When scooping a glorious spoonful of almond butter onto your morning toast, it’s probable that the last thing on your mind is the environment. In reality, every jar of nut butter that you buy has a large and immediate impact on our environment.
Not all nut butter brands have this negative effect. The good news is that there’s a choice you can make in the grocery aisle to take yourself out of this destructive cycle.
What’s so bad about palm oil?
Lots of environmentally-conscious nut butter brands have only one ingredient: nuts. These brands include MaraNatha NoStir, Whole Foods 365 Pollinator Friendly, and Woodstock Smooth. With the only ingredient in these nut butters being almonds, these brands avoid the controversial issue of using palm oil in their products.
Palm oil comes from the palm fruit grown on the palm tree typically found in Western Africa, Indonesia, Malaysia, or other hot and wet climates, including some of North America. Palm oil is used for vegetable oil production for over 30% of the world, and is found in nearly half of American households in various products. These products range from pizza dough, to ice cream, detergent to lipstick.
With 50 million tons of palm oil being produced every year, deforestation, habitat degradation, animal cruelty and species extinction have become an unfortunate hallmark of palm oil production.
Palm Oil and Extinction
Deforestation as a result of palm oil production in Malaysia has had a major impact on one animal species in particular: the Orangutan. Over 90% (yea… 90%) of the Orangutan’s natural habitat on the islands of Borneo and Sumatra over the past two decades has been destroyed, which has resulted in approximately one thousand to five thousand Orangutan deaths a year.
Palm Oil and Climate Change
Come on, people. Listen to Leo. The irresponsible rate at which deforestation is occurring in palm oil-producing countries is also largely contributing to the climate crisis. In order to make way for palm fruit trees, timber and undergrowth needs to be burned in massive amounts, leading to a gross volume of smoke and harmful greenhouse gases being released into the atmosphere. This pattern of destruction has made Indonesia the third highest greenhouse gas emitter in the world, entirely because of palm oil production.
Palm Oil and Poachers
With constant deforestation occurring in these places, the native animals of these forests are left more exposed than ever. Wildlife poachers and illegal smugglers have never had easier access to the animals and the illegal markets on which to sell them. Some of the most targeted species include the Sumatran Tigers and Sun Bears.
What can you do?
The next time you find yourself craving almond or peanut butter in the grocery store, keep your eye our for brands using one or two ingredients: nuts and salt. Anything beyond that probably isn’t worth it.