Hey Coffee Lovers – Is It Time to Start Thinking About Palm Oil?
You probably don’t think much about palm oil, but it may be time to start. Palm oil is in all kinds of sweet treats that we consume every day, from chocolate products to cake. That’s all well and good, except that the process of harvesting the oil of palm kernels has been proving devastating to our world’s forests.
In Indonesia, for example, the devastation is so massive that according to Scientific American, its forests are literally disappearing. In fact, trees are vanishing at twice the rate that the Indonesian government has been reporting, with the result, among other things, that Indonesia is one of the top greenhouse gas emitting nations in the world. Science magazine notes that between 2000 and 2012, Indonesia lost about 15 million acres of forest cover.
The Palm Oil Problem, and How It Appears to Be Getting Worse
The problem only seems to be getting worse, as more and more entities are poised to get into the lucrative palm oil trade. Indonesia has replaced Brazil as the number-one deforester in the world, but Brazil may find themselves back on top before long.
Brazil is now planning to try to do for palm oil what they already do for coffee, sugar, and many other products. Their goal is to compete with Indonesia and Malaysia, who currently are responsible for 80 percent of the world’s palm oil production.
The amount of oil palm land in Brazil doubled between 2004 and 2010, and is expected to double again between now and 2025. This may be good news for the country of Brazil’s economy, but it is terrible news for the Amazon rainforest.
Palm Oil and Coffee Production
So, does this palm oil issue mean problems for worldwide coffee production? With the loss of forests in huge coffee producing companies like Brazil and Indonesia, you would think so, but for a while, the largest coffee retailer around didn’t seem concerned.
For years, Starbucks promised they would use 100 percent RSPO certified sustainable palm oil in their sweet products. RSPO is the Roundtable of Sustainable Palm Oil, a certifying board making sure that companies use conflict-free and deforestation-conscious palm oil.
However, the coffee community spoke up for the future of coffee and the environment. A group called SumOfUs, whose mission is enforcing corporate responsibility, put Starbucks to the test, petitioning them to change their policy as promised. They haven’t gotten Starbucks all the way there yet, but they are making progress.
Year after year, despite making efforts to eliminate deforestation in their own supply chain, Starbucks made few moves in this area, until finally, in 2016, Starbucks updated their commitment to sustainable palm oil and deforestation.
What Coffee Drinkers Can Do About the Palm Oil Problem
Sustainable palm oil is vital, not just for protecting our coffee futures, but for the health of the entire environment. Deforestation can result in not only the death of crops, but also the extinction of animals, climate change, and a decrease in air quality.
As responsible coffee drinkers and citizens of this planet, it is our responsibility to hold companies that use palm oil accountable, and to only patronize companies that are committed to using RSPO certified sustainable palm oil and to generally using conflict-free and deforestation-free ingredients in their products.
To learn more about the future of coffee and environmentally friendly, sustainable ways of enjoying your favorite brews, keep checking in with the Exotic Bean blog, and consider purchasing organic, Fair Trade, from Thailand through The Exotic Bean – it’s guaranteed to be The World’s Most Sustainable Coffee!