Whew! There has been a certain picture circulating around Facebook over the last couple of days that has stirred strong emotions and comments from soapmakers. I personally don’t mind seeing it but I do understand that some people don’t want to see it (so I won’t post it). It is a picture of a bloody orangutan with patches of skin missing possibly due to being set on fire. Its his human-like pose really affected me. He was laying curled up with his hands up to his face in pain and despair. And although we certainly don’t know for sure the circumstances that brought about the state of this particular orangutan, it accurately represents one of the practices of the treatment of orangutans from some palm oil producers. And that is the killing, beating, burning alive, clubbing, dragging and general torture of these creatures.
And these aren’t the only creatures affected. Add to that humans (yes! tribes of indigenous people that have been murdered and displaced), rhinos, cats, birds, insects and so many other creatures are under threat.
Do your own research. Google.
This picture was posted and some of the most stupid comments and justifications for using palm oil followed.
Stupid Justification #1 – “Palm oil is in everything. We can’t avoid it…so why try?”
We can avoid it…and its not really difficult. This is absolutely one of the most insanely lazy reasons to keep using palm oil. Palm oil is mostly found in processed foods especially baked stuff like cookies, breads, crackers…etc. But its simply not in EVERY processed food. Read labels.
One of the easiest way to avoid it (and also do yourself and your family a huge favor) is to cut back on the processed foods. Focus on feeding your family whole foods (foods that are minimally processed and don’t contain added “stuff” like sugar, salt, fats…etc.). Eat fresh fruits and veggies. Bake your own breads, pizza crust, cookies and cakes.
Avoiding palm oil in products and food is not impossible or even that difficult. Read labels. I can almost promise (speaking from experience) that if you pick up a box of crackers, a loaf of bread or a chocolate bar at the store and see that it has palm oil in it…there will be something else right by it on that shelf that doesn’t. It might mean you give up that certain favorite food you’ve been eating for years (ummm Mr. Goodbars) but maybe you’ll discover something new!
There are tons of palm oil free lists of products and resources.
IT IS NOT DIFFICULT TO AVOID.
Stupid Justification #2 – “We as handmade soapmakers only make up about 1% of palm oil users.”
This infuriates me.
Let’s do a little googling and see what figures we can find and determine how much our 1% has contributed to certain issues.
Statistics vary by source (so again…google) but I’ve found sources that claim 16 million acres of rain forests have been destroyed and cleared for palm oil plantations. So our little 1% accounts for 160,000 acres of destroyed rainforest which also includes animal displacement and death (fires are used to clear forests), indigenous people displacement and loss of sacred lands, traditions, medicine sources, water and food sources.
50,000 orangutans have died due to palm oil plantations. So…our little 1% has only murdered 500 orangutans.
Googling this figure gives a vast variety of results. So let’s use another website that says 3000 orangutans are killed each year. So…our little 1% only murders about 30 orangutans each year. I’m not citing sources because I want you to do the searches for yourself and see what you come up with. 1 orangutan, 5? 20? The answer is certainly not zero no matter what source you use. It is a FACT that orangutans are murdered, tortured and displaced because of palm oil plantations.
I don’t care what little percentage we have as soapmakers. We are part of the problem.
Orangutans being murdered brings up another idiotic justification for using palm oil.
Justification #3 – “We kill cows, pigs, chickens and other animals for food. Who cares if orangutans get killed for palm oil. What’s the difference?”
THE DIFFERENCE IS THAT WE RAISE THESE DOMESTICATED ANIMALS FOR FOOD.
Don’t like that answer? GOOD! Then be PALM OIL FREE and VEGAN. (Which by they way, it surprises me how many vegans do not know about the palm oil controversy.)
Killing of orangutans for palm oil is NOT the same as killing animals for food. We don’t eat the orangutans. We don’t breed them for food. They will disappear as a species. They will be gone.
Animal welfare as it pertains to our food supply and conservation of an entire species are two very different separate things. The justification for killing orangutans can not be made by comparing killing orangutans to killing animals raised for food. We will not run out of chickens, cows and pigs. And when we kill them…we eat them.
There were more stupid comments that simply infuriated me, but I am stopping here as these are probably the top three. And its time to go to lunch.
Comments unrelated to soapmaking will be deleted. 🙂
I want to say how much I enjoyed your post about this. I just began making CP soap in the past month – of course, like many who have gotten bitten by the soaping bug, I dream of selling someday. I originally wanted to go about making “vegan” soaps but a little research about palm oil horrified me enough to decide I will not make a single bar of soap using palm oil. Your 1% comment was particularly meaningful as I have seen this countless times on websites/blogs as a justification for soapers to use it. As a former vegetarian I am actually making my soaps now using tallow in SOME of the recipes. Shockingly, tallow is more environmentally/vegan friendly than palm oil is! Vegans may scoff at this but truly, like it or not, that cow already died and the tallow will just go rot in a landfill someplace. I would like to feel I gave it a bit more dignity with making a useful product from it while I was able to leave the rainforests in south and central America and Asia alone! I am currently working to source it from a local farm where all the animals are pastured raised and healthy and happy until their one very bad day. Still not sure how my tallow soap will “market” but I hope people are open to learning!
It is one thing to Speak Out against the Evils of Greed and Another thing to Take Action against It. Talk is Cheap and all Supporters must start taking their Heartfelt emotions and use it like a Fire to stop this barbaric world of greedy men from destroying all that is Perfect On Earth. The future generations Count On you and me to give them a better life. So, take this issue to our World Leaders… There are MORE OF US than them. Great Article and Comments now let’s do something about it other than talk.. Actions Speak Louder Than Words! God Bless~ <3
I am always so grateful when someone helps to dispel the illusion of Palm as benign.
Now that we know RSPO is a fairy tale we all need to do our part to inform and educate other soapers.
Just last night I had a woman actually say in a group that her soap lather was just more important.That killed me.
Justification #3 – “We kill cows, pigs, chickens and other animals for food. Who cares if orangutans get killed for palm oil. What’s the difference?”
This is actually the main reason that I DON’T use palm oil. I am not a vegetarian, and neither are most of the people who use my soap. It always struck me as very unethical to kill an animal for food, throw out the fat, and then spend more resources to grow a plant to make oil for making “cruelty free” soap. Even if palm oil growing was not so environmentally destructive, I would still use tallow and lard to make my soap out of respect for the animals whose deaths I am already responsible for. There’s nothing wrong with eating meat, but those who choose to do so need to be responsible and use every part of the animal, even the “yucky” leftover fat.
Thank you for say the same thing that was in my mind, it’s a hipocrit posture some people have with the “yucky ” tallow and lard, if we kill animal for food, consum the whole animal, not only what we like!
Thank you for this informative post. Will add another ingredient to be wary of.
There must be fair trade suppliers that support palm oil cooperatives. With it being such high yield this only makes sense (and dollars, pun intended).
For those concerned with the welfare of people too: Cocoa harvesting is a major player in child labour and slavery in Africa. If it’s not fair trade, don’t buy it (Nestlé and Hershey products).
Great post Amanda!!
I live in Australia, and perhaps because we are closer to SE Asia geographically, there is a huge awareness over here about palm oil. Here there are many people who love handmade soap, but if it contains palm oil, they simply will not buy it.
I have a lot of friends who fit this category, so there is maybe more pressure over here to be palm oil free!
I make a lovely firm, creamy soap without it, and will never include it in my recipes, even if it is supposedly “sustainable”.
Thanks for highlighting this issue, and the plight of the orangutans and other wildlife.
When I first started making soap in December 2013, I followed recipes on the internet to get started, which (of course) were all about palm oil as a part of their makeup. I bought all my oils in bulk to get a good jump start on my product because I have friends who knew I’d started this adventure and they were biting at the bit to get some of my soaps.
Then, I started reading more and more about the palm oil controversy, and now I feel “stuck” with all this tainted oil.
It almost hurts to use it. But I will use it up, then switch to other oils. I guess I feel that if I don’t use what I have now, all those beautiful animals and people died, or were hurt in vain. I’ll use it up and try to send those bars of soap out with some loving, good energy.
I’ve already purchased my replacement oils and am using less palm oil per batch. Not sure if that’s even the right way to do this, but I guess it somehow makes sense to me.
In the meantime, I also plan to adopt an orangutan. And I was wondering if you”d mind me linking to your page on my own website, and sharing some of the information you are sharing here about this issue.
Handmade soap cannot be made without lye. Both KOH and NOAH are types of lye, so one is not safer than the other.
Although not as significant as the issue described in this article, I thought you might like to know the following about KOH if you no already known (taken from Wikipedia):
“Because aggressive bases like KOH damage the cuticle of the hair shaft, potassium hydroxide is used to chemically assist the removal of hair from animal hides”
Another stupid justification is that you can buy “sustainable” palm oil. Sorry, folks, but there is no such thing. Organizations claiming such things are banking on the corruption and poverty of Indonesia. I live in Indonesia. There is not enough space to grow palm plantations AND preserve orangutan habitats.
What are your thoughts about sustainable palm oil!
Great post – it’s encouraging to see that there are more people in the soapmaking/skincare world that are 1) aware of the problem with palm oil 2) don’t just shrug it off but do something about it! Like avoid it and raise awareness, etc. The whole thing with orangutans and other animals whose habitat is being razed for palm plantations is devastating. So much greed, ignorance and cruelty to overcome – I’m glad to see someone else is doing what they can. Thank you Amanda.
It really angers me that they use palm oil in EVERYTHING here in Bali. And the local tourist-oriented soap companies are very sneaky: they list the common names of all the ingredients EXCEPT palm oil, for which they only provide the botanical name. I don’t think many people know off the top of their heads that Elaeis guineensis and Elaeis oleifera = palm oil. I am going to write a post about this! Thanks for helping to raise awareness:)
Thanks, Amanda!!! I used palm in my first soap in a class with a teacher who uses and sells palm. I was just at her store the other day, and almost picked it up. I had it in my hands, even. But, in the end, I just couldn’t purchase it, especially because I did not see any mention of it being RSPO-certified. I still like her a lot, and she has many nice products to choose from. Like you, I have chosen not to use palm in my products. I do think that it makes a difference in the end product, but not enough to sway me to use it and go against my values. Thanks for the post!
I out this photo on as well a few weeks ago. Its trues Palm Oil is in everything, Mars Bars All Chocolates, biscuits its in so much stuff we cant avoid it , what we can do is target the firms that do use it . Get petitions going think of different ways to attack these firms. THE BEST WAY TO DO THIS IS DO NOT BUY THE PRODUCTS !!! THATS THE ONLY WAY TO MAKE THESE FIRMS WAKE UP !!!!
I came across your website as I was searching for a substitute for palm oil in soap. I have never made soap before, but I avoid cooking with and eating food made with palm oil for ethical reasons. As I was looking at recipes online, it seemed that all of them either had animal fat (I’m vegetarian) or palm oil :-/ Do you have a simple cold process soap recipe that’s good for beginners?
I am new to soap making & i thought I would start w/ the M&P method to see how I like it but I can’t find a place that sells a Palm free soap base. PLEASE HELP! I would prefer it to also be organic. Any info would be greatly appreciated.
Thank you for this! I am just starting to make soap and this is a concern of mine. I’ll have to do some research to find palm oil-free recipes.
I am sharing your page on my blog tomorrow!
Thank you ladies – very insightful!!!
I have used palm oil once in my soap making. I read your first informative blog and some of the responses and decided that if I didn’t start using it I wouldn’t have a problem needing to replace it. I want to add that I returned from Ghana last week and while there I saw another side of this issue. I saw women processing palm oil and it looked liked the horrible pictures of coal miners in our histories past. We must also recognize that without this production a large portion of these women and their children would starve. Poverty outside of this country is real. There is no welfare, no unemployment and no government assistance.
If we are going to fight this war then perhaps the focus needs to be on supporting companies that honestly support sustainable processing and collection. And denigrating those who do not. I place the sanctity of human life above all things and as a woman, a woman of color, I know we have to help these women when they can not fight for themselves.
I am new to soap making, and I have not used palm oil because of this controversy. Though I do agree with Shawna in that EVERYTHING we produce/consume/manufacture has a consequence, I still want to do my part in preventing these atrocities.
I have heard that sustainable palm oil can’t be realized unless we support its growing industry…I haven’t done much research on it and how legit it is, but it seems like if no one supports sustainable palm oil production, then we will just stay in this vicious cycle of destruction. I also can’t seem to find a good source for sustainable palm oil, so until then I won’t use it!
Valli and Shawna, you’re absolutely right – there are 2 sides to every story.
The positive sides of the palm oil story are that palm has the highest yield of oil per hectare of pretty much any crop. To get the same yield from other crops like sunflower and rapeseed, you’d need to use 5-10 times more land. Which raises issues with the extent of land required for agriculture.
In addition, palm has contributed significantly to the economies of developing countries. And there are producers out there trying to change things and to get better at producing sustainable palm oil.
The other side of the coin for these “positive” facts, though, is that the high yield of palm attracts investors looking for a good return on their investment, quickly. So sustainability is not necessarily high on their agenda.
And in the developing countries where the palm is grown, the poorest people are not benefiting from the revenue that palm is generating – because land that they don’t own, but have farmed for generations, is being leased out to these investors. Which means that the people have no land on which to grow their food, and no access to clean water (either because pollution from palm processing is pumped directly into their drinking water, or because they are prohibited from crossing the palm plantations to access a water source). So in effect, they’re being starved off the land.
The only other comment that I wanted to make was that I don’t look down on anyone who has done their research and chosen to use palm oil. My motivation in contributing to this discussion is to ensure that the awareness of the issue is high – and to encourage fellow soapers to do their own research and make an active choice, rather than making the passive choice not to find out more about the impact of the oils we use.
The same goes for the sociopolitical issues surrounding cocoa butter (and probably many other oils produced in developing countries), which were also raised in this discussion. If each of us commits to sourcing sustainable and responsibly produced oils, we can make a real difference.
As a new soaper, I was not aware of the depth of this issue. I read past articles on this blog about the issues that palm oil was causing, but I believed a few of the myths. I purchased a new gallon of palm oil a little over a month ago. I then read this article today. I decided to google the picture of the orangutan, and my heart broke after I saw the picture. I would never want to contribute to something that is so devastating and cruel. Instead of selling my gallon of new palm oil, I’m just going to melt it down and throw it away. I will not be a palm-free soaper, and I will do what I can to spread the word against using palm oil. Thank you for opening my eyes.
I admire your passion Amanda, all of you for that matter that vow to make a difference. That being said, I must play devil’s advocate for a moment, because I don’t believe it’s right to look down on those who choose to use palm oil. As Valli stated there are always two sides to a story. Palm oil production had it’s positive impacts as well as it’s negative which is the case with the production of everything. If you really look at it, everything that gets mass produced has a negative impact on the environment and creature habitat. Large industry olive oil production causes erosion, and pollutes rivers, streams and water tables. Cocoa production is also a leading cause of deforestation of our old growth rainforests (many palm oil plantations convert to cocoa plantations as the demand for cocoa increases). These are just a few examples that I’m using because they too our relevant to soapmaking ingredients. What I am trying to say is that the more aware we become the more we realize that nearly anything we purchase has a negative impact on the environment, WE have a negative impact on the environment. To say if this was happening in the U.S. people would be more concerned about the issue is silly, because this IS happening in the US. Maybe not to the orangutan because they don’t live here but to thousands of other species, the San Joaquin Kit fox, the polar bear, bluefin tuna, the florida panther, and a long list of birds, lizards, insects, fish, etc. There are too many of us! We are crowding out the world as a dominant species, not only through our actions of using poisonous insecticides and herbicides, clear cutting of our forests, pumping of petroleum out of the ground, but through our very existence. Urbanization is one the leading causes of habitat loss for wildlife. In conclusion, I think it is noble to try and make a difference when you have knowledge that a specific action you are making is causing a problem. However, personal passions are one thing, I don’t feel that it is right to make others feel guilty about there choices. I have made many radical decisions in my life with direct regard to the ecosystem and animal rights. And I have also turned the blind eye to many issues as a result of being overwhelmed. Some of us choose to carry the burden of guilt and some of us choose to be blissfully ignorant. With the large scale of things to be guilty about in this day and age, we cannot blame the latter.
Could agree more with you Angela.
Angela? Who is Angela? lol
I meant I couldn’t agree more with Shawna.
Researched the uses of palm oil, origins, 17 countries that produce and the affects it’s use has on the Orangutans. Orangutans are an endangered species.
This also happened due to increment weather conditions, logging,mining,urban expansion, palm oil plantations(use 10 times less land to produce).
The production of palm oil employs 4.5 million people.
RSPO – 40% of Palm Oil Producers are members. The Orangutans extinction is being addressed, monitored and regulated. More work to do! You have to start somewhere.
I admire your zeal about the use of palm oil in soaps and have tried your recipes and soaps were just fine. As, I respect your opinion, love your website, and admire your courage to start The Lovin Soap Project, I do believe there are two sides to every story. Keep on doing what you do!!!
Allvecia Soap company
Wonderful post & very informative. I didn’t see the picture on the different FB groups, but I did see a lot of the responses to them, including the ones you mentioned.
I think if this was happening in America and we could see the horror every day, people wouldn’t be so flippant.
As a soaper, I never used palm oil to begin with. Ever since learning about the deforestation problems, I cut it from my life completely. It’s not that hard at all to stop using it.
I use a specific goats milk soap recipe that uses olive oil, coconut and palm oil. Can you suggest a good substitute for palm oil?
What you want to do is check out the qualities that palm oil brings to soap (for example, hardness). Then research options that help provide that same quality. Go to soapcalc.net and start plugging in oils and numbers, and do some googling about commonly used %s of things. The more you learn the more you’ll want to learn I promise, I started the same way (w/o the milk). The goats milk is great because it will provide a creaminess often lost when eliminating palm oil.
It’s about time someone just said it. If this topic up is brought up on just about any soap forum it is immediate grounds to be chastised and ran off by silly high school acting “girls”. Is this oil really worth it? It’s not about just the death and demise of these animals as a species, but the torture they are enduring as individuals as well.
Wonderful post. I do most of what you say; avoiding processed foods, reading labels, but I never thought about the palm oil that’s in my soap. Thanks for making me aware.
I feel really ignorant right now. I’ve been using “sustainable” palm oil to save the palms. Never connected how the trees were being harvested and how the harvesting was involving wildlife. OMG! Thank you Amanda for waking me up from Utopia. I vow to stop using palm oil in my soaps. So we are only 1% of the problem, that percent is too much for me, an animal lover. I respect life.
Amanda, You are amazing and you need to look up my daughter. Her name is Marcia Fargnoli ( CEO of Save The Rhino Trust) in Swakopmund, Africa in Namibia. She graduated from PACE Law School in NY and is spending her life fighting for our earth. She also is the NGO of the Earth Organization Namibia. Keep doing what you are doing. You are a huge fan of mine!
Awesome, Linda! I will look her up. 🙂
“Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed, citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has.”
― Margaret Mead
Thank you, for your conscientious post, Amanda. I shall never use palm oil or any derivative thereof in any of my soaps.
From now on, I will also be looking to see what is in any processed foods I buy at the grocery store to be sure to avoid products made with palm oil.
Good to see that people care.
Thank you so much for this post, Amanda. As several people have already mentioned, you said everything I was thinking. I didn’t comment on the FB threads because there were too many people making stupid comments and they naively think if they cant see it, it isn’t happening!
When I began making soap I used recipes with palm as I was unaware of the devastation being caused by the palm corporations. Palm is cheap, readily available and offers excellent qualities in soap so in many ways it is the easy option, in my opinion. However, it’s with thanks to you Amanda and your palm -free recipe posts, that I got the confidence to do some more experimentation. I am really happy with the new recipes I have devised and I’m delighted to say that all my recipes are now palm-free!
Bravo, Amanda! I recall when you decided to go palm-free that you received some pretty nasty messages on your blog – so I applaud you for having the courage to speak out again. More people need to do what you’ve just done to take a stand!
I’d also like to add a reason that people continue to use palm oil ….. and that is that they say they’re using sustainable palm, or using oil from west Africa or South America. The truth is that even palm that is labeled as sustainable often isn’t, and even RSPO acknowledges that certified members are involved in the slash and burn activities ongoing in Indonesia right now, and that they aren’t doing enough to ensure that the palm they’re processing (and labeling as sustainable) is in fact responsibly produced.
Also, I did a little research on the South American and west African palm recently, and found that there are primate (and other numerous other species) threatened in Africa – most critically the drill, which looks a lot like a baboon so is probably less likely to attract the public sympathy that an orangutan does …… Which is sad. In addition, the governments of these developing countries are selling out their own people to secure big contracts to replace rain forests and land used by subsistence farmers with monoculture palm plantations – and they’re selling out to the SAME BIG COMPANIES responsible for the problems in Asia! So I don’t think that it’s reasonable to believe that anything would be different in their African or South American operations. It’s heart breaking to read about local people who no longer have access to water or anything to eat because the land they’ve traditionally used to grow their food is now leased by a corporation to grow palm.
The other point I wanted to raise, is that quite apart from the loss of biodiversity and animal habitat, the rain forests and peat bogs that are being lost at a terrifying rate are the “lungs” of the earth – loss of these CO2 traps is very strongly linked to climate change, which will impact on us all. And once they’re gone, they’re gone …..
After posting the above comments, I realized that perhaps I should add that if you DO choose to continue using palm oil, it is better to use the certified oil ….. At least the chances are a little higher that it is responsibly produced – but it may not be.
Another thought I had was that many EU countries have committed to switching to sustainable palm oil, which is a good thing. And in the next year or 2 it will be compulsory in Europe for manufacturers to be more transparent in their labeling off foodstuffs – because right now, the fact that the margarine, chocolate spreads, etc that we all buy contain palm oil is hidden behind a generic “vegetable oils” listing in the ingredients. So it should become easier to identify palm-free alternatives.
Thank you for all of these wonderful additions to the conversation! I appreciate you, Debbie! 🙂
I think some people think if they ignore it then it’s not happening.
You get two thumbs up! I am sick and tired of people saying they can’t make a difference, when in fact WE can. It is estimated that without drastic intervention the Orangutan will be extinct by 2012, SOMEBODY has to take a stand! I say as a soaping community we should set the example! The truth is many soapers like Palm because it is a cheap oil and lowers their price point, when in fact there is more at stake here than profits.
It was that very picture of the dead orang-utan, as you say, in a very ‘human’ frightened posture with horrific slashes in its poor body, that has urged me to seek out your blog. As I have tried to find soap with no palm oil to no avail I’m very interested in making my own as I want no part in this horrendous activity to manufacture an ingredient that we seemed to live for centuries without. I congratulate you for your concise, persuasive and informative article.
Thought some suppliers had sustainable sources for palm oil and is palm kernel oil in the same category? Bramble Berry’s M&P has palm oil in it and it was the best M&P I had found…. most of my soaps are olive and coconut oil but wait there seems to be a problem with coconut oil.
Trying to be eco-friendly but so many conflicting stories… thinking about going back to lard.
Thanks for saying everything I was thinking! When I first saw the picture – soapmaking immediately came to my mind……Some think they can find sustainable palm oil but in the end it all has the same effect. As an animal advocate it hurts me to know what we as a race are doing to helpless sentient beings. I commented on the picture on FB a while ago.
Awesome post Amanda – thank you!!!! #1 really is the dumbest laziest response. Sad.
Oh hell yes, Amanda! You said everything I’ve been thinking and have been stewing on the past 24 hours. THANK YOU!
That picture broke my heart when I saw it. 🙁
Do you know of any palm free melt and pour soap bases?
That’s a good question. Let me do a little research. I think Stephenson had a palm free base…but let me check on that.
Thank you so much. I appreciate your help.
I love animals and would never want to contribute to their harm in any way, shape, or form. They need to be loved and protected.
I Use The detergent free bases from Wholesale Supplies plus When I Make Melt And Pour. As far as Ive found they do not contain Palm Or Palm Kernel Oil.
Thank you, I will check those out! 🙂