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Saturday, 21 March 2015

Avoiding Palm Oil

   My youngest daughter wrote a persuasive essay this winter sharing the reasons palm oil is harmful to people and the environment.  Here is an excerpt of what she had to say:
People that live in the Indonesian rainforest are losing their livelihood, because of palm oil plantations that take over the forest.  Most of the people facing this problem are the indigenous people that live in that area.  The working conditions in the plantations are dangerous and unsafe.  Children are forced to work, as they carry heavy loads, pull weeds and other very laborious work.  I feel unhappy when I think about that people who want the plantations are taking advantage of the indigenous people in a bad way. Sometimes, the government of Indonesia thinks that the plantations are good, because they create jobs for the citizens.  However, Indonesian palm oil plantations are breaking human rights, making child labour and paying inadequate wages.   
How have we changed our lifestyle to reflect this knowledge?  It has not been simple.

1)  We searched the labels of all different brands of margarine and discovered that all of them contain palm oil.  Therefore, we have begun using butter instead of margarine for all of our home baking and cooking.  One family member still prefers the taste of margarine on bread, so one tub of margarine remains in our refrigerator.

2)  We have to be vigilant when buying processed foods, especially cookies and crackers.  Sometimes we forget to check the label if something is on sale or we have a coupon for it.  Our list of products to "no longer buy" keeps growing.  It means that we are baking more of our own cookies.

3)  A convenience food that we have been relying on for many years is instant chicken or beef stock that you make by adding water to dissolve a cube or powder.  However, this is invariably made with palm oil.  Not only that, it contains monosodium glutamate, a flavour enhancer that can make people overeat (or cause headaches for those with sensitivities).  It was time for us to learn to prepare our own stock for soups and stews.  When I prepare a whole chicken in the crock pot, I now reserve the liquid, add water from boiling vegetables, a whole onion, a tomato or two and salt and pepper to taste.  It is then simmered on the stove for a couple more hours and then strained to remove the large bits.  In winter, I set the pan outside to cool so that the fat can easily be skimmed off when solidified.  The broth can then be frozen in reused yogurt containers or ice cube trays until needed.

   All of these changes require a little more work and expense on our part, but to continue using a product we know harms indigenous communities abroad would violate our consciences.

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