Have you ever wondered how you could help nature AND feed your sweet tooth at the same time?
Candy is a staple during most of my grocery runs, especially during certain times of the year. I can’t make it through without my fun-shaped Reese’s cups (the eggs are my weakness). Until recently, however, I never took the time to think about everything that goes into making that sweet dollop of happiness.
I recently enrolled in Project Dragonfly, a program started at Miami University that dedicates itself to inquiry, community, and the power of individual voices to be a positive force for good in the world. This program afforded me the time and space to start asking questions about the world around me. It also, strangely enough, allowed me to mix two of my loves: candy and primates.
I’m sure you, like me, have oftentimes been bombarded with the term “palm oil” and how it somehow relates to the environment and maybe… orangutans? But how? And why? Sure palm oil can be found in everything from food to deodorant (in fact, I bet you could find at least 10 items containing palm oil in your kitchen right now), but what does my Zero bar have to do with some orange, hairy ape in Indonesia?
Palm oil actually doesn’t have a direct effect on orangutans. Surprising, right? Then why are they always linked? Well, oil palm trees need a warm climate with plenty of precipitation to grow well and fast. People discovered that Southeast Asia has an environment perfect for these trees. The only problem is that there are already trees growing there. In order to plant oil palm plantations, primary forest must be cut down to make space. This forest is home to countless plant and animal species, including orangutans. Orangutans and other animals lose hectares of viable living space a year to make room for these plantations.
Unfortunately, palm oil is too cheap and too useful for it to disappear anytime soon. But never fear, there are companies that focus on sustainable oil palm farms, and we as consumers have the power to show our support of these producers. Where and how we spend our dollars matter. By funneling our funds to companies that value sustainability, we are making sustainability attractive to companies.
How do we know what companies use sustainable practices in their oil palm sourcing? There are many apps and websites that help with this! The Cheyenne Mountain Zoo has a palm oil app where you can search or scan an item and it tells you if it is from sustainable sources or if it needs more work. By taking an extra minute or two during each shopping trip, I can make sure my purchases don’t help contribute to more habitat destruction. Talk about having your cake and eating it too!