen over the last 15 years, going from 5 billion gallons in 2001 to almost 35 billion gallons in 2016 (Beckman, J. et al 2017). Recent biofuel increases are a response to the well-publicized connection between fossil fuel combustion and global warming. All these markets contribute to the overall positive impression that we have for natural materials. They are symbols of wealth, health, and global awareness.