December this year sees the tenth anniversary of my decision to try to live a palm oil free life (my partner, Ben, joined me nearly 8 years ago in this).
I don’t intend on going into too much detail about the ‘why’ of the decision but suffice to say it had little to do with Orangutans and a lot more to do with plants like Amorphophallus titanum and Rafflesia arnoldii. I am yet to be convinced that any palm oil is currently truly sustainable, especially when sustainable oil can be mixed with un-sustainably produced oils and still carry the sustainable logo and when brands that are members of the RSPO are using the official logo even if the actual palm oil used is not certified.
Lets not forget the peat/carbon sink issue or the saturated fat issue either….. one for another time maybe.
The golden gloop is in virtually everything and its very, VERY, difficult to completely eradicate from life. Its taken me a decade to finally find a tooth paste I am really happy with that doesn’t contain Ammonium Lauryl Sulfate (there are loads of names for PO and its derivatives which you can find here) and bread is a complete mine field to buy as every so often the recipe changes and there… Vegetable fat (palm oil) appears on the list.
My PO free status comes with a caveat. I don’t worry about it when I go out for food (but invariably we lunch at https://www.alpinecoffeeshop.co.uk/ in Betws y Coed where we can be guaranteed a PO free offering) as we would never eat out with friends or visit restaurants on holiday if we did and I don’t worry about it in medicines. I haven’t found an alternative for my van’s diesel yet either. hmmmm new van?
I get asked all the time for a list of products and brands that don’t contain it and have often said that one day I would publish one- but I never have. So, on my tenth anniversary of trying to quit Palm oil, here it is – or something that resembles it. It is not a complete list it is merely our shopping list, the one we stick to: unwavering, from one week to the next. You will notice a lot is missing from a standard weekly shop too. We cook the majority of our food from fresh so I am not going to list things like tomatoes (even if the best ones are the ones that don’t come wrapped in plastic) and avocados (ones from the eastern Mediterranean if I can help it as I wouldn’t want to partake in the destruction of a Mexican forest in pursuit of my fat fix). The drive for a PO free life has forced us into a life of choosing products based on environmental responsibility when it comes to our weekly shop.
We happen to shop at Tesco but most of the products are available in all the other major supermarkets. Where I list a product that isn’t readily available in a UK supermarket I will post a link to it online.
Milk – always organic
Eggs – from our friend Karen’s chucks
Vogel’s original mixed grain sliced bread – https://www.waitrose.com/ecom/products/vogels-original-mixed-grain-sliced-bread/055428-27823-27824
Waitrose Spelt Sourdough Bread – https://www.waitrose.com/ecom/products/waitrose-1-spelt-sourdough-bread/703502-525844-525845
Lurpack spreadable butter – gotta have something to put on the bread, in fact we usually have just Welsh butter but the Lurpack one is good for the summer when we need to keep the butter in the fridge.
Old El Paso Regular Super Soft Flour Tortillas
Old El Paso Smoky Bbq Fajita Seasoning Mix
Tesco Mild Salsa Dip – Fajitas for a quick dinner after a evening at the climbing wall.
Tesco 100% Crunchy Peanut Butter or
Meridian Peanut Butter Crunchy 100% Nuts – many nut butters have their oil extracted and replaced with palm oil, PO = 49g of Saturated fat per 100g compared with just 17g in peanut oil per 100g
Dorset cereals muesli – the fruit isn’t coated with PO to stop it sticking
Oat or almond milk – i only have cow milk in my tea.
Clipper organic fair-trade Camelia sinensis – no plant blindness here
Percol Fair Trade Decaffeinated Instant Coffea arabica – decaffeinated using CO2 Decaffeination
Percol Fair Trade Colombia Instant Coffea arabica – Yes i sometimes need coffee instead of tea in the morning
Al’fez Apricot And Coriander Tagine Pour Sauce – with chick peas and butternut squash, yum yum
Merchant Gourmet Tomatoey Puy and green lentils – a good option for a quick lunch
Heinz Seriously Good Mayonnaise – way nicer than….. that other brand
Tiptree Tomato Sauce – sweet potato chips need the last two!
Farchioni Il Casolare Extra Virgin Olive Oil – actually a really good blended olive oil thats not too expensive and comes in a glass (recyclable) bottle
Tesco Organic Sunflower Oil – sunflower oil production takes up so much land and requires so many bees to produce that organic is a absolute must.
Tesco Toasted Sesame Oil – stir fry wouldn’t be the same without sesame oil
Tesco Tuna Chunks In Spring Water – caught with pole and line so no albatrosses were harmed in producing this tuna (some skipjack tuna were, sorry I am not vegetarian – we do only have one meat meal a week though)
Cans of beans – haricot, red kidney, chickpeas, butter etc – (I cant be bothered soaking them and besides dried ones come in un-recyclable plastic) all a good source of protein to replace that meat with.
Tate And Lyle Golden Granulated Fairtrade Sugar – I take one in my tea should you need to know
Activia Mixed Fruit Yogurt – gotta keep my gut ecosystem healthy to deal with those beans
Cheese (Halloumi, Feta, Mozarella, good old Cheddar and Cheshire etc) – lots of it – I am allergic to chocolate and cheese is the alternative I am afraid.
Tesco Multigrain Crackers – cheese and biscuit lunch relies on these especially with Ben’s own chutney recipe.
and the biggest problem comes in navigating cleaning and personal care products because whats on the label will never say *derived from palm oil*….
Lush ‘Rehab’ Shampoo – lush just doesnt use Palm oil if it can at all avoid it https://uk.lush.com/article/does-lush-use-palm-oil
Lush ‘Its raining men’ shower gel – i always end up singing the song in the shower (video at the end of this blog)
Lush ‘The olive branch’ shower gel – uses olive oil produced by Israeli and Palestinian farmers working together as part of the Sindyanna women’s co-operative in Galilee, Israel.
Suma ‘Grapefruit and Aloe vera conditioner – Aloe vera – the wonder plant
Kiehl’s Ultra Facial Cream SPF 30 – contains Squaline but its not extracted from sharks liver but from Olive oil, rice or sugar cane. https://www.kiehls.com/skincare/ultra-facial/ultra-facial-cream-spf-30/KHL398.html
Ecover Washing Up Liquid Lemon And Aloe
Ecover Toilet Cleaner Pine Fresh
Ecover Fabric Conditioner Gardenia And Vanilla
Ecover Non-Bio. Concentrated Laundry Liquid
Ecover Multiaction Spray – Ecover has been actively reducing its use of PO and using Non-ionic surfectants such as Cocamide DEA and MEA from coconut oils, It is also Phosphate free which is important for both our local environment and the wider world. We live on the shore of a low nutrient freshwater lake which has suffered blue green algae blooms in the past due to phosphate build up caused by the use of household products that contain phosphate based anionic surfectants.
Method Kitchen Cleaner Clementine
Method Bathroom Cleaner Eucalyp And Mint – both use decyl glucoside from coconut
Ben and I are realists about this and occasionally we slip up and don’t spot the hidden palm oil derivative or the change in the recipe, we also cant check every other ingredient for the potential damage it may be doing to the environment. Fresh fruit and vegetables form the main part of our diet and we buy local, organic and free from plastic packaging before we resort to anything else. Marine Stewardship Council certified fish replaces meat at every given opportunity and when we do buy meat we tend to buy local, unprocessed and from a good butcher (again leaving out the huge amount of supermarket plastic packaging)
Its not been an easy decade but its been a worthwhile one. Palm oil is so entwined into our food and other products that I will never be 100% free of it but I can keep striving.